Mobile Digital TV Standard Adopted in the U.S.A.


Late last night, around midnight if you really must know, the ATSC (aka the Advanced Television Systems Committee) ratified the A/153 ATSC Mobile DTV Standard which “defines the technical specifications necessary for broadcasters to provide new services to mobile and handheld devices using their digital television (DTV) transmissions.”

In other words, digital TV will soon be playing on mobile handsets all across the U.S. of A.

More specifically:

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.

This is sort of a bittersweet moment for me. TV watching has heretofore always been a specific location-based activity, i.e. your family room, a sports pub, a friend’s house, etc. Thus, if you wanted to watch the boob tube, you simply found your way to one of these spots. If you weren’t in the mood for some tele, you could just go for a walk in the park, take a drive around the town, or curl up with a book in a different room.

However, now that the new mobile digital TV standard will “enable broadcasters to provide new compelling services to consumers utilizing a wide array of wireless receiving devices including mobile phones, small handheld DTVs, laptop computers and in-vehicle entertainment systems” there really won’t be anywhere left to hide, er avoid watching TV.

But I guess it’s not all bad news. There are plenty of times when firing up a “mobile TV” will be wonderfully convenient, such as watching live sports with the sound muted during a terrible business presentation or during your kid’s elementary school musical, for example. Not to mention, the new mobile DTV also features “enhanced” content:

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.

In the end, with more and more large screen mobile devices hitting the market (come on, HTC Dragon!), along with the announced support from the Open Mobile Video Coalition, a voluntary association of more than 800 broadcast stations across the country, access to mobile DTV could actually be pretty sweet…under the right circumstances.