Within five years there could be over 220 million devices designed to receive mobile digital television broadcasts in America. A new report suggests that after a slow start, reception of broadcast signals from a nationwide network of existing transmitters using the ATSC M/H standard will take off. Users will initially adopt free-to-air offerings, but streamed services will compete with these broadcast channels over time.

Peter White of Rethink Technology Research told informitv the predictions were based on experience in Japan, where there are already 70 million ISDB-T 1 seg handsets, using a broadly comparable broadcast standard. “The point of the report is that more people will have this than anyone realizes,” he said.

The report examines the hurdles to the adoption of ATSC M/H or Mobile DTV, including the current lack of chips and devices. However, it concludes that by the end of 2014 there will be 224 million devices, of which 161 million will be handsets, with other form factors including netbooks.

The report also evaluates the impact of devices such as the Apple iPhone, and the implications of AT&T or Verizon offering ATSC M/H devices, as well as considering competing technologies, such as the Qualcomm FLO TV system.

In our 20 predictions for the next decade, informitv provided the contentious forecast that broadcast television will be less dominant, and that mobile video will be delivered over data networks rather than using extensions of current digital broadcasting standards.

MobiTV currently claims over 7 million subscribers to its streaming services, but is also a supporter of the ATSC M/H broadcast standard.

Streaming video services already exceed the resolution of current standards for broadcast mobile television. The ATSC M/H standard provides for video at 416×240 pixels. The iPhone can display 480×270, which is a 30% higher resolution. There is every reason to believe that the resolution of mobile displays will continue to rise, while new form factors, such as tablet devices will further drive expectations of quality, established by high-definition television, let alone 3DTV.

Delivering higher resolutions remains a challenge and the broadcast approach of the ATSC M/H standard remains highly cost effective. That is, assuming signal coverage is adequate for handheld reception in likely viewing situations, which remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, if this new forecast turns out to be accurate, mobile television could become ubiquitous in America within five years.

The rise of the ATSC M/H Machines: The battle for American Mobile TV is published by Rethink Technology Research