Brad Dick EDITORIAL DIRECTOR /
12.01.2011
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Ignore the obvious
Editorial Director Brad Dick says the FCC, bureaucrats and politicians have taken a see, hear and say nothing stance to criticism as it forges ahead on spectrum selling.

The report's executive summary begins, “Every day, more and more Americans begin using Smartphones, tablets and wireless modems to access new mobile applications and services … Some have argued that without a fundamental shift of spectrum from broadcasters to commercial wireless operators, the nation will soon face a massive ‘mobile traffic jam,’ and that auctioning broadcast spectrum will deliver a revenue windfall to the U.S. Treasury.”

This report titled, “The Economic Value of Broadcast Innovation — Impact on the U.S. Treasury,” was prepared for the Sinclair Broadcast Group by Business Analytix. It presents a plan that takes advantage of broadcaster's efficient one-to-many distribution, but adds a new layer of “converged … point-to-point (unicast) data/services provided by other wireless operators.”

Under the proposal, OTA broadcast could work with wireless services to distribute video and IP-based content. Mark Aitken, Vice President of Advanced Technology for Sinclair Broadcast Group, calls the solution a “WIN-WIN-WIN” for the U.S. Treasury, consumers and broadcasters.

The study suggests the best way to meet projected growth for mobile IP is to allow broadcasters to deliver point-to-multipoint Broadcast Overlay technology that would create, in the report's words, “the most efficient possible delivery of high bandwidth data to mobile users.”

Certainly, the report states well the case for TV stations being allowed to deliver IP services. No matter if one focuses on total revenue generated to the treasury, numbers of channels of data delivered or benefits to consumers and broadcasters, this solution seems attractive.

I admit to looking first at the needs of American viewers when it comes to video and suggest that broadcasters are best qualified to meet them. Several key data points from the survey similarly conclude that Sinclair has a good idea. The following seem pertinent:

The FCC's National Broadband Plan targeted 120MHz of TV spectrum for reclamation and its predicted revenue generation. Yet, some experts say only 84MHz may be usable because of interference and border issues. If so, the amount of net spectrum available for mobile broadband might only increase by about 15 percent.

The need to serve an ever-increasing audience of new mobile users with data and video will not go away. In mid-November, Amazon announced it will begin providing Hulu Plus on its upcoming Kindle Fire tablet. Does anyone think other tablet manufacturers' vendors won't do likewise?

The Pew Excellence in Journalism has a new report titled “The Tablet Revolution and the future of news.” The report claims that 77 percent of tablet owners use them daily. More than 53 percent use them to view news daily. And, they spend 95 minutes daily on those devices. While many of these viewers are connected to WiFi, others rely on 3G and higher services — the type of spectrum FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants to take from broadcasters.

The Business Analytix report summarizes the dilemma, “… even if the total available spectrum is nearly doubled, and even if improvements in technology multiply the capacity of that spectrum fourfold, the eightfold increase in supply over the next 15 years would be dwarfed by the growth in demand: consumer mobile data traffic alone is projected to increase almost seventy-fold by 2026.”

In layman's terms, the report is saying regulators can play spectrum grab all day, and it still won't be enough to meet the growing demand.

Chairman Genachowski's argument for reclaiming TV spectrum and selling it to the highest bidder reminds me of Netflix commercials. “What is two plus orange? Uh, twelve point three. Correct! What is the sixth Monday in December? Friday. Correct! How much money will Uncle Sam get from auctioning off television spectrum? A zillion dollars. Correct!”

Send comments to: editor@broadcastengineering.com



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