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03.22.2004
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
APTS continues campaign to return analog TV spectrum

John Lawson, president and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), continues to push his proposal for the early return of analog TV spectrum as wireless industries met at the CTIA Wireless 2004 in Atlanta.

In comments at the wireless industry event, Lawson noted that television broadcasters—commercial and noncommercial—control about 400MHz of analog spectrum, the bulk of which falls within the 480MHz through 810MHz range. Spectrum in the range below 2GHz is known as the permeable zone, meaning that signals that carry information within this range can easily traverse through dense objects.

“Signals transmitted across public television’s analog spectrum can go through buildings, trees and storms — and can be used for many commercial and public safety purposes,” Lawson said. “As such, this truly is ‘beachfront property’ in the spectrum world. Putting this bandwidth into the private market can unlock its true economic potential, and we want to work with the federal government and private industry to accomplish this task.”

Lawson noted that Nextel and Verizon Wireless are currently debating the value of 10MHz of nationwide spectrum in the 1.9GHz band, suggesting it is worth anywhere between $3.5 billion and $7.2 billion. “If you speculate on the value of public television’s bandwidth based upon these figures you can see that we’re talking about a very valuable asset. Just do the math,” Lawson said.

Under current law, broadcasters are required to return their analog spectrum on or before Dec. 31, 2006. However, that deadline is subject to the qualification that all local digital television stations, either over-the-air or via cable or satellite, are available to at least 85 percent of households in a given market. For public television stations, with their mandate to provide universal service, this figure is closer to 100 percent. It is assumed this could take more than a decade.

“Public television stations want to formulate a plan to return this valuable analog spectrum to the government in a way that helps the society as a whole and provides for the financial stability of public television stations,” Lawson said.

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