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Mobile DTV is Almost Official

Broadcasters are one step closer to having a formalized system for transmitting video and data to mobile and portable devices, as the Advanced Television Systems Committee has raised the candidate ATSC-Mobile/Handheld (ATSC-M/H) standard to "proposed standard" status.

The vote of approval by the ATSC Technology and Standards Group is the penultimate step in making ATSC-M/H a formal standard. The final step is a four-week ballot by the full membership, which could come by early August or sooner. That means the formal standard could be approved by September.

ATSC began the mobile DTV standards process in May of 2007, and the effort has been fast-tracked by broadcasters and technology vendors who believe in the potential of using local DTV spectrum to broadcast to cell phones and other mobile devices.

Much of the standards work, including technology evaluations and field trials, has been spearheaded by the Open Mobile Video Coalition, a group of some 800 stations who have come together to promote mobile DTV. It was OMVC members who helped broker a deal in May 2008 between consumer electronics giants LG and Samsung to work together on a mobile DTV standard and avoid a prolonged standards battle between the two companies' competing mobile DTV systems.

"It's amazing, if you think about it," says OMVC Executive Director Anne Schelle. "We basically did this within a year, and it's a huge accomplishment. [The industry is] well at the point of developing devices."

Schelle says the approval to proposed standard status keeps ATSC-M/H on track for being approved by the end of the third quarter, as per OMVC's previous timetable. She says that 70 stations are also on schedule to launch mobile DTV services later this year, though real consumer devices probably won't hit the streets until 2010.