» Samsung, LG get green light on mobile TV standard
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Samsung, LG get green light on mobile TV standard
By Sarah Reedy

May 15, 2008 3:17 PM

South Korean wireless competitors team up for mobile TV in U.S.

The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OVMC), an organization of 850 local broadcasters, today submitted its viability report findings giving Samsung and LG the stamp of approval to pursue mobile TV based on the best of both manufacturers’ competing standards. The trial results indicated that LG’s Mobile-Pedestrian-Handheld (MPH) transmission technology would serve as the physical-layer platform, augmented with features from Samsung’s Advanced VSB (A-VSB) technology. The announcement builds on yesterday’s news that the two South Korean competitors would team up to propose a jointly developed technology as the North American technology standard for mobile DTV.

Commissioned by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), the United States standards-setting body, the OMVC held field trials in San Francisco and Las Vegas over the last three months in order to test the technical viability of mobile TV. According to executive director Anne Schelle, an approach based largely on MPH should find broad support from participants, as well as third-party manufacturers and content providers interested in a single open mobile digital US broadcast standard.

The IDOV trials demonstrated that full-motion mobile DTV was viable at pedestrian and highway speeds, mobile reception could be attained as far as 40 miles from the transmitter and that mobile DTV does not interfere with the regular FCC-compliant primary digital television broadcasts. LG’s MPH system was also shown to deliver a single mobile stream at a slightly lower data rate than A-VSB, meaning more give for broadcasters doing both mobile TV and high-definition services.

“We think because of the cooperation of Samsung and LG, the standard will move more rapidly through the ATSC, which is important because we feel there is a time-to-market issue, and we’d like to see the standard finalized by early 2009,” Schelle said. “These broadcasters would like to deploy the service as soon as possible.”

LG and Samsung were both busy their respective standards at CES this year. The rivals’ partnership means that one won’t win out over the other, and the two stand a chance against the likes of Qualcomm, which already has MediaFLO services deployed with both AT&T and Verizon in the US. It also means that Samsung and LG are essentially dipping into every mobile TV technology, with DVB-H and MediaFLO handsets already on the market, along with several Korean formats.

This is the first time that LG and Samsung have collaborated on a standards initiative, according to a LG spokesman. Mobile TV opens up opportunities for development in handsets – where most of the attention has been placed, but also in portable TV sets, laptop computers or in-car solutions.

“When you think of what has happened in the last year and a half to get to this stage, both LG and Samsung have been developing our independent systems, both are ATSC compatible, but they are incompatible with each other,” said the LG spokesman. “That process was moving along, but at the same time, the interest among broadcasters was just exploding. It hit a crescendo at the NAB meeting in April, with hundreds of TV stations all clamoring to jump on the bandwagon and get mobile digital TV on the air as soon as possible.”

Despite the fact that the two companies had been pursuing different technologies for the last year and a half, Schelle said that from the perspective of the OMVC, the partnership makes sense and should ultimately enable the standard to get pushed through more quickly. “You are essentially avoiding any kind of proponent issue in regards to ‘my standard is better than your standard’ in the ATSC,” she said. “This creates this smooth-working process within the ATSC for setting the standard.”

Samsung and LG respectively represent the second- and fourth-largest handset makers in the world. Yet as South Korean manufacturers, they lack infrastructure relationships in the US. Both are, however, partnering with infrastructure owners to enter the market. The key elements of the transmission equipment will be provided by American broadcast technology company, Harris, which is partnered with LG on MPH. Samsung was teaming up with Rhode and Schwartz, as well as Nokia on AVS-B.

At the National Association of Broadcaster’s (NAB) show in Las Vegas last month, the OMVC said that, with the adoption of a single ATSC mobile/handheld DTV standard, the US market for mobile DTV phones will reach 130 million units by the end of 2012, with the market for portable media device mobile DTV receivers growing to include an additional 25 million units. It is now on track to finalize the candidate standard by September of this year and have devices commercially available and standardized in 2009. Schelle said this partnership will ensure the standards stay on track. The OMVC is starting consumer trials of mobile TV in the late summer or early fall.

“I think that if you look at the market today for mobile video, it is very much in its infancy,” Schelle said. “Just like the camera phone that you see in almost every handheld device today, it is very conceivable to see an ATSC/MPH chip in every mobile handheld device and PCs, portable video devices, vehicular devices. I think that five to six years from now, it will be commonplace to watch TV anywhere you want.”

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