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Mobile DTV Standard Approved

The ballot was “approved with overwhelming support by the full ATSC membership.”

The OMVC’s executive director, Anne Schelle, explains the benefits of Mobile DTV to journalists during a special bus tour arranged to demonstrate the robustness of the newly adopted system.
The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has announced the approval of A/153 ATSC Mobile DTV Standard. The organization, tasked with developing DTV standards said that the ballot, tallied at midnight Oct. 15, was “approved with overwhelming support by the full ATSC membership.”

The ATSC Mobile DTV Standard defines the technical specifications necessary for broadcasters to provide new services to mobile and handheld devices using their digital television (DTV) transmissions. The new services for mobile and handheld devices are carried along with current DTV services without any adverse impact on legacy receiving equipment. ATSC Mobile DTV was developed to support a variety of services including free (advertiser-supported) television and interactive services delivered in real-time, subscription-based TV, and file-based content download for playback at a later time. The standard can also be used for transmission of new data broadcasting services.

The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), a group of broadcasters and manufacturers promoting broadcasters’ mobile DTV efforts also recently released a document detailing specific uses for the standard. “Development and adoption of the ATSC Mobile DTV Standard is a major milestone in the ongoing evolution of digital television,” said ATSC President Mark Richer. “We have been fortunate to have strong and active industry support, including thousands of person-hours of technical volunteers, for this work which enabled us to develop the standard in an efficient manner.”

Following the adoption of the Mobile DTV standard, members of the Open Mobile Coalition demonstrated the new television service to members of the press in downtown Washington, D.C.

Despite a steady rain and temperatures in the low 40s, enthusiasm ran high as journalists and event sponsors boarded a chartered bus at NAB headquarters at midday Friday for a real world demonstration of the new Mobile DTV system. A number of different small-screen devices were passed around for viewing the signals from five D.C. market stations. The received images proved quite stable during the 30 minute bus ride around downtown Washington and across the Potomac into neighboring Virginia. Freezing and/or blocking were observed in only two locations—while going through a tunnel and for a short while as the bus navigated around some high-rise buildings in Rosslyn area of Arlington County, Va.

Washington is one of three U.S. markets currently running Mobile DTV on a test basis.

“In 2010, you’ll see more stations rolling out the service,” said Anne Schelle, executive director of the OMVC. “This is not like building a cellular network—it’s very quick to roll out. There are two other cities (involved in the testing)—Seattle and Atlanta.”

According to Jay Adrick, vice president of broadcast technology at Harris, 23 U.S. stations have already purchased Mobile DTV gear and are all set for transmitting the new service.

Handheld devices, USB port dongles, tuner-equipped DVD players and other consumer devices for viewing Mobile DTV are expected to be on the market very shortly also. Manufacturers are ready to show off their wares at the January Consumer Electronics Show at about the small-screen devices find their way into the country’s retail outlets.

“You can expect to see a lot of products out there on the shelves after the first of the year,” said Megan Pollack, the CEA’s senior manager for communications. It’s very exciting to see all of the digital zeroes and ones coming together at last.”

The OMVC said that the ATSC Mobile DTV Standard will enable broadcasters to provide new services to consumers utilizing a wide array of wireless receiving devices including mobile phones, small handheld DTVs, laptop computers and in-vehicle entertainment systems.

Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said, “As a founding ATSC member, CEA congratulates ATSC on achieving this new standard, which will help chipmakers and equipment manufacturers proceed with product development and deployment. With the successful digital television transition now behind us, the ATSC Mobile DTV standard gives broadcasters an opportunity to provide consumers with the next generation of compelling over-the-air content.” “This milestone ushers in the new era of digital television broadcasting, giving local TV stations and networks new opportunities to reach viewers on the go,” said Paul Karpowicz, NAB Television Board Chairman and President of Meredith Broadcast Group. “This will introduce the power of local broadcasting to a new generation of viewers and provide all-important emergency alert, local news and other programming to consumers across the nation.”

ATSC Chairman Glenn Reitmeier added: “On behalf of the ATSC Board of Directors, I would like to congratulate all of the ATSC member companies that contributed to this major achievement. The ATSC Mobile DTV standard is flexible and robust, enabling a range of services business models that create new opportunities for broadcasters, device makers and consumers. It is particularly noteworthy that ATSC Mobile utilizes Internet Protocol (IP), which will enable broadcast services to be easily integrated with wireless broadband consumer devices and applications, further reinforcing the significant role of terrestrial television broadcasting in the media landscape for decades to come.”

ATSC Mobile DTV is built around a highly robust transmission system based on Vestigial Side Band (VSB) modulation, with enhanced error correction and other techniques to improve robustness and reduce power consumption in portable receivers, coupled with a flexible and extensible Internet Protocol (IP) based transport system, efficient MPEG AVC (ISO/IEC 14496-10 or ITU H.264) video, and HE AAC v2 audio (ISO/IEC 14496-3) coding. ATSC Mobile DTV services are carried in existing digital broadcast channels along with current DTV services without any adverse impact on legacy receiving equipment.

In addition to live television, the new ATSC Mobile DTV standard provides a flexible application framework to enable new receiver capabilities. Receivers that make use of an optional Internet connection will enable new interactive television services, ranging from audience measurement and simple viewer voting to the integration of Internet-based applications and transactions with television content.

Formal development of the ATSC Mobile DTV system began in May 2007 with the issuance of a request for Proposals (RFP). The new standard document will be available online on the ATSC Standards page.