ATSC Approves Mobile & Handheld Candidate Standard

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
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ATSC DTV Moves into High Gear with Mobile and Handheld Specifications

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc. (ATSC) has elevated its specification for Mobile Digital Television to Candidate Standard status. The new Mobile DTV Candidate Standard provides the technical capabilities necessary for broadcasters’ to provide new services to mobile and handheld devices using their digital television transmissions. ATSC Mobile DTV includes a highly robust transmission system based on vestigial sideband (VSB) modulation coupled with a flexible and extensible IP based transport, efficient MPEG AVC (H.264) video and HE AAC v2 audio (ISO/IEC 14496-3) coding.

In addition to live television, the ATSC Mobile DTV Candidate Standard provides a flexible Application Framework for running software on receivers. Receivers that make use of an optional internet connection will enable new interactive television services, ranging from simple audience voting to the integration of internet-based applications and transactions with television content. The Candidate Standard also enables broadcasters to deploy new “data broadcasting” services such as providing real-time navigation data for in-vehicle use and providing news and sports highlights for “on-demand” use by consumers.

The ATSC Mobile DTV Candidate Standard describes methodology for new services to be carried in digital broadcast channels along with current DTV services without any adverse impact on legacy receiving equipment. The Candidate Standard stage of ATSC standards development is an explicit call for implementation and technical feedback. ATSC Candidate Standards are available at

“ATSC Mobile DTV will allow broadcasters to leverage the wireless and local nature of their DTV transmission” said ATSC President Mark Richer. “Broadcasters will be able to provide new compelling services to consumers utilizing a wide array of wireless receiving devices including mobile phones, small handheld TVs, laptop computers and in-vehicle entertainment systems. Many of these devices will utilize existing ubiquitous technologies to provide a return channel for true interactive applications”.

“The combination of live television and interactive capabilities on mobile and handheld devices is an essential element for the future success of over the air digital television,” said Glenn Reitmeier, Chairman of the ATSC Board of Directors. “Our efforts to develop ATSC Mobile DTV are a part of a strategy to provide the broadcast industry with the technical ability to deliver content to consumers on the move”. Mr. Reitmeier added, “The architecture of the Candidate Standard will make terrestrial broadcasting an important segment of the internet”.

“The ATSC’s decision to elevate the Mobile DTV specifications to Candidate Standard is an important milestone that not only validates, but also furthers, the advancement of Mobile DTV in the United States,” said Brandon Burgess, President of the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) and ION Media Networks Chairman and CEO. “This new Candidate Standard will enable broadcasters to launch services and will also allow device manufacturers to move forward with product development to ensure this emerging industry will have a successful commercial deployment in 2009.”

Development of the ATSC mobile digital television standard was based on a strategic plan approved by the ATSC Board of Directors in October 2006. ATSC subsequently developed detailed system requirements and issued a request for Proposals (RFP) in May 2007. In February 2008, the OMVC conducted experimental broadcasts using prototype equipment provided by system proponents and provided results to ATSC. The ATSC Specialist Group on Mobile & Handheld, chaired by Mark Aitken, Director of Advanced Technology for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, evaluated the proposals and drafted the standard. The ATSC Technology & Standards Group, chaired by John Henderson, Consultant to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), approved elevation of the document to Candidate Standard after a six week ballot. The Candidate Standard consists of eight parts:

  • Part 1 – Mobile/Handheld Digital Television System
  • Part 2 – RF/Transmission System Characteristics
  • Part 3 – Service Multiplex and Transport Subsystem Characteristics
  • Part 4 – Announcement
  • Part 5 – Presentation Framework
  • Part 6 – Service Protection
  • Part 7 – Video System Characteristics
  • Part 8 – Audio System Characteristics

Together, the parts form a complete specification for a broadcast digital television signal that can deliver live television service, data and interactivity to new mobile and handheld receivers, while maintaining backward compatibility with legacy DTV receivers.

Rounding out the ecosystem for ATSC M/H devices and services, the Consumer Electronics Association recently launched a complimentary Special Interest Group for manufacturers interested in building products to the Candidate Standard.