Quake underscores weakness of wireless network, strength of OTA broadcasting, says OMVC president

The Open Mobile Video Coalition reminded all four sitting FCC commissioners on Aug. 25 of the important role over-the-air broadcasters play in keeping the public informed during emergencies, such as the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the East Coast on Aug. 23.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and commissioners Michael Copps, Robert McDowell and Mignon Clyburn, Vince Sadusky, president of the OMVC and president and CEO of LIN Media, said the temblor once again showed the vulnerability of wireless networks “that failed under stress from predictably increased call volumes.”

In contrast, TV broadcasters “were on the air offering an uninterrupted real-time service available simultaneously to anyone, and everyone, with a television set,” he said in the letter.

The FCC’s National Broadband Plan calls for recouping 120MHz of spectrum from television broadcasters for the wireless phone industry, and the agency is seeking authority from Congress to conduct voluntary incentive spectrum auctions to achieve that goal.

The earthquake “provides additional evidence of the continuing crucial importance of free, over-the-air local broadcasting as a source of news, information and reassurance in times of emergency,” the letter said.

The OMVC, which is working to make mobile DTV a reality throughout the United States, found during its fall 2010 consumer showcase of the technology in Washington, D.C., that “above all viewers turn to broadcast Mobile DTV for news, weather and real-time emergency information,” the letter said.

“During Tuesday's earthquake, OMVC test users received real-time local broadcast services on their Mobile DTV-enabled phones and other hand-held devices even as they were evacuated from their workplaces — and even as mobile phone users were unable to place or receive calls or, in some cases, to send or receive e-mails or text messages. Mobile DTV users stayed informed, without capacity constraints or service interruptions,” the letter said.

“Wireless networks simply are not now, and never will be, in a position to deliver the sort of ubiquitous, bandwidth intensive information during a time of crisis that broadcast television and Mobile DTV stations delivered on Tuesday,” the letter said.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.