Mobile Me Baby

HERE AND NOW: Mobile DTV is sort of like a yeti that's coming to a forest clearing near you any minute. We've been hearing about it for five years now. But footprints in dried mud and blurry photographs could be giving way to a debutante party. Mobile Content Venture earlier this month announced a deal with MetroPCS to launch Mobile DTV. 

And just who is MobilePCS? Fifth largest carrier in the United States, but I didn't know much about them before its deal to carry local TV station signals. 

Apparently, it's not one of the cool carriers. In spite or because of its "flat-rate, unlimited plans," various geek hacks describe it in unflattering terms. This is due in part because MetroPCS went from second- to fourth-generation network technology in a fell swoop, like a prepubescent kid growing four inches overnight. Awkwardly, you might say. A Slate review called its sole 4G launch handset, "The Worst Cellphone on Earth." 

That was last February. The carrier now has a few more 4G phones and a deal to distribute local broadcast signals for free in some of the largest TV markets in the country. 

So add "free TV" to "flat-rate, unlimited cellphone plans" that currently top out at $60—plus who knows how many mystery fees, granted. Even so, what better way to give Mobile DTV a try? The little standalone sets are fine, but they don't fit in your pocket. And MetroPCS requires no contract. Double trouble. 

The deal is good for MetroPCS because no one else is doing it and that makes for instant press coverage. It's good for broadcasting with respect to demythologizing Mobile DTV. 

The carrier and its ability to get receivers into the market was key. What matters now is how quickly MetroPCS can get the shows on the road, so to speak. Its broadcast-spectrum eating competitors are loading their yeti guns.