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Mobile Digital TV - an observation and opinion

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  • Mobile Digital TV - an observation and opinion

    Lots of buzz at CES 2010 about the new mobile Digital TV (MDTV) standard. This is over-the-air free digital TV optimized for use on mobile (cell phone, netbook etc) devices. At the time, I discounted it a bit because I believed the broadcasters would not invest in the upgrade if there were no users, and users would not invest in devices if there was no content. Chicken and the Egg scenario.

    So now I read where it cost $75-100k and takes a single guy about two hours to do the station upgrade....chicken feed indeed. 5 stations here in Las Vegas did it just for CES. 96 metropolitan areas scheduled for rollout this summer, starting in DC. A little more reading reveals the bandwidth, screen formatting and frame rates and other tech specs. It all looks pretty good if you want to watch Oprah on your cell phone at the bus stop.

    But what happens when you get on the bus and start moving? Since this is simply addtional data, reformatted and then transmitted on the original carrier, the nature of the RF signal has not changed. It's behavior in metropolitan and fringe areas has not changed. I have used 3 different ATSC digital tuners in my truck with LARGE antennas in the camper shell and none of them delivered acceptable reception while moving.

    In other words, for us car guys, this will still suck. It's mobile in the sense that picture data has been formatted for small mobile devices, but for optimum performance, you should be standing still. Chances are, it might work pretty good when you are walking. But I suspect its performance at 60mph will be no better, and possibly worse than analog TV.

    I also have Clear 4G internet in my truck and stream live internet TV (MSNBC for example) frequently. It works SIGNIFICANTLY better than broadcast TV in most areas of Las Vegas. Where it drops off is well beyond where I get TV reception anyway. Here's a consequence of MDTV technology that most people haven't considered. Local TV stations probably won't invest in MDTV AND internet streaming technology. Not that there was much movement in that area anyway, but whatever there is will be slowed down or eliminated by MDTV.

    Of course, this is all for the kids in the back seat. I just keep telling myself to "think of the children".


  • #2
    I was pretty sure the mobile ATSC receiver specs were good to 180mph....are you sure your trouble weren't just the regular ATSC hardware your using?
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    • #3
      Originally posted by justchat_1 View Post
      I was pretty sure the mobile ATSC receiver specs were good to 180mph....are you sure your trouble weren't just the regular ATSC hardware your using?
      Although I couldn't find any reference to the 180mph figure you mention, I did see reference to improved reception in moving vehicles with a single antenna. And yes, the nature of the "standard" ATSC signal does make it difficult or impossible to receive on the move. The fact that the new standard is backward compatible and uses existing transmitters and bandwidth would suggest that some compromises had to be made in order to get everyone onboard. Improved multipath rejection and other tools that aren't needed in stationary receivers could make some difference.

      As is always the case, we'll have to wait and see where real life meets marketing hype.