Technology Bowing at NAB Links Broadcasters to Mobile Users

Apr 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

By Matt Kapko, RCR Wireless

Television stations seeking to beam their signals to local viewers’ cell phones are about to get more options.

So-called mobile pedestrian handheld technology, or MPH, is set to make its debut later this month at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. That standard, developed by Harris Corp., LG Electronics Co. and LG subsidiary Zenith Electronics, will compete with technology introduced earlier this year by Samsung Electronics Co.

Both MPH and Samsung’s A-VSB allow digital TV stations to complement their high-definition and standard-definition programming with offerings in mobile. They offer stations a way to reach audiences whose viewing habits have pulled them away from the living room TV set.

MPH enters a mobile video market already occupied by companies that may resist efforts to give stations a direct link to potential viewers’ cell phones. Few traditional wireless carriers would allow a chipset to be included in their cell phones that might circumvent their network and provide little to no revenue to their own video efforts.

Currently, companies such as HiWire and Modeo LLC plan to broadcast mobile television over separate dedicated networks, while GoTV Networks and MobiTV transmit their programming over carriers’ 3G networks.

“The difference between what we’re proposing and showing versus, let’s say, MediaFLO or Modeo, is the ability to provide a service from the broadcaster, not a separate transmission network. So it comes from the broadcaster, it allows them to reuse their content and to provide localized service,” said Jay Adrick, vice president of broadcast technology at Harris. “This plays on the strength of the broadcaster, which is localism. It would also allow them to duplicate their over-the-air television broadcast signal in the mobile service.”

ABI Research analyst Judy Rosall said she doesn’t think MPH will be a direct competitor to other mobile TV providers.

“I definitely think it’s an adjunct to the premium mobile TV services that are going to be offered,” she said. “This may be lower quality and cheaper subscriptions.”

Ms. Rosall added, “I think it can confuse the market as far as the choices that will have to be made. It could muddy the waters more.”

Kanishka Agarwal, vice president of mobile media at Telephia, disagrees. “I think choice is great,” he said. “To the consumer, which acronym describes the service I’m getting is almost irrelevant.” Consumers are most interested in price, video and audio quality and programming, he added.

MPH offers stations a way to enhance their digital plans, Mr. Adrick said. The upgrades would cost each of the 1,780 digital TV stations in the United States anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 to install, depending on the number of channels they want to implement and the amount of redundancy they require.

A likely range would spread from one channel with no redundancy to three channels with full redundancy, he said.

“The number of (channels) is dependent upon the amount of bandwidth you take away from the main broadcast signal,” Mr. Adrick said. “The greater the coverage of the broadcast station, the more mobile coverage you will get.”