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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

D.C. To Be First With Free Mobile TV

April 20, 2009

Washington, DC – the only district in the US without a representative in Congress ““ will receive some compensation by being the first American city to get free digital TV broadcasts for cell phones, laptops and in-car entertainment systems, according to an announcement on Monday.

Local affiliates of CBS, NBC, PBS, Ion and Fox are expected to start broadcasting in “mobile DTV” by the end of the summer.

While details remain hazy as to which gadgets will be equipped with the special receivers needed to pick up the new digital signals, cell phones are generally expected to be the first devices designed to utilize the technology.  Wireless carriers, however, have not yet jumped on the bandwagon, possibly because the largest two service providers already have TV service options with mandatory monthly fees.

Computer manufacturers like Dell Inc. on the other hand have shown considerably more enthusiasm for the project.  At the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas next week, Dell will be previewing a prototype of a mini-laptop with a built-in DTV receiver.  The Austin, TX-based computer giant joined forces with LG Electronics and Samsung to develop the technology. 

Kenwood Corporation, makers of car-audio equipment is also seeking to find a niche in the DTV-revolution by developing a line of car-based receivers.

While the companies promoting the Open Mobile Video Coalition claim that they chose Washington for its unusual plentitude of technologically competent and well-informed citizens, most suspect that the high concentration of politicians and regulators in D.C. likely factored into the decision as well.  The group has also been quick to point the potential benefits of mobile TV in the event of emergencies or natural disasters.

Industry leaders intend to have broadcasts rolling in more than 25 other U.S. cities by the end of 2009, with the goal of reaching nearly 40 percent of American households.  Major target cities include New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and San Francisco.

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