Local News

WRAL, Raleigh partner on nation's first mobile DTV venture

Posted April 14, 2009 8:18 a.m. EDT
Updated April 15, 2009 12:06 p.m. EDT

— Mobile digital television broadcasting joined forces with public transit on Tuesday as Raleigh, WRAL and the CBC New Media Group launched the first public deployment of mobile digital TV in a Capital Area Transit bus.

The venture delivers real-time digital television and interactive data to CAT buses. CAT bus passengers will be able to view WRAL’s local and syndicated programming throughout the day, as well as city-oriented news, real-time schedules, route-specific updates and other information on digital screens strategically placed inside buses.

"If you lose power at home, your antenna's not working (or) the cable is out, just take the bus," Capitol Broadcasting Co. Chief Executive and President Jim Goodmon said in announcing the partnership. "High-definition is just wonderful, and now we've added mobile to it, which just makes this whole digital transition really consumer-friendly."

Capitol Broadcasting is the parent company of WRAL and the CBC New Media Group.

"Television on buses, that is really something," Mayor Charles Meeker said. "We're looking forward to something that will be a first in the Capital City, something that will be a service to our citizens. It's also something that resonates with the high-tech nature of this area."

An R Line bus – the free service that runs a downtown circuit – was the first to feature mobile DTV. Four more buses will be equipped with video monitors by August, and the technology will be on 20 CAT buses by August 2010.

The monitors include a simulcast of WRAL's programming, as well as a Doppler radar image showing the region's weather, a seven-day weather forecast and space for advertising and city and CAT news, Goodmon said.

LG Electronics Inc. and Harris Corp. supply the cutting-edge technology for the system. LG will provide mobile DTV receivers, flat-screen monitors and project development and support. Harris will provide mobile transmission equipment, the digital signage systems and development and support services.

"It's one of the first times that people have been able to experience live TV and watching that while going down the highway," said Jay Adrick, Harris' vice president of broadcast technology.

Two regional companies also will support the venture. Microspace Communications Corp., also owned by Capitol Broadcasting, will provide wireless networking and digital signage system management. Digital Recorders Inc. will provide integration of the communications systems on the CAT buses.

An emerging standard allows broadcasters to allocate a portion of their digital channel capacity to reach viewers outside the home, and officials said the Raleigh project demonstrates the viability of mobile DTV as broadcasters explore ways to tap the promising market for mobile television.

In a few years, Goodmon said, most cell phones will include a receiver so people can obtain a mobile DTV signal on hand-held devices. Computer manufacturers already have started building laptop and desktop computers with such receivers, he said.

"As broadcasters, we feel like we're adding another 300 million TV sets," he said, adding that the digital devices will provide an important link during emergencies.

"No matter where you are, you'll be able to tune to a station," he said.