Mario Orazio /
06.26.2012 01:00 PM
What Spectrum Crisis?
How about a crisis of integrity?
might not have noticed, but there is a ginormous amount
ofpressure being applied to
broadcasters to auction off their
spectrum and consolidate their
signals on fewer RF channels. Now,
Mario enjoys watching MPEG artifacts
as much as the next viewer, but if
these guys have their way, all the television stations in a given market will try to squeeze onto a single 6 MHz channel, and everyone will have to watch on a Dick Tracy wrist TV with a display 30 pixels wide, ’cuz with that kind of bandwidth limitation, even a smartphone-sized screen, will produce images that look like a
Former FCC Commissioner
Michael Copps recently said on
C-SPAN that he thinks there is an abundance of spectrum that
ain’t being used: “There is alot of spectrum out there, and I don’t
think anybody in the United States
has very much of a clue exactly
how much spectrum is lying
April, Verizon announced it planned to
sell portions of spectrum it owns in a number of major markets; spectrum it purchased at FCC auction in 2008 and has been warehousing since. Said sale is contingent on Verizon’s getting
approval to buy spectrum from four
Certainly appears to Mario that
Verizon has been sitting on unused spectrum
for four years.
Further, no lesser figure than Martin Cooper, formerly of Motorola and named as the inventor of the cellphone, doesn’t think there’s a
spectrum crisis, least ways not one
that we can’t innovate
our way out of.
an interview with The New York Times,
Cooper said, “Somehow in the last 100 years, every time there is a problem of getting more spectrum, there is a technology that comes along that solves that problem.” He cited technological developments such as improved antennas and techniques to offload mobile traffic to Wi-Fi networks, which, he says, could multiply the number of devices carriers can serve by a factor of at least 10. He specifically recommends the use of smart antennas on cell towers, which, rather than radiating in all directions, would direct RF energy at the phones in use.
Mr. Cooper further said, “Every
two-and-a-half years, every
spectrum crisis has gotten solved,
and that’s going to keep happening. We already know today what the solutions are for the next 50 years.”
David P. Reed, one of
the original architects of the
Internet and a former MIT computer
engineering professor, argues that
saying a nation could run out of spectrumis like saying it could run out of a color, as spectrum is not finite.
Reed states there are technologies
for transmitting and receiving
signals that do not interfere with
each other, and that the real
reason cell carriers want to control spectrum is to keep it out of the hands of others and thereby protect their businesses.
And he ain’t
the only one. The NAB has called
for a “fulsome inventory” (methinks “complete inventory” would better convey the message, in light of the many definitions of “fulsome,” none
of which really applies), to
determine once and for all whether
there is really a spectrum shortage,or if spectrum is being hoarded to limit competition.
The NAB has specifically stated that, based on public comments made by company executives in published reports, some companies are “hoarding”
In late May, a report from a presidential advisory committee was completed, and publicly presented to the President’s Councilof Advisors on Science and Technology, aka PCAST, and will be presented to POTUS himself in June. The authors of said report include, among others, Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google; and Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer of Microsoft.
These authors believe
that computerized, agile radio
systems can share spectrum on a
vastly more efficient basis, which “would
make it possible to move from an era
of scarcity to one of abundance.”
The report concludes that radio spectrum could be used as much as 40,000 times more efficiently than it is currently used, and it recommends an approach that could increase capacity 1,000-fold. This
efficiency would be achieved by
agile techniques that rapidly
switch the frequencies on which a
device transmits and receives based
on a set of rules.
this is an important issue to us broadcaster
types, and there is enough smoke
here to warrant checking for fire. Keep
an eye on this one, dear readers.
The FCC’s zeal to promote channel-sharing pretty much runs in direct oppositionto what it said back in 1997, when it rejected arguments for TV channels less than 6 MHz wide, saying that the use of a full 6 MHz channel is “necessary to
provide viewers and consumers the
full benefits of digital
television made possible by the DTV
Standard, including high-definition television, standard-definition television and other digital services. The DTV Standard was premised on the use of 6MHz channels. To specify a different channel size… would not promote [the
FCC’s] goals in adopting
the DTV Standard.”
Fifteen years later, the FCC has sure changed its tune. And by the way, there has not been one single broadcaster on the FCC since James Quello retired back in 1998. Coincidence?
Mario Orazio is the pseudonym of a well-known television engineer who wishes to remain anonymous. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.