PADUCAH, KY—While Mobile DTV around the world has had mixed results over the past decade, it seems to be gaining ground and is not likely to go away. With Japan's 1seg Mobile DTV devices doing their part during the recent tsunami, and the recent push by U.S. broadcasters with more than 75 stations currently broadcasting Mobile DTV (A153), it may be time for the broadcast test and measurement industry to "hit the bricks" with the tools needed to keep up the momentum. With some estimates indicating that broadcast television could reap an additional $2 billion in annual revenue from Mobile DTV, the industry is starting to take this new medium very seriously.
ATSC Mobile DTV has some specific requirements that differ from its fixed counterpart, according to Ralph Bachofen, vice president of sales and marketing for Triveni Digital, a Princeton, N.J.-based developer of DTV monitoring technology.
"For proper operation of ATSC Mobile, all of the fixed ATSC parameters must be correct, along with some very specific new ones," Bachofen said. "For example, the Mobile ATSC uses an ESG [Electronic Service Guide] and conditional access [paid services]. which makes test and measurement very tricky." Bachofen says that Triveni Digital has new versions of their popular Streamscope and Remote Monitoring Devices that have the toolsets for ATSC Mobile built right in.
Harris, one of the developers of the ATSC Mobile DTV standard, is partnering with several companies that offer test and measurement products for mobile DTV. These include Roundbox products for mobile test and measurement at the WUSA-TV facility in Washington, D.C., along with Decontis, according to Jeff Witman, product manager of test and measurement for Harris. "Roundbox and Harris have a joint development MDTV test and measurement work-in-progress, albeit in 'infant stage,'" said Mark Rushton, vice president of broadcast sales at Roundbox.
Rohde & Schwarz’ ETL includes test and measurement capabilities for Mobile DTV. Michael Hanel, CTO of German-based test and measurement manufacturer Decontis, says his company offers a solution to monitor the A/153 signal from the high layers, all the way down to the bit layers. "The Decontis atscSAM is the only analysis and monitoring solution that can monitor all Mobile DTV services within a multiplex simultaneously," Hanel said.
DON'T OVERLOOK CIT
Witman said that one element of the ATSC A/153 standard that is being overlooked is the CIT [Cell Information Tables]. "Broadcasters need to take a stance on this and adopt the tables across the nation," he said, "so that there can be 'service hand-off' when traveling with mobile devices."
Sterling Davis, chair of the OMVC Technical Advisor Group (OTAG) agrees.
"Within the ATSC A/153 Mobile DTV standard, the Cell Information Table (CIT) provides a framework to convey to devices information required to hand-over mobile reception tuning to adjacent transmitters with same/similar/related services, or driven by business activities and arrangements," he told the OMVC earlier this year. "These transmitters may be 'gap fillers,' translators or other distributed means of providing coverage and service. Support for service hand-off enabled by the CIT will be an important element for providing support for the QOS (quality of service) that may be needed 'for pay' and other services that television broadcasters wish to leverage."
Triveni Digital has incorporated Mobile DTV test and measurement in their products, including the Streamscope line. VETERANS & NEWCOMERS
Having installed the first A/153 compliant broadcasting station in Baltimore on the first day that the standard was ratified, Rohde & Schwarz is no stranger to the game. According to Mike Simon, manager of Advanced Technology/Broadcast for the German-based developer of broadcast transmission and test and measurement gear, "In addition to encoders, multiplexers, and transmitters, our ETL product for Mobile ATSC test and measurement is a complete tool set." Simon added that their AEM-100 multiplexer offers built-in test capabilities, as an added bonus.
While some test and measurement manufacturers have been known around the United States for a very long time, there are a few companies that are gaining recognition in this country on the heels of this fast developing technology. Out of South Korea—another ATSC country—comes DTVinteractive, another purveyor of A/153 test and measurement gear. The company offers the ATX1000 and 2000 ATSC-M/H Multiplex signal generators, the GPS-equipped ATSC-M/H Driving Field Tester and Field Data Management System, as well as a mobile-specific multiviewer, the AVM1000.
While ATSC Mobile may not be in your Q3 budget, it's likely not too far away.
If the idea of Mobile TV seems to be surreal, you may want to consider that there appears to be an entire industry already in place to support it, with large sums of money already invested.