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LG/Samsung Will Ride Together

Korean consumer electronics giants LG and Samsung agreed last week to work together on developing mobile digital television technology that will let local stations transmit video to cellphones and other portable devices, a move that broadcasters say should accelerate the commercial rollout of such technology.

LG and Samsung had submitted competing systems to the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) to be considered for the ATSC's proposed Mobile-Handheld standard. Broadcasters feared that a standards battle would delay the process. But on May 14, the two companies announced they are teaming up to propose "their jointly developed technology as the North American technology standard for mobile DTV," and held a formal signing ceremony in Seoul, Korea, to memorialize the deal.

John Godfrey, a Samsung VP, says the decision to work together is significant. "LG and Samsung have not typically collaborated, they're big rivals," says Godfrey. "So this is a big step and a great thing for ATSC Mobile-Handheld."

The decision to join forces came a day before the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), a group of some 800 local stations that has been conducting field trials in San Francisco and Las Vegas of mobile DTV systems, delivered a formal report on its test results to the ATSC. That report, which will be used by the ATSC to help select the "physical layer," or transmission system, for mobile DTV, indicated that broadcasters favored the MPH system developed by LG and Harris over the A-VSB system from Samsung, Rohde & Schwarz and Nokia, as well as a third system from Thomson and Micronas. While OMVC didn't release technical details, a likely selling point for MPH was that it can deliver a single mobile stream at a slightly lower data rate than A-VSB. That is an important consideration for broadcasters looking to juggle mobile TV with high-definition and standard-definition services.

"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," said the OMVC statement. "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."

Harris VP Jay Adrick says that LG and Harris are studying which features of A-VSB can be incorporated into the MPH system, but that "the fundamental system will obviously be MPH." While the ATSC won't ratify a formal standard until next year, Harris plans to have a complete mobile DTV system ready to ship by November. Adrick says several broadcasters have expressed interest in buying equipment and getting on-air with mobile DTV signals by year-end. LG should have a limited number of prototype receivers available for testing by that time.