First mobile DTV demonstrated

This groundbreaking technical demonstration highlights a potential solution to the challenge TV broadcasters face today – they cannot reach out to customers who are on the move. It will illustrate, using an over-the-air broadcast from a Sinclair Broadcast Group TV station to a van driving the streets of Las Vegas, how the latest transmission technology together with the state-of-the-art audio and video compression of Windows Media 9 Series can offer new opportunities for broadcasters, enabling them to reach mobile viewers through digital television (DTV).

Using transmission technology developed by LINX Electronics, broadcasting superior mobile DTV is now possible through 6MHz channels using single-carrier VSB (Vestigial SideBand). Operating in a half-rate mode for rugged transmission, the LINX Mobile transmission system provides an available payload of 9 Mbps. (LINX Mobile is akin to the ATSC 8VSB technology used in DTV in the United States today.)

Microsoft Windows Media Audio and Video 9 Series offer ideal compression for this kind of reduced payload. This new compression technology delivers, at data rates as low as 5Mbps, HD video plus 5.1 channel surround audio streamed over the air from digital TV stations to televisions, PCs or other devices. High-quality HDTV now can be achieved at one-third the bit rate required for MPEG-2. Windows Media Audio and Video 9 Series also can provide standard-definition (SD) video at rates as low as 1.5 Mbps.

“This demonstration is a great example of how Windows Media 9 Series quality and compression innovation is helping catalyze new forms of DTV delivery,” said Amir Majidimehr, general manager of the Windows Digital Media Division at Microsoft Corp. “The ability to deliver D1 or HD video resolution in one-third the size of MPEG-2, together with state-of-the-art transmission innovations from LINX Electronics, offers DTV broader reach to a new range of devices and audiences.”

Mobile delivery enables new scenarios and opportunities that are not possible with current terrestrial broadcast and compression standards. These include HD and SD video and data broadcast to TV receivers, portable computers and handheld devices in moving automobiles, trains, ferries and buses, and to pedestrians. This mobile technology is particularly appropriate for countries that have not yet implemented DTV.

“In some South American countries, the U.S. DTV standard, ATSC, has been at a disadvantage because it does not include mobile capability,” said Bob Rast, president of LINX Electronics. “It will now be possible to adopt ATSC standards and include a dual-mode transmission standard, one mode being the current ATSC 8VSB and the other being LINX Mobile.”

LINX estimates that mobile capability could be added to a LINX ATSC-compatible receiver chip (IC) for an incremental increase of only 2 percent in area. Though the LINX Mobile transmission is similar to ATSC 8VSB, present-day receivers cannot receive the mobile signals. Thus, the existence of legacy DTV receivers in the United States makes adoption of mobile service problematic, and further study is needed to determine how this divergence might be most effectively resolved.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group is participating in the mobile service demonstration by transmitting the signal using its local Las Vegas DTV station, KFBT-DT, Channel 29, using an Acrodyne high-power UHF transmitter.

“Windows Media 9 Series and LINX innovations can open many doors of opportunity for the broadcast industry,” said Nat Ostroff, vice president of new technology for the Sinclair Broadcast Group. “Today the single largest impediment to reaching a large DTV audience using an over-the-air system has been the lack of adequate indoor reception with simple antennas. Demonstrating the ability to reach small portable sets as well as mobile receivers offers a host of new consumer and commercial applications and revenue opportunities for DTV, including free and subscription data to PCs, mobile devices and automobiles.”

Also participating in the demonstration are SpectraRep, which is providing system integration expertise, B2C2, which is providing the PC interface for the LINX receiver, and Tandberg Television, which is providing its hardware-based real-time encoder. The demonstration will be shown to invited guests only in the specially equipped Windows Media 9 Series Mobile Theater, which will be driving around the Las Vegas Convention Center throughout NAB2003. Aspects of the demonstration also can be seen on the show floor in the Microsoft booth, No. SL136, and the LINX Electronics booth, No. SL2150.

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