The long-nascent market for broadcast mobile television got a boost today when MetroPCS Communications announced that it will be the nation's first wireless operator to offer its customers the service.
The company will start selling an Android-based Samsung smartphone later this year equipped with an ATSC chip, the hardware needed to receive broadcast mobile television signals in the United States.
The phone will be preloaded with the Dyle mobile television app from Mobile Content Venture (MCV), a group of 12 major broadcast companies formed last year to launch the country' first large-scale mobile television service.
"This collaboration allows Dyle to take the first step in realizing the broadcaster vision of live, local TV on every smartphone," Salil Dalvi and Erik Moreno, co-general managers of MCV, said in a joint statement.
MetroPCS did not provide a specific launch date for the service or name pricing for the new handset. MCV said that by the time the phone launches, its mobile television service will be available in 72 stations in 32 markets covering more than half of the country's population.
The company did not name specific markets, but its members had previously committed to launching service in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Houston, Detroit, Tampa, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Orlando, Portland, Cincinnati, Greenville, West Palm Beach, Birmingham and Knoxville.
Mobile television service in the United States has long been stymied by a lack of stations transmitting the necessary ATSC signals and a dearth of consumer electronics outfitted with the right chips for the technology. Qualcomm tried to forge its own path with its now-defunct Flo TV mobile television offering but took the service off the air after it failed to gain traction with consumers. The spectrum used for Flo TV was sold to AT&T for $1.9 billion.
MCV's deal with MetroPCS could be a critical step in getting broadcast mobile television off the ground. Carriers are crucial distributors for wireless devices and relationships with the wireless industry are seen as an important stepping stone for the advancement of mobile television.
MetroPCS, MCV and Samsung plan to demonstrate the new mobile television service at the 2012 International CES in Las Vegas next week.