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TI Exec: Open Standards Crucial for Mobile TV

Doug Rasor, Texas Instruments vice president and manager for worldwide strategic marketing, told broadcasters at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Futures Summit in Pebble Beach, Calif. that mobile digital broadcast TV combines the two best-selling consumer products in history--TVs and mobile phones. He explained, "In the last sixty years we've evolved from radio, to black and white TV, to color TV, to the cable TV universe. Now that opportunity is expanding even further with TV on mobile phones, representing the ability to reach millions of consumers in new ways. TV will be the ingredient that drives demand for the next generation of wireless mobile phones because consumers want both communications and entertainment - all in one place. Mobile phones are already becoming a delivery mechanism for TV and radio broadcasts, bringing new interactive content to savvy on-the-go consumers."

Rasor noted mobile DTV could provide revenue opportunities for broadcasters and content providers through subscription services, interactive TV, Web traffic and premium content. These opportunities would be restricted, he warned, if the mobile TV system was not based on open standards such as the DVB-H. "At TI we believe that working in an open ecosystem built on an open standard such as DVB-H, for instance, is far better for the industry and consumers than working in a proprietary environment, where a few players dominate the majority of the value chain and limit other players in their ability to participate in and generate revenue from that value chain. Open, non-proprietary standards provide the best opportunity for broadcasters and content providers to play in multiple areas and get the most revenue from the DTV market."

ATSC standards were not mentioned anywhere in the TI news release describing Doug Rasor's presentation. Texas Instruments "Hollywood" single chip DTV receiver for handhelds only supports COFDM based systems DVB-H and ISDB-T. While Crown Castle is using DVB-H for its mobile DTV system, Qualcomm is focusing its mobile effort on the CDMA/EvDO system used in its cell phone products.

Can the ATSC enhanced VSB (E-VSB) system compete with these standards? DVB-H and ISDB-T are designed to minimize power consumption in handheld devices and many manufacturers are showing cell phone designs using these standards. Cell phone based data standards like Qualcomm's 1xRTT are already being used by Sprint for delivering TV content to cell phones.

ATSC has one advantage that could make it a player in the U.S. mobile DTV market-- a nationwide distribution platform is already in place, with very few areas not having access to multiple ATSC DTV signals and desirable content, including local news, traffic reports and weather. Before this opportunity can be realized, E-VSB standards need to be finalized and mobile phone manufacturers have to be convinced to include E-VSB capability in cell phones.

This may be the most difficult part, as almost all cell phones are sold through cellular service providers. They will have to have a business reason for including this capability in their phones and free TV programming may not offer it. Qualcomm and Crown Castle have barriers to overcome as well. Not only do they have to provide revenue opportunities for their mobile phone partners, they also have to build out a distribution system and negotiate with programmers for content. However, given the tremendous interest in DVB-H and ISDB-T and the lack of interest in E-VSB, it now looks as if broadcasters will end up dependent on a distribution platform they don't own or control when it comes delivering TV to mobile devices.