After months of planning, mobile DTV is finally getting underway under the Dyle brand, with the launch of a mobile DTV phone from No. 5 wireless carrier MetroPCS in 15 markets. MetroPCS' Samsung Galaxy S Lightray 4G, retailing at $459, is the first compatible handset for mobile DTV launched in the United States.
Mobile DTV service uses an industry standard format, ATSC-M/H, to rebroadcast local TV affiliate feeds to compatible radios in mobile devices, for live mobile television.
Local TV stations have steadily worked to upgrade their facilities to broadcast in ATSC-M/H, in hopes of garnering additional revenue from the service. The technology has the backing of most major affiliate groups and media companies.
The Dyle brand itself is a specific mobile DTV market initiative backed by the Mobile Content Venture (MCV), a group of 12 major broadcasters, and it seeks to take the model further by adding a subscription-based offering to the mix. MetroPCS is not charging a monthly fee for Dyle for now, but in the future subscription-based encrypted content will be added as part of the offer.
Mobile TV efforts in the past have been hampered by consumer unwillingness to pay for the service given the service quality for mobile video. They have also been offered in a walled-garden, carrier-curated environment that offered a clunky and unfriendly user exerience.
This time around things are meant to be different, thanks to industry standardisation and the backing of all stakeholders including the broadcasters themselves.
Like antennae-based traditional TV, the original idea was for mobile DTV to be a free-to-air, advertising-based service available to any consumer with a compatible device. It runs over TV spectrum instead of the cellular network as well, in theory minimising congestion issues stemming from wireless network delivery. Dyle comes with an electronic programme guide, but no time-shifting capabilities or DVR yet.
Even with best-laid plans, it is unclear whether consumers will see the value. Cable, satellite and IPTV penetration still accounts for 94% of TV watching. Their TV Everywhere initiatives are on the rise, offering consumers a way to watch their pay-TV content--both broadcast networks and local TV--on mobile devices and PCs as part of their existing subscriptions.
Mobile DTV offers less programming, but has a distinct advantage of being delivered outside of the consumer's wireless data plan. Watching live TV Everywhere on the go can quickly eat up a subscriber's monthly data limit on 3G/4G. Also, signing up for TV Everywhere is far from an intuitive process. Mobile DTV, as a standardised, universal service, is as simple as opening an app.
Industry members are making investments based on being bullish about the service's future. Local TV stations in 35 markets have signed on to support Dyle, for a population reach of about 52%. More are in the process of upgrading their facilties to be compatible.
In MetroPCS's 15 markets, 46 TV stations are broadcasting Dyle-compatible content. Coverage reaches 11,000 municipalities in the major metros of Atlanta, Boston, Hartford, Conn., Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Fla.,Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., New York and Philadelphia.
The MetroPCS handset is otherwise a normal Samsung 4G smartphone, with the exception of a retractable antenna for Dyle reception. Gadget-wise, more Dyle options are on the way: Dongles for receiving signals on the iPhone or iPad is in the works from Elgato and Belkin.