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CEA, CTIA pitch low-power broadcast model to free up spectrum for broadband use

A change from a single transmitter to lower-power antenna networks for broadcast stations will free up channels for broadband uses while preserving broadcasting, according to a new FCC filing by the Consumer Electronics Association and CTIA.

The plan would mean a “radical remake” of the current broadcasting system, the groups admitted, but it would get rid of an infrastructure that now depends on full-power stations with interference protection that leaves too many channels unused.

Under the proposal, the government would change the current high-power/high-tower system into a low-power network of multiple transmitters that would allow stations to operate close to each other. This would free up 100MHz-180MHz for mobile broadband, while leaving consumer equipment intact and allowing broadcasters to continue to use all of their 19.4Mb/s data stream and 6MHz channels.

The groups project the cost of this transition at between $1.37 billion and $1.83 billion, which they call “well within the realm of reason given the value of the spectrum.” The spectrum value has been estimated as high as $60 billion. Broadcasters, the groups said, should not be asked to cover the cost of such a transition.

The CEA and CTIA said the proposal was an effort to make “spectrum available for important wireless broadband needs while ensuring no disruption for consumers and no injuries to over-the-air, full-power broadcast TV capabilities while, at the same time, potentially enabling next-generation TV services along with next-generation wireless spectrum.”

Although they conceded there would be some disruption as broadcasters move from a single transmitter to a network of transmitters, the added spectrum generated would be worth the trouble, the groups argued.