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August 18, 2008

Will Digital Television Make It To Cell Phones?

Now that the transition to digital television is getting close, there is one market in the United States that is getting shut down before it even gets a chance to fly, and that is free TV on a cell phone.  Sure, some carriers offer a number of television signals and shows via their handsets, but that comes with a fee.  Other countries take a different route when it comes to analog signals. South Korea and Japan, for example, have cellphones that receive free analog television on their screens.  China is keeping its analog signals around until 2015 just to keep that market going.  Instead of merging (only) music players with phones, they merged those cheap hand-held TVs that are popular with sports fans.  We never got that far here as carriers control what handsets are allowed on their networks, and something free should never be allowed to compete with something that has a fee.

That may change with the FCC's rules requiring carriers to accept open devices as a condition for using soon to be vacated broadcast spectrum.  The current crop of digital televisions are beautiful.  I'm always amazed at the clarity of,say, a WGN Cubs game broadcast in high definition on a large screen.  But why settle for this as only a living room experience?  While digital converters for analog televisions are large, they represent the infancy of this technology.  The standards group that handles digital signals is already working on a receiver standard for hand-held devices.  Broadcasters are thrilled to extend their ad presence, though carriers might not care to have something compete with their paid service.  It might not matter if someone developed a small, hand-held, digital television and that same company or another (Apple?) figured out that it would be a great feature to merge into a cell phone.

Yahoo News has more information on this issue.  [MG]

August 18, 2008 | Permalink

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