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RF Shorts – Nov. 4, 2010

  • •A posting on NTIA Recommends Two Spectrum Bands for Wireless Broadband Use notes that in a just-issued, but as yet not publicly available report to the FCC, the NTIA recommended transferring 115 MHz of spectrum from federal to civilian use. Most of it is above 3.5 GHz, but a 15 MHz segment--from 1695-1710 MHz--is currently used for weather satellite downlinks. The article references a recent speech by NTIA Administrator Larry Strickland describing other bands being considered for transfer.
  • •FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has comments on using broadcast spectrum for broadband in the article Moving WiFi to the next level in the Washington Post.

    "In the early days of television, when the vast majority of Americans received their news and entertainment through over-the-air broadcast TV, and the overall demands on spectrum were modest, there was no problem devoting to this medium a whopping 300 megahertz of our most valuable spectrum," said Genachowski. "But today, when 90 percent of Americans receive their broadcast news and entertainment via cable and satellite, devoting this much spectrum to over-the-air broadcasting threatens to starve one of the most vibrant sectors of our economy and lead to consumer frustration with mobile devices."

    He goes on to outline the need for "incentive auctions" under which broadcasters could voluntarily relinquish spectrum for a share in the proceeds from auctioning the spectrum for wireless broadband.
  • •Another key player in the move to reallocate TV broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband is Blair Levin, lead author of the FCC's National Broadband Plan. PCWorld ran an article last week, U.S. Broadband Plan Author Talks About His Regrets. In the article he observed that the wrong metric had been used for "measuring the validity or power of a national broadband plan…[and that] is the speed of the wireline network to the most rural of residents."

    Levin stated that this perception was "profoundly wrong."

    "It's not about speed, it's about use," said Levin. "It's not about wireline, it's about the right mix of wireline and wireless; and it's not about residential, it's about different product markets. And it's not just about rural; it's about everywhere and having the right speeds for the right places. We spend a huge amount of money on 20th-century [voice] technology in rural America and that needs to be changed."
  • •An article in Barrons (subscription may be required) EchoStar – Does Ergen want to enter mobile video services mkt? by Eric Savitz indicates that EchoStar may be entering the mobile video services market using assets now owned by TerreStar. This would be a satellite-delivered service supplemented with terrestrial repeaters. Savitz quotes Citigroup analyst Jason Bazinet's theory about EchoStar's possible moves, and notes that, "The spectrum to which the companies have access can offer only mid-speed Internet access without a huge number of terrestrial towers; but he says mobile video could be offered with just 1,000 repeaters for the 100 largest markets." EchoStar also has unused UHF spectrum on former TV channel 56 in many markets across the country.
  • •Long Islanders trying to watch the Fox programming off-air ran into problems, according to the article HD antennas being returned to stores. The article compares the signal in Long Island from a number of NYC TV stations. Most of the problems were with indoor antennas. Antennas Direct president Richard Schneider explained, "indoor antennas would probably work only as far east on Long Island as Lynbrook, Babylon and Deer Park due to the area's terrain."
  • •If you are interested in purchasing a satellite phone, you may want to read the PC Magazine article TerreStar Genus (AT&T) by Jamie Lendino. Lendino's conclusion: "A combination satellite/cellular phone for first responders is a great idea, but it's too inconsistent and its satellite provider is on shaky financial footing."

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.