Wireless Carriers Build Mobile TV as Broadcasters Prepare for Launch

BASKING RIDGE, N.J.: Verizon Wireless continues to beef up its video offering while broadcasters are working to get mobile DTV on the air. Verizon has added the Big Ten Network to its VCast mobile video service. In addition to live game coverage of the Big 10’s 250 or so events, the carrier will provide highlights, news and updates through a renovated, $10-a-month add-on service, VCast Video.

Verizon Wireless has 87.7 million subscribers; though it doesn’t provide numbers on how many handsets are VCast-enabled and how many of those have activated subscriptions. The service is one of the first mobile TV offerings to go live in the United States after the roll-out of the originator, MobiTV. VCast was initially transmitted via Verizon’s cellular network and often suffered from long buffer times. The service was moved onto the MediaFLO transmission system in 2007 and subsequently launched in multiple cities.

Broadcasters in the meantime are working with developing technology. The transmission specification for mobile broadcasting--ATSC M/H--has yet to be formally ratified by the Advanced Television Systems Committee, though it’s expected to happen soon

As for receivers, there are only a few prototypes in the market. One broadcast engineer in a major market recently said his station had been transmitting ATSC M/H for several weeks, but he was unable to test reception for lack of a prototype. LG, Samsung and Kenwood are among the primary device developers; Dell reportedly making an ATSC M/H-compatible netbook.

The Open Mobile Video Coalition of 600 broadcasters working together on mobile TV most recently released the first iteration of its Mobile Use Cases. Among the suggested services are datacasting, “clipcasting,” push video-on-demand, channel-change interstitials, e-commerce, geo-specific alerts and more. (Doug Lung provides more details in his Oct. 1 RF Report.)

Broadcasters in Washington, D.C. started transmitting ATSC M/H over the summer. Gray TV announced that it conducted successful mobile DTV tests in Omaha in July. A total of 33 stations are expected to be transmitting the mobile format by the end of this month, and receivers are expected to debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

More on mobile TV:
October 7, 2009: “Qualcomm Rolls out Handheld FLO TV”
Qualcomm unveiled its handheld FLO TV this week, in time for the holiday season.

September 3, 2009: “Gray Conducts Successful Mobile DTV Tests”
Gray Television commenced its first successful mobile DTV signal at WOWT-TV, its NBC affiliate in Omaha, Nebr., on July 24.

August 26, 2009: “Free Analog Mobile TV Bode Well for Digital Version
The global uptake of free analog mobile TV is a good sign that the digital iteration will be successful. That’s Telegent’s takeaway from a recent survey from In-Stat forecasting that the world’s analog mobile TV user base will reach 54 million by the end of this year.

June 29, 2009: “More on Mobile from Overseas
Korean wireless carriers said that some 22 million people are using mobile television in the country, according to The Korea Times. The population of South Korea is estimated at a little less than 48.4 million. While the viewership is good, advertising sales for the medium remain weak and the average revenue per user is declining.

April 20, 2009: “NAB: Broadcasters Target D.C. for Mobile TV Consumer Trials”
The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) said Washington, D.C. has been selected as a product showcase market for Mobile Digital Television (DTV) technology. Additionally, four TV stations in Atlanta and Seattle will become model stations for technical research and development of device interoperability.

April 20, 2009:“City of Raleigh Initiates First Public Mobile DTV Deployment”
Officials in this Tech Triangle corridor city teamed up with WRAL-TV for the first public deployment of mobile DTV. Capital Area Transit buses will now feature real-time broadcast television. At least one bus had been converted into a rolling TV receiver as of today.

March 20, 2009: “Mobile DTV Poised for Rising Revenue Wave”
Mobile advertising revenues will hit $3.1 billion in 2013, up from $160 million last year, according to research from The Kelsey Group, a division of BIA. Over the same five-year period, Kelsey predicts revenues generated by local search advertising will grow from $20 million to $1.3 billion.

February 17, 2009: “MobiTV Tops 6 Million Subscribers”
MobiTV announced today at the Mobile World Congress event, being held in Barcelona, Spain, that it had surpassed the six million mark in subscribers for its managed mobile media services. The Emeryville, Calif.-based provider said that it attributed its growth to the increasing popularity of smart phones, consumer demand for top TV events and an increasing number of wireless plans that have bundled TV and radio services.

January 12, 2009: “Mobile DTV to Launch in 22 Markets”
Sixty-three TV stations across the country will launch mobile TV this year, the Open Mobile Video Coalition announced in Las Vegas during the Consumer Electronics Show there.