As many broadcasters are preparing to launch mobile DTV
services, speakers and panelists at the Mobile Video and Mobile TV - Beyond
YouTube session held Monday April 16 at NAB were somewhat divided on the best
technological approaches to launching those services.
Much of the debate revolved around the best way to get
devices into the market or to tap into technologies that could be easily
compatible with existing technologies.
executive director of the DVB Project Office in Europe, stressed the importance
of devices by noted that the DVB-H standard for mobile broadcasts had failed to
take off in Europe because of the lack of devices in the market.
"The Handset market is under the control of mobile carriers
and heavily subsidized," Siebert noted. In contrast the providers of mobile
broadcasters "weren't willing to subsidize the devices so there were no
devices," he said.
The device issue has been a major one for broadcasters
trying to launch mobile DTV services. So far, they've had only limited success
in getting device manufacturers to develop smartphones or tablets with mobile
DTV chips included in the device. Samsung has agreed to produce a smartphone and
LG was demoing one at NAB.
As a result, both group backing mobile broadcasts, the
Mobile Content Venture (MCV) and the Mobile500 Alliance, have worked with
outside manufacturers to create accessories, such as a dongle that can be
attached to existing iPads or smart phones. These will be coming into the
market but require an additional purchase.
For example, the Mobile500 Alliance has partnered with Elgato
on dongle for the iPad that will cost around $99.
In addition to the device issue, the keynote speaker,
Peggy Johnson, executive VP and president, Global Market Development at Qualcomm,
Inc. highlighted a number of technological alternatives to ATSC mobile
broadcasts in her speech on Qualcomm's mobile strategies and their failed FLO TV
She noted that they launched FLO TV as a broadcast
service they felt broadcasts would be a more efficient way of delivering video
than the traditional cellular architecture. The initiative ran into a number of
problems, however, including difficulties with getting devices into the market,
the cost of building a new infrastructure and getting access to content.
Qualcomm shut FLO TV down last year.
Since then the company has between working on developing
LTE broadcast technologies that would provide a flexible alternative to some of
the capacity issues of current cellular networks. This technology would allow
operators to switch part of their LTE network to broadcasts during a period
when many people were accessing the same content-something that usually crashes
a cellular network-and then switch back to unicast when the demand declined.
She stressed that the technologies would allow them to
make these switches in local areas with particularly heavy demand. For example,
a stadium during a game could be switched to LTE broadcasts when many people
might be accessing video and then switched back to the unicast mode after the
Johnson felt that this approach and a variety of other newer
and more flexible cellular technologies would be able to handle a great deal of
the well-known bandwidth crunch facing mobile operators.
Johnson did not take questions from the audience but in a
panel following her keynote, Mark Aitken, VP of advanced technology at the Sinclair
Broadcast Group quipped "her presentation should have scared the pants off of
Sinclair is a very active member of the Mobile500
Alliance and played an important role in the technology it is demoing at this
year's NAB. Not surprisingly, Aitkin stressed the importance of launching
mobile DTV services using the ATSC M/H standard: "This is something we have to
do. Mobile is the future of broadcasting."
But he also stressed that broadcasters need to push
forward with a new broadcast standard that would be compatible with LTE. In the
future, an LTE compatible broadcast standard would allow broadcasters to offer
mobile broadcasts video using technology that would be compatible with the huge
number of LTE capable smart phones expected to come into the market in the next
few years. This would eliminate the problem of getting wireless carriers to
sell devices with mobile DTV chips.
"If we had standard that was an extension of LTE, we
could be broadcasting over LTE with an extended chip set," Aitkin argued. "It
is how to get into all devices at the lowest cost point."
Salil Dalvi, co-general manager of MCV that is launching
mobile broadcasts using the ATSC standards in markets covering about 55% of all
U.S. homes disagreed.
He argued that they couldn't wait for a new standard to
be developed and that it was possible to encourage device manufacturers to
create mobile DTV capable devices and to consumers to acquire them if they
offered compelling content.
"The fastest way maybe to push investment to the device,"
he said. "If we can satisfy the consumer need first, ultimately carriers and
other will see value" in offering mobile DTV devices.
Dalvi, who is also senior VP and general manager,
strategic ventures, for NBCUniversal Digital Distribution, also strongly
disputed a question from the audience that expressed frustration over the length
of time it was taking to bring mobile DTV services to market.
He noted that they had developed a very compelling
product, had convinced 92 stations to light up mobile DTV broadcast this year
covering 55% of U.S. homes and had secured content from seven broadcast
networks in the three years since the standard was created.
During the discussion, DVB's Siebert also argued that ultimately
the industry may settle on a mix of technologies for delivering video. He argued
that Wi Fi networks might be most appropriate inside the home while broadcaster
would work best outdoors for very popular content and that more traditional
cellular networks would end up handling more niche longtail content.
This debate also has massive long-term implications for
the ownership structure of the broadcast industry and its finances. If
broadcasters were to propose a standard compatible with the LTE standard, then
they would moving much closer to the wireless carriers and telcos.
This might make them attractive takeover targets for
global wireless players, which would significantly change the ownership
structure of the industry that has long been focused on local markets.