Mobile Digital TV Launches in Raleigh

About 20 markets slated to get new broadcasts this year with local TV, weather and traffic

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A Kenwood mobile DTV prototype

The other half of the digital TV transition got its launch this week in Raleigh, N.C., where bus passengers can watch broadcasts from a local station. It's the first U.S. market to get digital TV on-the-go.

It also suggests broadcasters are on schedule to get the new signals up and running in about 20 markets by year's end. Station owners have high hopes that the digital broadcasts can draw new customers and revenues. Besides TV programming, the digital signals can also carry data such as weather and traffic reports.

The Raleigh pilot program will put screens in four buses where passengers can watch broadcasts from local station WRAL. The screens will also offer city news, real-time schedules and route-specific updates in a demonstration of their data capabilities. The trial will expand to 20 buses this fall.

For the business to take off, manufacturers must produce devices that can receive the new signals. Some industry execs had predicted stores would start carrying them sometime this fall. But those same people had predicted the first broadcasts might take place by the end of last year.

Still, the industry appears to be moving quickly to get the new broadcasts onto the air. They're made possible by the nationwide transition to digital TV, which gives stations spectrum to air added channels. Some are using the expanded bandwidth to send new channels to stationary TVs. But many have held back, betting the mobile broadcasts have a better chance of making money.

A dispute over standards had stalled the mobile broadcasts. But Korean electronics giants Samsung and LG last spring agreed to combine their competing standards.

Besides getting the signals on the air and devices into stores, broadcasters also face competition from TV-like services already available on cellphones. They include FloTV from Qualcomm, MobiTV and Sirius Backseat TV. None of those services have caught on widely yet with consumers. And many skeptics suggest it will take years before consumers take to mobile TV.