TV on Your Phone Gets New Player

AT&T Mobility is launching its mobile TV service on Sunday, May 4, going way beyond the mobile TVs you probably remember from when you were a kid.

With the assumption that we all have lots of time to kill (and an extra $15 to spend each month), AT&T Mobility is launching its mobile TV service on Sunday, May 4. It will provide 10 channels of live TV directly to your mobile phone.

This goes way beyond the mobile TVs you probably remember from when you were a kid. Those products captured the local analog signals being broadcast by whichever networks were operating in the region, and likely included ABC, CBS, and NBC (FOX hadn't quite gotten off the ground yet). This is entirely different.

Qualcomm, the company that makes the wireless chips found in many of today's cell phones, has created a new technology it calls MediaFLO. Mobile TV services from AT&T and Verizon Wireless use the MediaFLO network, which is broadcast over the old 700 MHz UHF analog signals that have been vacated in a number of markets across the U.S. Unlike cellular technology, which is bi-directional, MediaFLO only broadcasts signals and does not receive. In fact, the "FLO" part of the name means Forward Link Only (from the tower to your phone).

Techno mumbo jumbo aside, the end result is broadcast TV on your phone.

AT&T is launching its mobile TV service on May 4. It will provide 10 channels for subscribers. They include: CBS Mobile, ESPN Mobile TV, FOX Mobile, NBC 2Go, NBC News 2Go, MTV Networks' COMEDY CENTRAL, MTV and Nickelodeon, as well as PIX and CNN Mobile Live, which are both AT&T-exclusive channels.

PIX is a channel being run by Sony Pictures and will broadcast movies from Sony's catalog of films. The rest of the channels are pretty self explanatory.

Additionally, for the next 60 days, the AT&T Mobile TV service will feature CNCRT, a special concert channel delivered by Control Room, a leading producer and distributor of world-class entertainment. Every day, for 24 hours, the CNCRT channel will air one of approximately 30 recently recorded concerts from major recording artists, such as Avril Lavigne, Chris Brown, Fall Out Boy, Jay Z, Sheryl Crow, Akon, Daughtry, Lenny Kravitz, Rage Against the Machine and more.

If this all sounds exciting, here's some news to temper your excitement.

The service will initially be available on just two handsets. The LG Vu, and the Samsung Access. The Vu is similar to the iPhone in that it has a large touch screen for user input. The screen is actually phenomenal. The quality of mobile TV programs on it is amazing. The sheer size of the screen helps out a lot, too. The Access is for those who prefer a more standard-looking phone with a regular keypad and buttons. Its screen is also very good. These two phones will cost $300 and $200, respectively.

That's the meat and potatoes of it. The service will be available in 58 markets to start, including: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle and Washington, D.C. More markets will become available over time.

Speaking of time. I don't know when any of us will have the chance to sit down and watch our primetime programming on our cell phones. I can hardly get to it in my living room. If I'm not there, chances are I am unable to watch on my phone, as well.