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UK report portends possible OTA TV extinction

A new report from the U.K. House of Lords Communications Committee recommends that the government, U.K. regulators and industry examine the eventual clearing over-the-air broadcasters from their spectrum to make way for wireless broadband services and transferring TV program delivery to the Internet.

The report, "Broadband for All-An Alternative Vision," covers territory familiar to U.S. broadcasters who have been identified by the Federal Communications Commission as the source of a potential 300MHz, freed up by incentivized television broadcasters who turn in their licenses or give up part of their 6MHz channel assignment.

However, the U.K. report takes spectrum clearing to its logical conclusion: switching off broadcast transmission over the air entirely. "It is likely that IPTV services will become ever more widespread, and eventually the case for transferring the carriage of broadcast content, including public service broadcasting, from spectrum to the internet altogether will become overwhelming," the report says.

According to the report, most people watch TV from a fixed location. As a result, the report says, "it might be argued that spectrum's current use of fixed, broadcast purposes is wasteful."

The report also suggests that as broadcast media, particularly Public Service Broadcasting channels, transition off air and onto the Internet, that the case for recommending a Universal Service Obligation gets stronger and that the U.K. government should begin now to consider this eventuality.

At the 2012 NAB Show in April, technical executives from 13 television broadcast organizations from around the world signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Future of Broadcast Television (FoBTV) Initiative, which among other things seeks to develop future ecosystem models for terrestrial broadcasting.

According to Mark Richer, president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee and chairman of FoBTV, next month's IBC convention in Amsterdam will include a general session on the efforts of FoBTV, including efforts to improve the spectrum efficiency of future TV broadcasting systems globally.

"There is a lot of pressure on broadcasters worldwide to give up spectrum," says Richer. "It's been my view in terms of the global effort to reassign spectrum that government and industry need to work together on a long-term, well-engineering solution that looks at all the technologies involved.

"Regulators need to realize there are technology solutions that are win-win-win; a win for broadcasters, for government and for other users of the spectrum."