The Advanced Television Systems Committee, the technical organization that has guided the technical development of Digital Television in the United States, this week requested proposals for the development of handsets and a delivery system that would allow television broadcasters to deliver their content directly to mobile receivers. This proposal would remedy one of the shortcomings of the current television digital transmission system – that fact that it has been designed for in-home reception. Outlines of the proposal are due on June 21, with detailed technical specifications to be submitted on July 6. A copy of the full Request for Proposal can be found on the ATSC web site, here.

In 2000, while the current 8VSB standard was just beginning to be implemented in the United States, a number of television companies, spearheaded by Sinclair Broadcasting, suggested that the proposed system was not sufficiently robust for mobile applications and otherwise suffered from reception issues.  These groups suggested that a COFDM transmission system similar to that used in Europe be substituted for the US system.  At that time, it was concluded that the digital transition was already too far along to try to change systems, and that the principal use of digital television was for in-home viewing so that the mobile reception benefits, if they could in fact be offered by the COFDM system, did not justify the change in transmission systems.

Obviously, much has changed in the intervening 7 years, with mobile video becoming a more and more important to the television consumer –  and TV broadcasters currently are forced to rely on systems provided by others for the delivery of that content.  Perhaps the system now being proposed by ATSC, if delivered as suggested in early 2009, will permit television broadcasters to be, on their own, a more formidable competitor in the mobile video delivery marketplace. Television broadcasters will need to monitor this proceeding and actively participate in the process of developing this new method to deliver their content.