Moving Right Along

If you believe the internet, there are at least 130 video capable phones (At least, because the iPhone doesn’t seem to be on this list). And today, a majority of these are providing viewers the capability to consume mobile video either via streaming or download. A new capability that you will soon be hearing about is support for Mobile DTV.

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So What’s the Difference?

A good comparison between Mobile TV and Mobile Video may be found at Verizon’s V Cast Mobile TV FAQ.

V CAST Mobile TV uses a dedicated multicast network for the delivery of its television programming. This delivers the programming in a linear manner that does not require the viewer to wait for connections or for the program to buffer. Channel acquisition time, frames per second and A/V synchronization is consistent with ‘real’ television. (The viewer must be in FLO coverage to view linearly streamed programming.)

Downloading a video clip requires a data connection and for the complete file to be transmitted and saved, or streamed and buffered to the device before the clip can be viewed. Often times the file is stored locally on the device and can be accessed with or without coverage. Programs viewed on V CAST Mobile TV cannot be downloaded and saved.

Progressive download will allow you to start watching before the entire program is saved. Streaming does not involve saving the file, such as when you watch something on YouTube.

The service mentioned above, MediaFLO is using, get this, old analog spectrum some previously unused, and some that was freed up as part of the digital transition. Once the transition completed, a whole host of new markets were able to go live. They are a using a private network and are very confident that their blend of News, Children’s Entertainment, and Sports satisfies the market of Mobile TV consumers.

Nothing like a good old format war

The ATSC has a candidate standard for Mobile DTV. With the Digital Transition now behind us, it is time to putting the digital advantage to work. Each digital channel has the same amount of space as it previously did for its analog predecessor. Using the latest and greatest technology, broadcaster may send multiple signals using the same space they had previously used for only one signal. You may have seen this already as sub-channels (Check out your local listing, scroll down and select broadcast after entering a zip code). The next variation on this theme that you may see is Mobile DTV.

Using a portion of the spectrum already allocated to them, Broadcasters have the option to transmit up to 13 Mobile DTV channels. It does not interfere with current transmissions. It is completely up to the broadcasters how they use these channels. It may be as simple as a simulcast of their HD or DTV signal or complete new programming.

The group backing this is called the Open Mobile Video Coalition. They have outlined new ways to profit, primarily through the introduction of new CE product offerings. Early adopters are expected to be cellular phones and in-car entertainment systems.

Among the first to leverage this programming format is ION Television Network who recently announced launch of a “triple play” service in two major US markets, with all of its affiliates to follow this year. They are broadcasting HDTV, DTV (or standard definition digitally), and Mobile DTV simultaneously in the same amount of bandwidth many stations are using for only 1 DTV signal.

In addition to the H.264 encoded video and stereo HE-AAC audio, each channel has room for control information, programming and services descriptions, and data casting.

The data broadcast can be real time or non-real time. Applications of the latter include transmitting news, stock ticker data, or video for playback at a later time. This could be premium content once a device or account has been authorized or local advertising that is interjected into a national broadcast.

A rose by any other name

Whether the data is in band or not, both systems discuss getting information back from consumers, such as voting in polls based on content viewed. This could have a great deal of potential once Social Networking is brought into the mix. Instead of interacting with viewers during or after the programming, why not involved prior to the start of a telecast? How about voting to determine content, provided the network has some critical mass?

To recap Mobile Video as you may know it today

  • video captured by the phone (user generated content)
  • streamed from a video portals (YouTube, Daily Motion, etc.)
  • downloaded and saved locally to the phone
  • distributed using a proprietary technology such as Verizon VCAST

Mobile TV

  • available via mobile carriers from companies such as MediaFLO and MobiTV
  • transmitted privately using the old analog spectrum
  • proprietary implementation
  • data available over internet
  • control available over 3G cellular network

Mobile DTV

  • available Over-the-Air from broadcasters such as ABC, Fox, and ION
  • broadcast OTA digitally using “new” digital spectrum
  • implements ATSC candidate standard
  • data available in-band
  • control available in-band

The OMVC tells you all about it in this video.

Right now there is room for all of these. History tells us, more often than not the early bird gets the worm. What shouldn’t be forgotten, is that no matter what system delivers the content, content is king. Happy on the go viewing.

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