Samsung tries to extend DTV transition onto cell phones

In case music, games, and video weren't enough, vendors are now vying for the opportunity to send digital television signals to your mobile phones.

Samsung is announcing later today updates to its development of Advanced-VSB (A-VSB), which is its standard for mobile digital television. It is an open standard and the company wants to have it complete and available by next February, when the US transitions to all-digital broadcasting.

It demonstrated the technology at CES last year; this year it will show prototypes of mobile phones, MP3 players, portable media players, ultra mobile PCs, and notebook computers using the technology.

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The specification has also been enhanced to result in improved performance, support for more channels, and synchronization between cities.

Nokia, which joined the A-VSB effort last year, is also participating in the press event this afternoon, though it's not saying what it will bring to the table other than moral support. The two companies are already working together on digital television in Europe -- which, of course, is using a different standard from the US, Digital Video Broadcasting - Handheld (DVB-H). It isn't clear yet whether DVB-H will be the only mobile digital television standard used in Europe.

Motorola, too, has announced support for DVB-H, and will be demonstrating it this week -- since Las Vegas is one of just three cities in the U.S. that have a trial DVB-H infrastructure.

While Nokia and Samsung compete on mobile phones, apparently in mobile digital television it's a case of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." In this case, the common enemy is Qualcomm, which has its own proprietary standard for mobile digital television called MediaFLO. It's being used by Verizon's V CAST service -- which, incidentally, runs on Samsung handsets. These guys don't miss a trick.

Meanwhile, LG Electronics is also demonstrating mobile digital television, focusing on the automotive market. (And who are all these people who can watch TV while they drive?) Its standard is Mobile Pedestrian Handheld (MPH), and it will be offering demonstrations driving around Las Vegas showing mobile digital television, as well as demonstrating it on cell phones, portable navigation systems, and laptops. Car stereo maker Kenwood will also be demonstrating an entertainment system built on the technology.

One big difference between the competing standards is that MPH and A-VSB use the existing HDTV spectrum, while MediaFLO and DVB-H require extra frequency space, which would require new transmission equipment for broadcasters.

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