January 8, 2007 8:49 AM PST

Samsung aims to put digital TV in cars

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January 11, 2007
LAS VEGAS--Samsung is coming to the rescue of an endangered species: the portable TV.

The South Korean electronics giant revealed a technology on Sunday at the Consumer Electronics Show here that will let local TV stations broadcast digital programs to phones or car TVs.

Samsung A-VSB

A-VSB, which stands for advanced vestigal side band, essentially insulates digital broadcasting streams from interference from buildings, people on the sidewalk and other obstructions. A-VSB broadcasts are delivered on the same frequencies as regular digital broadcasting in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, said John Godfrey, vice president of government affairs at Samsung.

Currently, car passengers can receive analog TV broadcasts on a portable TV. In the United States, however, analog TV broadcasting will end in 2009. A-VSB thus will allow couch potatoes to continue to watch shows on the go after digital broadcasting kicks in. Otherwise, it would be puppet shows for them.

The key to A-VSB is that the signal uses the same frequency as regular digital broadcasts, which means it should be relatively cheap to adopt, according to Samsung. Broadcasters will have to buy some new equipment and "turbocode" the mobile signal so that it can better lock onto moving objects. Broadcasters will also have to tweak the digital signal for mobile and add items like encryption, but they will be able to leverage the infrastructure they have already installed. In a sense, the A-VSB signal is a hardened, but largely duplicative, signal of the existing digital broadcast.

"Broadcasters can use their current equipment and spectrum," Godfrey said.

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In South Korea, digital broadcasters send their mobile programming out on a different signal, said Godfrey. There, watching TV on a phone has become more popular after a slow start.

In some ways, A-VSB will be a limited market. You can't get ESPN through A-VSB, noted Godfrey. It is for local broadcasts. And some people who took a tour on a bus here rigged with A-VSB said that the TV picture occasionally hung. Still, something had to be done. Otherwise civilization will lose the limo TV.

Samsung will submit the technology to a standards body in the first half of this year and hopes for products to come out in 2008.

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