Mobile TV War at NAB



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Two dualing mobile-DTV technologies for the US-based ATSC standard (Advanced-VSB and
Mobile-Pedestrian-Handheld), are being demonstrated at the annual National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas this week.

They are hoping to head off OFDM-based mobile television standards already in use by cellular operators in the United States, including Qualcomm-backed MediaFLO and the European-developed DVB-H standard.

Advanced-VSB (A-VSB) was developed by Samsung Electronics and German transmitter manufacturer Rohde & Schwarz.

The competing Mobile-Pedestrian-Handheld standard (MPH), is being introduced at NAB 2007 this week by Harris and LG Electronics. LG’s subsidiary Zenith gets royalties on the ATSC 8-VSB standard. ATSC said its new ATSC-M/H standard will enable broadcasters to use their existing DTV signals to deliver content to mobile devices, allocating a portion of their 19.39 Mbps/8-VSB signal.

No timeframe was announced for availability of either ATSC-M/H or A-VSB.

Del Parks, VP of operations and engineering for Sinclair Broadcast Group, has seen A-VSB and MPH in action and says both prove that “the reception of 8-VSB signals in mobile mode is not only possible but practical.”

Nine of the largest U.S. television broadcast groups today announced the launch of the “Open Mobile Video Coalition,” to accelerate mobile television in the United States (under their control).

The broadcast-only Coalition includes Belo, Fox Stations, Gannett Broadcasting, Gray Television, ION Media Networks, the NBC & Telemundo Television Stations, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Broadcasting Company. They collectively represent over 280 television stations in the U.S., covering 95 million households, including 49 of the top 50 markets nationwide.

So far, no cellphones have been announced that support the new technologies.

Meanwhile, eleven large, European companies are backing a mobile TV standard called Broadcast Mobile Convergence (pdf). The Nokia-led group says the DVB-H-based standard could “speed up large scale mobile TV deployments in Europe,” enabling interoperable, future-proof implementations.

Nokia and Samsung plan to make DVB-H work with the OMA BCAST standard for mobile operators. The three main BCAST features supported by the BMCo Forum profile, as listed by Nokia, include:

  • Advanced service and program guide (ESG) enabling a rich set of services
  • Support for multiple broadcast technologies
  • Support for content and service protection, using the Smart Card Profile (based on (U)SIM Card) or the DRM Profile (based on OMA DRM V2.0)

BMCo backers include:

  • Ericsson, a communications services and equipment provider
  • Nokia, world’s largest handset vendor, also sells infrastructure equipment
  • Nokia Siemens Networks, a global communications service provider
  • NXP Semiconductors, a semiconductor spin-out from Dutch electronics giant Philips
  • Sony Ericsson, a mobile phone vendor
  • Telefonica O2 Europe, a European mobile and fixed network operator
  • T-Mobile, a leading mobile carrier in Europe
  • Vodafone, a global mobile communications group
  • ZTE, a global, China-based fixed and mobile telecom equipment vendor

Most European industry players favor the DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast – Handheld) standard, but competing technologies, including DMB and MediaFlo, have gained ground over recent months due to slow rollout of DVB-H networks.

The ATSC-based, A-VSB and ATSC-based, Mobile-Pedestrian-Handheld approaches now have more than half a dozen competing systems for mobile television. They include:

  • Qualcomm’s MediaFLO
  • DVB-H (Modeo, Aloha Partners, European broadcasters)
  • DVB-T (Europe’s Terrestrial DTV). The DVB Project is the demonstrating a scheme that allows a DVB-T multiplex to contain one or more DVB-H services alongside a high-definition DVB-T service in the same 6 MHz channel. The co-existence of a 13.8 Mbps high-definition television signal and a 5.5 Mbps DVB-H signal within a 19.3 Mbps stream. It uses Hierarchical Modulation, embedded as a High Priority service within a Low Priority DVB-T stream.
  • MobiTV (Sprint & AT&T)
  • Mobile WiMAX TV (using MobiTV)
  • IP Wireless offers TDtv which allows UMTS operators to utilize 5 MHz of unused spectrum to address the Mobile TV market.
  • Verizon’s V-Cast (cellular channels)

A long list of rivals–mobile carriers, Apple iTunes, Joost, YouTube, NetFlix, TiVo, Sling Media and others–are all offering audiences alternatives to traditional broadcast TV. And most of the newcomers can offer features like on-demand viewing. Movie download services include Amazon Unbox, CinemaNow, MovieFlix, Movielink, and Vongo.

WiMAX is two-way. It allows WiMAX television to automatically switch from unicasting to multicasting (depending on demand). That’s more flexible than either cellular (unicast-only) or broadcast (multicast-only). Nokia plans to sell WiMAX phones by early next year.

Related Mobile TV articles on DailyWireless include; NAB 2007: Dead Man Walking?, Mobile TV: Six Flavors,

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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