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Over-the-air mobile TV essential part of emergency communications, OMVC says

No matter where you live, natural disasters happen. In California, we live with earthquakes. The biggest one I've experienced was the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in the San Francisco Bay Area. The power, and cable TV, was out. But I was still able to follow the news live that night on a small, battery-powered TV. By contrast, the telephone lines were so jammed that it took about half an hour to get through to my worried mother on the other side of the country.

From the radio news, though, which I relied on until I got home, it wasn't entirely clear to me what parts of local highways had collapsed, given that I wasn't familiar with Oakland and its stretch of Interstate 880 known as the "cypress structure." I suppose if a road I regularly traveled had collapsed, I would have known its local nickname.

However, as someone who took a full month to figure out that "the Bayshore" referred to California Route 101, I'm not at all confident I would figure it out before I found myself trapped overnight in a mammoth traffic jam (as happened to one of my colleagues) or, worse, driving off the jagged end of a collapsed highway.

This is precisely the scenario that members of the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) have in mind when they insist that broadcast — over-the-air (OTA) — mobile TV is an essential piece of the United States' national communications technology strategy. Last month, research firm IDC released a new report sponsored by the OMVC, "Assessing the Mobile DTV Opportunity and its Role in the United States' Communications Ecosystem," by Danielle Levitas, highlighting live broadcasting's role in the mobile TV ecosystem.

The United States' broadcasting system delivers emergency information to nearly 100 percent of the public through direct news, weather broadcasts, and the national emergency alert system, IDC reports. Mobile TV is essential for extending emergency information to people on-the-go — a time when other networks are most likely to be overloaded.

Further, leveraging the existing system doesn't require any change in people's habits. Most people in the United States get news primarily from local TV broadcasters already, according to media polling company Nielsen, with more than 1 out of 2 Americans reporting that they tune into local news broadcasts daily. IDC's research backs that up, reporting that live news and emergency information tops the list of content that people are interested in watching on mobile devices.

The IDC paper also reports that, as a group, current netbook owners are most interested in mobile TV (40 percent), while current smartphone owners are most interested in mobile TV as a feature in the next device they purchase.