Broadcasters Applaud LG-Samsung Mobile-DTV Deal

Broadcasters were happy with the deal announced Wednesday between LG Electronics and Samsung to collaborate on mobile-digital-television technology, which effectively eliminated the possibility of a protracted standards battle, and they said it should help to pave the way for a new technical standard to be created by next year.

In formally announcing Thursday the conclusion of stations’ technical trials of competing mobile-DTV systems and the submission of a detailed report to standards body the Advanced Television Systems Committee, the Open Mobile Video Coalition said it “applauds” the agreement by LG and Samsung to combine their competing MPH (Mobile Pedestrian Handheld) and A-VSB (Advanced-Vestigial Side Band) systems into one proposal before the ATSC. (To see a video demonstration of LG's MPH system, click here.)

“Agreement on a standard takes our industry to the next level in the development and rollout of products and services, and the OMVC remains fully committed to the ATSC’s current planned schedule of adopting a final standard by July 2009,” OMVC executive director Anne Schelle said in a statement. “Next we’ll be focused on consumer trials with the goal of realizing mobile DTV for consumers as soon as possible.”

The OMVC, which represents more than 800 local stations, has spent the past few months testing the MPH and VSB systems, along with a third system from Thomson and Micronas Semiconductor, in San Francisco and Las Vegas in a process called independent demonstration of viability, with the help of engineers from the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV).

More than 140 hours and 1,000 miles of mobile data were collected across the two trial areas, with the primary goal of identifying the best transmission scheme, or “physical layer,” to serve as the foundation of a new mobile-DTV standard.

OMVC and ATSC members privately suggested that one system was emerging to be clearly superior through the IDOV process, although they wouldn’t identify which one. Several engineers noted that the LG/Harris MPH system can deliver a single mobile stream at a slightly lower data rate than A-VSB -- an important consideration to broadcasters looking to juggle mobile TV with HD and standard-definition services.

While it didn’t come out and openly declare it, it is clear from the OMVC’s announcement that it was leaning toward the MPH system, which may have prompted the last-minute collaboration between LG and Samsung.

“Based on the technical results, the OMVC believes the LG-Samsung joint approach points to a standard centered on LG’s ‘Mobile-Pedestrian-Handheld’ (MPH) transmission technology as the baseline of the ‘physical layer’ platform, augmented with features from Samsung’s ‘Advanced VSB’ (A-VSB) technology,” the OMVC said. “Such an approach should find broad support from participants, as well as third-party manufacturers and content providers interested in a single open mobile digital U.S. broadcast standard.”

Interviewed Wednesday, ATSC president Mark Richer wouldn’t comment directly on how the LG-Samsung deal will impact the standards-setting process, noting that it was a private agreement between the two companies.

“This announcement hopefully will be in alignment with the technical information we’ve received from OMVC as a result of IDOV, and the report that will be delivered tomorrow to ATSC, which is a very big event,” Richer added.

He noted that a period of collaboration and cooperation, following a previous time of fierce competition, is typical of standards-setting processes in various industries. Nonetheless, he said, the agreement between LG and Samsung is the most significant collaboration in the country’s adoption of digital television since the formation of the original “Grand Alliance” of companies supporting a new HD standard.

“This shows that there is an incredible momentum and speed to the process, and that the industry is moving forward and making it happen,” Richer said.

He added that he isn’t sure whether the joint LG-Samsung proposal will require a resubmission of documentation to the ATSC. But he didn’t expect it to cause a meaningful delay in the overall process.

“Generally, it’s good news when companies cooperate,” Richer said.