The Future of Mobile Digital TV in the U.S.
by Ronen Jashek, VP of Marketing, Siano
With the creation of the Mobile Digital TV (MDTV) Forum, the membership category of the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), mobile digital TV in the U.S. gained an important new advocate. While MDTV development in the U.S. looks to have a bright future, there is still significant work to be done on resolving issues such as station availability cataloging, system development, testing and certification before nationwide adoption can become a reality. While the MDTV Forum is certain to play an important role in advancing these issues, it also important to examine some of the other factors at play when it comes to introducing MDTV to the U.S. on a large scale.
ATSC and ATSC-M/H Standards
ATSC is a set of standards developed over 10 years ago by the Advanced Television Systems Committee for digital television transmission over terrestrial, cable and satellite networks. With the rise of the mass adoption of portable devices such as mobile phones, portable media players, portable navigation devices and notebooks, the committee developed ATSC-M/H (mobile/handset), a new standard in the U.S. for the deployment of terrestrial digital television services that are a better fit for mobile users.
ATSC-M/H defines for broadcasters the technical specifications necessary for them to provide new services to mobile and handheld devices using their DTV transmissions and are carried along with current DTV services without any adverse effect on existing ATSC equipment.
Mobile Digital TV Market Today
Today, there are approximately 35 cities, (approximately) 70 channels, across the U.S. that broadcast using ATSC-M/H signals. This process has been led in part by the Mobile Content Venture (MCV), a joint venture of NBC, Fox and 10 major TV station groups that was formed in the beginning of 2010 to further develop MDTV technology. The MCV has committed itself to upgrading dozens of TV stations across the country to deliver live video to portable devices. Working alongside the MCV, efforts to bring large-scale MDTV to the U.S. are also being led by the Mobile500Alliance, a group with 46 member companies, including two public broadcasters, which hold licenses to 420 television stations. The current DTV signals of these stations reach 92% of US TV households.
The most suitable devices today for the reception of digital TV broadcasts "on the go" include mobile phones, portable media players, laptop computers, personal navigation devices and automobile-based "infotainment" equipment. As more and more hardware manufacturers begin rolling out "MDTV-friendly" devices, this list is expected to significantly increase.
Mobile Digital TV Market Tomorrow
The numbers of cities broadcasting with ATSC-M/H are expected to jump to 50 cities and more than 150 channels by the end of 2012 and then to significantly increase over the years that follow.
The reason why this is expected to happen now, as opposed to when Qualcomm initially attempted to introduce its MediaFLO MDTV technology the U.S. market a number of years ago, is twofold: Qualcomm tried to roll out a solution that cost an additional $15 per month (on top of the regular monthly phone bill) and only offered consumers "national" channels, and no local options; and secondly, broadcasters today more fully understand the added value of offering consumers a mobile TV option.
Additionally, over the last few years, broadcasters have seen subscription and advertising numbers fall, as greater numbers of consumers chose to access content over the Internet, as opposed to the television. Mobile TV provides broadcasters with a new revenue stream and an additional, and vital, new access point to consumers.
As opposed to a few years ago, today, greater numbers of local broadcasters are generating content that is appealing to consumers. Factor in national broadcasters, such as CNN, that have committed to making MDTV a reality, and broadcasters can present consumers with an attractive package from which to select mobile TV subscription packages.
Finally, the rise of industry forums and coalitions, led by the MCV, Mobile500Alliance, the MDTV Forum and the OMVC, an alliance of U.S. commercial and public broadcasters whose members own and operate more than 900 TV stations nationwide, is also an important development for the MDTV market. These organizations have worked diligently with both the broadcasters and the carriers to establish industry standards, technical requirements, protocols and test sites.
Since the OMVC's selection of ATSC-M/H as the standard for mobile digital TV transmission, broadcasters have poured resources into properly preparing their infrastructure and networks for the delivery of MDTV services.
While there is still work to be done on bringing large-scale MDTV to the U.S. market, what was once a very fringe industry is now becoming more accepted, and with the number of stations expanding to carry DTV broadcasts and the long list of U.S. carriers who are starting to introduce MDTV services to their customers, as well as the rise of tablet computers and the increase in consumer demand for watching video on mobile devices capable of receiving DTV signals, the U.S. is poised to become a major player in the next chapter of the MDTV global story.
For more information, visit Siano on the web.
Ronen Jashek is VP of Marketing at Siano. Prior to joining Siano, he was software leader of the DECT product line in DSPG, and software manager in ModemArt (acquired by Agere) and in Sensotech. Mr. Jashek has an excellent understanding of system-software architecture and trade-offs, and deep experience and understanding of channel coding, digital cordless phone, cellular baseband processors, Bluetooth modem chips, WCDMA and GSM/GPRS protocols. Mr. Jashek holds a BSc. in Computer Science and Mathematics from the Bar Ilan University.
Edited by Janine E. Mooney, Associate Editor