ATSC Launches Certification Program For Mobile DTV

The U.S. digital TV standards body, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), has launched a certification program by which both broadcast equipment vendors and consumer electronics manufacturers can signify that their products comply with the new A/153 ATSC Mobile Digital Television (DTV) Standard.

Working with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the ATSC has developed a Mobile DTV Certification Mark-"MDTV"-- for products that comply with the standard, which was formalized in mid-October. The program is based mainly on self-certification by industry members, and also includes provisions for expert reviewers, independent laboratory testing and verifications to help assure compliance. The certification policy is available to all interested parties, whether or not they are ATSC members.

"It's one mark usable by both CE manufacturers and professional equipment manufacturers," said ATSC president Mark Richer, who added that the certification program should help support broadcasters' plans to roll out new services next year. The MDTV mark is expected to be used on a variety of wireless receiving products including mobile phones, small handheld DTVs, laptop computers, USB dongles and in-vehicle entertainment systems, as well as professional broadcast equipment. Other items that may utilize the mark include mobile DTV-related software, applications and accessories that comply with the standard.

The certification program is one of several cross-industry initiatives aimed at making sure that early mobile DTV broadcasts don't run into technical snafus. ATSC is currently in the process of writing a "recommended practice" document for mobile DTV that is applicable to "everybody involved in implementation," with a focus the professional equipment side, said Richer.

"It helps explain the standard, and what needs to happen, in very technical terms," he said.

At the same time, the CEA's special interest group on mobile DTV is developing an "implementer's guide" aimed at receiver manufacturers that helps explain mobile DTV specifications and makes recommendations on how to implement the standard.

"At the moment both groups are moving along with a lot of checking back and forth to make sure we have consistency between the two sets of documents," said Mike Bergman, VP of new digital technologies for Kenwood and chairman of the CEA special interest group.

Broadcast equipment vendors and CE manufacturers appeared to make significant progress at proving mobile DTV interoperability at an "ATSC Mobile DTV Plugfest", hosted by CEA in Washington last week, in which transmission vendors tested their gear against various receiver devices. The four-day event drew engineers from around the world to CEA headquarters and had over 15 companies participate, including Axcera; Dell; DTV Interactive Co., Ltd.; Elgato Systems; Expway; Grass Valley; Harris; JVC-Kenwood; LG Electronics; PIXTREE; Roundbox and Samsung. In total, the plugfest utilized four independently developed transmission systems, 12 receiver systems, and four software vendors. Many of the same companies will be demonstrating mobile DTV at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

"CEA is taking a lead role in promoting rapid deployment of mobile DTV services, and we are delighted to work with our broadcast partners to get this technology into consumers' hands," said CEA VP of Technology and Standards Brian Markwalter, who described the plugfest as a "critical interoperability checkpoint" for the new service.