We know that this has not really happened.
It's clear now that the TV broadcasters wanted to used this capability in conjunction with a subscription model, and their dithering as to how to impliment it has happened in conjunction with cell phone makers holding off the inclusion of conventional ATSC tuners in their handsets sold in north america.
But that same dithering hasn't been able to hold over various covert and overt ways to circumvent live-streaming of OTA tv to portable devices (or even stationary PC's and TV's) and Aereo is perhaps the first third party to "institutionalize" this ability (albeit in a convoluted way) once and for all for portable devices.
So what I think is happening is this:
The cellular carriers and TV broadcasters are in a stalemate.
Both want to make money from giving people the ability to watch live TV primarily on their cell phones and to some smaller extent on tablets.
The cellular carriers want TV viewing to happen as part of data-plan usage.
TV broadcasters want to sell subscriptions to "Mobile DTV" channels.
Cellular carriers presumably need license agreements with networks or invidual TV stations to be able to stream OTA to cell phones for a fee, but have obviously not yet been able to hammer out any agreements.
Cellular carriers presumably have a "nuclear" option, which once they use they won't be able to put back into the bottle. This option would see the offering phones with ATSC tuners to customers. Carriers would use this option if the networks and broadcasters made significant inroads in the adoption of their mobile DTV broadcast services.
One item that seems to be a pure technical problem with OTA reception by mobile devices is when users are moving at speed - such as in a car, bus or train. The extent to which those use-cases are significant enough to require a solution is questionable in my opinion.
For more information and background:
==========Metro PCS sells phone with TV tuner Updated 8/3/2012
Only about 10 percent of households watch over-the-air TV. Nearly all of the remainder subscribe to cable or satellite services.
There are 120 Mobile DTV stations in the country. In New York, there are four; in Chicago, five. NBC, which is broadcasting the Olympics, is a supporter of Mobile DTV, and local NBC stations are available in many cities.
Dallas-based MetroPCS is the only major U.S. cellphone company to support Mobile DTV. Verizon and AT&T used to sell phones that received subscription-based national channels, but that network was shut down last year for lack of consumer interest.
It's possible to watch live TV on cellphones in several other countries, but it's only become a mainstream phenomenon in South Korea and Japan. Even there, smartphones without TV capabilities, including the iPhone, are crowding out domestic TV-capable phones.
========== Mobile television
In 2005, South Korea became the first country in the world to have mobile TV. It started satellite DMB (S-DMB) and terrestrial DMB (T-DMB) services on May 1 and December 1. Today, South Korea and Japan are at the forefront of this developing sector.
Mobile TV services were launched by the operator CSL during March of 2006 in Hong Kong on the 3G network.
BT in the United Kingdom was the among the first companies outside South Korea to launch Mobile TV in September 2006, although the service was abandoned less than a year later.
The same happened to "MFD Mobiles Fernsehen Deutschland", who launched their DMB-based service June 2006 in Germany, and stopped it in April 2008.
Also in June 2006, mobile operator 3 in Italy (part of Hutchison Whampoa) launched their mobile TV service, but opposed to their counterpart in Germany this was based on DVB-H.
Sprint started offering the service in February 2006 and was the first US carrier to offer the service. In the US Verizon Wireless and more recently AT&T are offering the service.
In South Korea, mobile TV is largely divided into satellite DMB (S-DMB) and terrestrial DMB (T-DMB). Although S-DMB initially had more content, T-DMB has gained much wider popularity because it is free and included as a feature in most mobile handsets sold in the country today.
Japanese Watch Cell Phone TVs Associated Press 04.01.2006
TOKYO -- Digital TV broadcasts for mobile phones equipped with special receivers began in Japan's major urban areas Saturday, following several months of test broadcasts.
But finding new phones in stores proved hard as eager consumers have already snapped up the limited number of handsets on the market. Japan's major mobile carriers say sales are good, but have not disclosed numbers.
Japan's mobile TV service is not the world's first -- South Korea, Britain and several other nations offer a similar service, although with different technologies. Mobile users in some parts of the United States can also tap into digital broadcasts.
But the new service in Japan, which is free, will potentially reach the broadest market yet through the country's terrestrial digital broadcast system, which relays images through the air via TV towers, not satellites.
It also uses broadcasting air waves, rather than an internet connection, to relay streaming video.
Japan's 90 million mobile phone users already play video games, download music files, exchange e-mail, read news, trade stocks, store digital photos and surf the web -- all on tiny handset screens half the size of a business card.
This is what I don't understand.
There is considerable work and experimentation being done to offer a separate TV broadcast technology to cell phones (separate transmitters, channels, signal format, power, etc) which I really don't see the need for.
There is not enough of an explanation as to why there is a reluctance to put ATSC tuners in cell phones and let them receive the broadcast signals that currently exist in various markets around the world, especially in north america.
The ATSC tuner route does not allow individualized customer billing (just like you can't be billed for watching TV at home through an antenna) but it seems these secondary or side-channel DTV broadcasts might allow that - and that is the desired route for broadcasters and cellphone makers.