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Raleigh To Be First Real-World Mobile DTV Market

CBS affiliate and Capitol Broadcasting station WRAL announced that it will launch mobile digital television (DTV) broadcasts to everyday consumers this summer, making Raleigh, N.C. the first U.S. market to commercially deploy mobile DTV.

The station is working with technology vendors LG Electronics and Harris to create a system that will use WRAL's digital spectrum to deliver both linear programming and interactive data to Capital Area Transit (CAT) buses serving passengers throughout the capital city. Beginning this summer, CAT bus passengers will be able to watch WRAL's local, syndicated and network programming throughout the day. In addition to WRAL programming, CAT passengers will also get city-oriented news briefs, real-time weather and other information on digital screens strategically placed inside buses.

The Open Mobile Video Coalition, which represents over 800 stations interested in providing mobile DTV services, announced at the CES show last January that stations in 22 markets  would begin mobile DTV broadcasts this year using a new ATSC candidate standard based on the "MPH" technology developed by LG and Harris. That WRAL would be the first OMVC member station to declare its plans is not surprising, as the station has long prided itself on being a technology vanguard: it launched the first commercial HDTV broadcasts in the U.S. back in July 1996, and began doing field tests of mobile DTV last summer.

"Mobile DTV broadcasting is a major part of our future and we are excited to partner with the City of Raleigh as we enter a new era of technology," said James F. Goodmon, President and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc, in a statement. "Mobile DTV enables WRAL to better serve the public by extending our reach with free over-the-air programming and information to people on the go."

LG is providing mobile DTV receivers, flat screen monitors and project development and support, while Harris is supplying its complete "MPH platform for ATSC Mobile DTV", InfoCaster digital signage systems and development and support services. Microspace Communications Corporation will provide wireless networking and digital signage system management, while Digital Recorders, Inc (DRI) will provide integration of the communications systems on the CAT buses.

The first mobile DTV-capable bus in Raleigh is expected to be fully operational this summer, and additional buses will be equipped and rolled out over the next twelve months.

"We are proud to be the pilot to offer mobile digital television to the riders of the Downtown Circulator," said Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker in a statement. "We salute WRAL for being pioneers in mobile digital television as they were in high definition television. We look forward to the day when all of Raleigh's CAT buses will offer this means of information and relaxation."

Mobile DTV should be a hot topic at the NAB show in Las Vegas next week, where the OMVC is expected to provide further details on its launch plans and various vendors will be demonstrating products using the new ATSC mobile DTV candidate standard. NAB is also hosting a Mobile Entertainment Summit, featuring representatives from networks, handset manufacturers and carriers, on the Wednesday of the show.