SMPTE 2011: TV Tomorrow, Married to LTE

HOLLYWOOD: What can’t be beat can be joined. Instead of fighting over spectrum, the broadcast and wireless industries could work together to deliver video, according to Mark Aitken of Sinclair. He described how the broadcasting topology hadn’t changed substantially since the 1940s. It’s designed for coverage--not service or spectrum efficiency, and now federal regulators have determined that its topology is “spectrum inefficient,” he said.

“Single-frequency networks are almost certainly in the future of broadcasting,” presenting a particular opportunity for doing an overlay, he said. Aitken suggested tying the wireless and broadcast infrastructures together. He said the next-generation ATSC standard could be married to 3GPP, the global standard of the wireless industry. That way, ATSC would be compatible with LTE-Advanced capabilities, allowing carrier aggregation, heterogeneous networks, an all-IP core network and network-sharing possibilities. It all would be managed by a Mobile Convergence Entity.

Aitken observed that mobile video is at the core of the predicted spectrum squeeze. No amount of spectrum will be adequate if the architecture is unicast in nature, he said. There is a broadcast component built into LTE-Advanced MBSFNs (Multicast-Broadcast Single Frequency Networks). Within the LTE-Advanced standard, one can, on a cell-by-cell basis, build up a broadcast component, but there is no 100 percent broadcast mode. The technology is optimized for unicast. The maximum ratio is 40 percent unicast and 60 percent broadcast. Threse are complex for dynamic use but adequate for known user-dense sites like stadiums, he said. Aitken said a broadcast overlay for offloading traffic would work in that architecture. Verizon will be standing up some MBSFNs next year, he said.

In the future, Aitken said high-power broadcast service areas would remain, but there would be multiple end-user entities, with broadcasting off-loading video traffic outside of the home, as in a wide-area network. He said this new SFN-centric, LTE-Advanced-compatible topography would be less costly to consumers, provide better fixed and mobile service, preserve over-the-air TV, address long-term spectrum requirements, avoid another repacking and put more money into the U.S. Treasury.