Free Mobile cell phone TV by 2010

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Considering that America has over 225 million mobile phone users, its strange to see that only 1.8 million watch mobile television on their phones, according to September data from comScore (SCOR). However a group of over 800 broadcasters hopes to change that, making mobile TV shows both free and available at the same time they are shown on traditional Television. These broadcasters formed the Open Mobile Video Coalition, to establish a standard for mobile TV in the digital age. The group, in conjunction with the Advanced Television Standards Committee, which was responsible for creating the standard that governs how your TV set receives a high-definition signal, approved a candidate standard for mobile digital television. In the bureaucratic world of standards setting, this means the ATSC mobile DTV standard will be the accepted way to deliver mobile broadcast television going forward, although it’s subject to a few additional tweaks. In the real world, this means devices capable of delivering free, mobile TV will come as early as 2010. Electronic giants LG and Samsung, whom have both backed this new standard, will begin producing devices that will allow for mobile DTV trials next year. After the broadcasters complete the move to digital broadcasting in February 2009, TV stations will start widespread tests of mobile DTV. And by early 2010, consumers should be able to buy these products from the shops. For end users in the U.S. (which is where this mobile broadcast standard will work), that means there will be two ways to watch over-the-air television on the go via a device that receives the mobile DTV standard or through a carrier’s service built on top of MediaFLO, a Qualcomm (QCOM) technology. While a representative of LG, which makes phones for carriers that include Qualcomm MediaFLO chips, told me the two services aren’t mutually exclusive, they are competitive. They both want to offer over-the-air broadcast television on mobile devices ranging from phones to laptops to in-car entertainment systems. But Qualcomm makes money licensing its MediaFLO network to carriers, which charge consumers $15 a month to access the service, while broadcasters plan to have some sort of free offering to anyone who has a device or dongle that can receive the signal. On the other hand, MediaFLO services are available today, while mobile DTV is still a developing standard. Interestingly after two years of commercial availability of the service, mobile television delivered by MediaFLO is only watched by a small few. That looks to be changing, however. Matt Milne, senior vice president of marketing and sales for MediaFLO USA, declined to give out subscriber numbers for the service but said in an email that viewership increased 70% in the three months ending September 2008. It’s still possible for MediaFLO to gain more viewers, or for the mobile DTV effort to fail because of a lack of devices or even consumer interest. However, this is great news for consumers looking at mobile TV thats free and convenient, and is definately worth keeping an eye on.

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