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FCC Chairman Announces 'Engineers Forum' to Address NBP Technical Issues

In his keynote at the NAB Show this week, FCC Chairman Juluis Genachowski said it is a misconception that the National Broadband Plan will prevent broadcasters from deploying mobile DTV. "Under the incentive plan, broadcasters will be able to provide mobile DTV, both licensees that choose to retain all 6 megahertz and those that choose to share."

He made it clear that the incentive auctions are voluntary. "Participation is up to the licensee and no one else." He said that "for the plan to work, we don't need all, most, or even very many licensees to participate." He anticipates mechanisms such as a setting a reserve price to lock in a minimum payment for broadcasters.

In his remarks, Genachowski also announced that the FCC will convene an "Engineers Forum" that will enlist broadcast, mobile and other engineers "to address concrete technical issues raised by the plan and help develop the best path forward." Similar efforts will involve business executives.

One of the first tasks for the Engineers Forum is likely to be reviewing plans for a new DTV Allotment Table. From what I heard in discussions around NAB, the FCC has, or will soon, start work on developing alternative DTV allotment tables to determine the cost of clearing spectrum for wireless broadband and the impact on broadcast coverage. Some, perhaps most, of the scenarios are likely to involve moving DTV broadcasting to VHF channels, including low-band VHF. Is it possible for low-band VHF to work with indoor receive antennas and portable devices? If so, how much power will be needed to make it work? If not, why not? I expect there will be a lot of discussion about that in the Engineers Forum.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.