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OMVC says ATSC-based mobile TV is viable

The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) has finished its Independent Demonstration of Viability (IDOV) trials, delivering a report to the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) stating that mobility for digital broadcasting in compliance with existing ATSC DTV standards is possible. The OMVC findings will be used by the ATSC to select an open mobile TV standard for the U.S. broadcast market.

According to the OMVC, the trials demonstrated full-motion mobile DTV at pedestrian and highway speeds. They also showed that mobile reception can be achieved as much as 40mi from the transmitter, and that mobile DTV does not interfere with the regular FCC-compliant primary digital television broadcasts. The group is recommending that the ATSC move forward in setting an open mobile DTV standard in time for the federally mandated digital broadcast transition in February 2009.

The OMVC was formed at NAB2007 by broadcasters looking to accelerate the development of mobile television in the United States. Since then, the group has pushed for the formalization of a single open mobile TV standard that is backward-compatible with the existing ATSC digital terrestrial television standard. This would allow broadcasters to deliver a mobile broadcast signal along with their regular digital transmissions without a major upgrade to their current infrastructure.

Proponents of such a standard see in it the potential for a lucrative new revenue stream for broadcasters, who can use it to deliver local and prime-time programming and other high-value forms of content. Indeed, the NAB earlier this year announced the results of a study that found that U.S. broadcasters could reap up to $2 billion in added revenue from both ad-supported and subscription-based mobile TV services.

The OMVC initiated the IDOV trials at the ATSC’s request to assist with the technical information needed to adopt a standard for mobile broadcast technology. It conducted the trials with the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV), this February, March and April in the San Francisco Bay Area and Las Vegas, collecting approximately 140 hours and 1000mi of mobile data across the trial areas. Local TV broadcasters volunteered their facilities as part of the effort.

As the ATSC moves toward finalizing technical specifications this summer, the OMVC will continue to assist with incorporating broadcasting industry considerations into the technical framework. In addition, the group will conduct consumer trials later this year.

As for the announcement by LG Electronics and Samsung — developers of the two leading candidates for the standard, MPH and A-VSB, respectively — that they will collaborate on a single device for delivering digital television to cell phones, the OMVC has stated it believes the LG-Samsung joint approach points to a standard centered on MPH transmission technology as the baseline of the “physical layer” platform, augmented with features from A-VSB technology. Such an approach could find broad support from participants as well as third-party manufacturers and content providers interested in a single open mobile digital U.S. broadcast standard.

After the ATSC candidate standard is approved in October, the OMVC will work toward pursuing full standardization and product development to reach the ultimate goal of introducing commercial mobile DTV services to the consumer marketplace in 2009.

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