Samsung, partners push mobile TV

Samsung and other vendors are demonstrating a pending mobile TV broadcasting standard that had been forecast for completion last year.

Samsung Electronics and several other vendors at the National Association of Broadcasters show this week are demonstrating a pending mobile TV broadcasting standard that had been forecast for completion last year.

The demonstration at NAB, in Las Vegas, comes more than a year after Samsung announced the A-VSB (Advanced-Vestigial Sideband) technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2007. The company said at the time that a standard would be completed in the first half of that year, with broadcasters implementing it soon afterward.

A-VSB is still before the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee), the main standards body for U.S. television. Samsung and its partners said Monday that consumer trials will begin later this year, with commercial deployment coming in 2009. But broadcasting equipment and service management software are now commercially available, according to the group calling itself the A-VSB Initiative.

Mobile broadcast TV is still in its infancy, with the DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast-Handheld) standard recently earning the European Union's backing and Qualcomm's MediaFLO USA subsidiary gaining an early lead in the U.S. A-VSB is designed specifically for North American broadcasters as an add-on to the technology they already use for digital TV. The idea is for those broadcasters to extend their existing channels to mobile devices, with a relatively low cost for infrastructure. A-VSB is one of two systems vying to be chosen as the radio interface standard for ATSC. The other, MPH (Mobile Pedestrian Handheld), is supported by LG Electronics.

A-VSB would allow consumers to reliably get TV on their phones indoors and in moving cars, according to its backers. Depending on the participation of local broadcasters, viewers could receive as many local channels as are available on conventional over-the-air digital TV, said Kay Johansson, CTO of MobiTV, a member of the A-VSB Initiative.

Delays are common in standards development and getting technology out to consumers, said Johansson, who believes A-VSB still has a head start on MPH. His company has no preference between the two radio systems because it supplies interactive applications that could run on top of either one, he said. These applications, such as voting on competitive reality shows, will be a key element of the business model for ATSC-based mobile TV because they will give mobile operators a service to sell on top of ad-supported broadcasting provided by TV stations, according to Johansson.

Mobile network builder Nokia-Siemens Networks, content aggregator SES Americom and transmission equipment vendor Rohde & Schwarz also belong to the A-VSB Initiative.

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