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CES: Mobile DTV goes Wi-Fi to reach iPhones

By Stephen Lawson
January 4, 2010 08:38 PM ET

IDG News Service - Among the devices supporting mobile digital TV at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week will be a small box designed to bring over-the-air broadcasts to iPhones, BlackBerries, laptops and other devices with Wi-Fi.

The ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) approved a mobile DTV standard for the U.S. in October, but CES is expected to host the first major announcements of devices that can receive the signals. The Tivit, development of which was partially funded by the industry group Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), will pick up a standard mobile DTV signal and transmit it via Wi-Fi to a mobile phone or any other device equipped with Wi-Fi. It is expected to go on sale in the first half of this year for between US$90 and $120.

All the major U.S. mobile operators offer some form of TV service, but those services are oriented toward national channels and video on demand. Mobile DTV allows local stations to broadcast their regular over-the-air programming or other content from their existing transmission facilities. The broadcasts are carried over a portion of the station's regular frequencies and use high-quality H.264 video and HE AAC v2 (High-Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding, Version2) audio encoding. Stations are expected to begin by showing their standard content, free of charge, but could also add special mobile DTV channels available by subscription.

Several mobile DTV devices are expected to be announced at CES, including a portable DVD player from LG Electronics. As for content to watch on those upcoming devices, 30 local stations out of about 1,600 across the U.S. are already set up for mobile DTV, according to the OMVC. It costs less than $150,000 and about two hours to upgrade a station for mobile DTV, said David Arland, a spokesman for the OMVC and Valups, which will make the Tivit.

The Tivit could open up mobile DTV to a plethora of devices already in consumers' hands, giving early adopters a taste of free, live, local TV on their handsets. The OMVC, which represents more than 800 local broadcast TV stations, will use it as part of a trial this year in the Washington, D.C., area in which eight local stations will broadcast mobile DTV and various consumers will use different types of devices to watch the broadcasts.

The device, about two inches (5 centimeters) by 3.5 inches and less than half an inch thick, is made by Valups, a South Korean vendor of set-top boxes. Valups adapted it from devices that were introduced in Japan and Korea so iPhone users could continue to enjoy the live local TV they were used to seeing on their cell phones, Arland said. The Tivit is battery-powered, comes with a USB port and a wall adapter for charging, and should last about three hours of viewing on a charge, according to the company. Valups will be looking for retail channel partners at CES, Arland said.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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