An Android tablet that can receive both conventional and mobile digital TV transmissions will be among the gadgets unveiled at next week’s International CES in Las Vegas.
The 8-inch RCA Mobile TV Tablet packs tuners for both the high-bandwidth ATSC digital signals typically received via a roof-top antenna, and for lower-bandwidth mobile ATSC broadcasts.
The former carry all local TV stations in all television markets across the U.S., but the signals aren’t suited to reception while on the move. The mobile ATSC broadcasts can be received while in motion, say in a car or on a train, but coverage and channel availability are much more limited.
NBC and Fox are building a network of transmitters to offer a mobile service under the Dyle brand, but the services are currently on air in only 35 television markets. Dyle transmissions are scrambled, although currently available at no cost, and the service will remain free for at least all of 2013.
The RCA tablet will allow reception of all local TV broadcasts, but only a few of them while in motion.
The device runs Android 4.0, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, and is based on an ARM Cortex A5 1GHz processor. Battery life is listed as 10 hours for web use and 4 hours for mobile TV.
The tablet is made by Digital Stream, a South Korean-based manufacturer of portable and mobile TV products, and sold under the RCA brand name. It will be priced at $299 and be available in the U.S. from the Spring.
The ATSC system used for digital TV in the U.S. is incompatible with broadcasts in most other countries, so it’s unlikely to appear in many other markets.
Despite being popular in many countries, mobile TV has failed to take off in the U.S. It was first hampered by a collection of competing standards that meant no one technology became dominant. Today, it’s biggest hurdle seems to be general disinterest from consumers and a lack of compatible hardware.