Two more mobile TV standards

03 May 2007

The battle for supremacy in the mobile TV technology race continues to shift as vendors create yet another mobile TV standard.

The latest mobile TV technology on the block is aimed at markets that have adopted the US-developed ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) digital TV standard for terrestrial broadcasters. There are two main ATSC-based mobile technologies in contention, both from Korean vendors: Samsung Electronics' Advanced VSB (A-VSB), which debuted at the start of this year, and MPH (Mobile Pedestrian Handheld) from LG Electronics, its US research subsidiary Zenith Electronics and Harris Corporation, which launched last month.

The selling point of both technologies is to help ATSC broadcasters cash in on the mobile TV craze without having to partner with mobile operators or get involved with spectrum-pooling arrangements by making ATSC signals robust enough to reach mobile users even when they're sitting in fast-moving vehicles.

A-VSB brings multiple 'turbo coded' streams and single frequency network (SFN) into the mix, resulting in stronger uniform signals, which means better reception even in urban canyons, according to Samsung.

LG, meanwhile, says MPH - which is backward-compatible with A-VSB - allows digital TV broadcasters to target living rooms and mobile users from the same antenna. They can even opt to broadcast high-definition TV to homes and standard-def versions of the same broadcast to mobile users.

Both are still in the trial stage, but broadcasters in the US like Sinclair and ION Media are already keen on mobile, and the ATSC is currently formulating a standard for mobile broadcasts. However, with only five countries having adopted ATSC as a digital TV standard, both A-VSB and MPH are already looking like niche technologies in the global mobile TV stakes.

In Asia, Korea stands alone as the only ATSC adopter in the region - and local broadcasters KBS and MBC are already selling mobile TV using T-DMB, with 3.5 million users between them in Seoul and surrounding Kyonggi province, and fresh licenses from the Ministry of Communication last month to expand their services nationwide. The rest of the region - at least in those markets that have decided how to migrate to digital TV - is firmly in the DVB camp, except for Japan, which is adopting its own ISDB.

Meanwhile, DVB-H received a potential boost in its bid for world domination after its top champion, Nokia, announced plans to cooperate with Samsung to drive the development and adoption of the Open Mobile Alliance's BCAST spec, which was designed to help streaming media run uniformly across different digital broadcast transmission layers - specifically, DVB-H and both W-CDMA and EV-DO cellular networks.

Around the same time, Nokia and 11 other companies - including Ericsson, KPN, Nokia Siemens Networks, NXP Semiconductors, Sony Ericsson, Telef瑈ica, T-Mobile, Vodafone and ZTE - pledged support for the first implementation profile subset under OMA BCAST that supports advanced program guides, multiple broadcast technologies and content and service protection.

Ostensibly, that means better interoperability between handsets and broadcast systems, according to the Broadcast Mobile Convergence Forum, the international mobile broadcast lobbying association that developed the profile.

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