Samsung Working on Portable Digital TV

South Korea’s Samsung has said it is developing a way for portable devices—like portable media players, in-car systems, and maybe even mobile phones—to receive over-the-air digital television signals. Samsung plans to show off prototype systems at next week’s CES show in Las Vegas—but it’s going to be a while before consumers can tune into over-the-air digital TV broadcasts from their phones.

Samsung’s new technology dubbed, Advanced Vestigial Sideband, would operate using a separate digital television signal broadcasters put out specifically for mobile devices using Samsung’s technology: Samsung’s chipset does not tune into the same terrestrial digital TV broadcasts that are slated to replace analog broadcast TV in the U.S. in 2009. Samsung hopes the technology will be ratified as a standard during 2007, and has been working on the standardization process with the U.S.’s Advanced Televisions Systems Committee (ATSC) since 2005. Although Samsung says the technology could be deployed in cellular phones—and that’s what it’ll be showing off at CES—the company is currently more focused on integrating over-the-air digital TV into portable media players and in-vehicle systems.

Although consumers might welcome the idea of being able to tune into free over-the-air digital television from portable devices, the move may not be as welcome by mobile network operators, who have been investing heavily in data-based video, music, and information services delivered over cellular networks. Those services operate by transmitting data packets over cellular networks, rather than using a general broadcast signal; network operators earn healthy profit margins charging customers for the data transfer involved. The bigger the data requirements (e.g., video) the more money the cellular operators earn. Firms like Cingular, Sprint, Verizon, and (eventually) T-Mobile may not look kindly on free over-the-air broadcasts undercutting their expensive digital video offerings.


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