Mobile TV Handsets: Two Flavors

MetroPCS today announced the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S Lightray 4G, the first Samsung Galaxy S device for MetroPCS with LTE service and no annual contract starting at $40 per month. Powered by Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), it features a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen, a 1GHz processor, an 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera. It also offers LTE Mobile Hotspot service, allowing customers to share their MetroPCS LTE connection with multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

The Samsung Galaxy S Lightray 4G will be also the first smartphone in the U.S. to offer live, local broadcast television with Dyle mobile TV. The built-in mobile tv tuner provides free local and national news and entertainment broadcast programming offered by some local broadcasters.

The Samsung Galaxy S Lightray 4G costs $459 and has an extendable antenna to receive mobile TV, broadcast from regular TV stations. The Samsung Droid Charge (Verizon) and Samsung Aviator (U.S. Cellular) are basically the same phone.

Dyle, the mobile tv service, is owned by existing broadcast TV stations, not content providers (coverage map). Mobile TV is available at no additional charge to customers on a MetroPCS 4G LTE service plan, using the phone. The Dyle service aggregates multiple channels into a Mobile DTV service, using the mobilized American HDTV standard known as ATSC-M/H. The Open Mobile Video Coalition is an alliance of U.S. commercial and public broadcasters committed to the mobile tv standard.

The Samsung phones will receive special “Mobile DTV” signals broadcast by 72 stations in 32 cities. However, NBC and Fox will be encrypting their signals so they can only be received by the phone app that will be on the Samsung phone, according to Salil Dalvi, co-head of the Mobile Content Venture, which organizes the TV stations using Mobile DTV technology.

Mobile television over broadcast TV channels is not a free ride. Four mobile tv channels would take about half the 19.2 Mbps available on the 6 MHz spectrum, eliminating any possibility of broadcast HDTV or any secondary (640p) television programming (pdf). And for what? Advertising revenue from mobile tv (with very few eyeballs), would seem tenuous at best.

Broadcasters have to dance around the politics of offering “pay tv”, since they get their spectrum free. That’s a gift to group owners, courtesy of US taxpayers and Congress, who once feared the influence of local broadcasters.

In addition, mobile television has historically been a tough sell to cellular carriers who are not inclined to offer “free” television when they can make more money streaming mobile tv. Streaming tv doesn’t need a big external antenna, either.

If ATSC-M/H service in the United States offered only one program channel, then some 4.4 Mbps might be allocated for the MPH stream, leaving only 14 Mbps for ATSC television programming and forcing resolution down to 720p. ATSC-M/H and the defunct MediaFLO require a special phone with a tv tuner. MobiTV, available from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, uses cellular channels. It costs about $15/month and may work with your current phone.

MetroPCS is the fifth largest facilities-based wireless carrier in the United States, currently with 500,000 LTE subscribers out of a customer base of 9.34 million.

MetroPCS (above) is currently using LTE in narrow channels and consequently does not offer the LTE speeds of AT&T or Verizon. It uses less spectrum and shares it with voice users. They don’t have room to stream television over their limited spectrum, so broadcast mobile television may be a good match for them.

Meanwhile Samsung today announced it has successfully demonstrated clear television reception using LTE via the evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS) standard using Anritsu Rapid Test Designer (RTD) and MD8430A test gear to simulate the LTE network environment.

eMBMS is a highly efficient means of broadcasting content to multiple users simultaneously, utilizing LTE networks. Ericsson demonstrated evolved Broadcast over LTE at Mobile World Congress this January as did Qualcomm (below).

The evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS) doesn’t need a television tuner or dedicated frequencies. It’s a multi-cast system, unlike current cellular streaming television. One LTE channel can deliver a tv program (or download data) to multiple people, simultaneously, using network resources more efficiently. Samsung engineers created the eMBMS demonstration using an Anritsu MD8430A LTE signaling tester.

Qualcomm’s ill-fated MediaFLO used dedicated 700 MHz frequencies but never got enough support from carriers or handset manufacturers to provide a viable business. FLO TV discontinued service on March 27, 2011 and sold their dedicated 700 MHz channels to AT&T.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Mobile TV at NAB 2012, AT&T: Free WiFi (with Video Ads), Toshiba Tablet/TV, Carlos Slim Plans Internet TV Network, NBC Partners with YouTube for Olympics, Cable Loosing It’s Grip on TV Everywhere?, Amazon + Viacom Streaming TV, Video Mobilizes, Netflix New Mobile App, Television Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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