FCC's Media Bureau head says ATSC 3.0 unlikely player in repack

Competition from others eager to satisfy consumer demand for video content should instill a sense of urgency in developing new a technical standard, such as ATSC 3.0, for the television industry, William Lake, head of the FCC Media Bureau, told those attending the ATSC Annual Meeting May 9 in Washington, D.C.

But regardless of the speed with which a new technical standard is developed, it is quite unlikely that it would be ready to coincide with repacking of television spectrum that will follow an incentive auction next year.

The FCC has “heard it said that it would be ideal if the repacking that follows the auction could be done at the same time the industry implements a new technical standard…. But it’s important to recognize that it almost certainly won’t happen,” said Lake.

Developing a new standard could take several years, far beyond the FCC’s timetable for reallocating TV spectrum for mobile phones and wireless Internet. “Eleven years passed after the FCC’s Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service was established, before the first digital TV stations went on the air,” said Lake.

Although development of a new digital standard may take less time, it “almost certainly (will) be longer than the timeframe we contemplate for the incentive auction,” he said.

During his keynote at the annual gathering, Lake said he was pleased with to learn that PBS senior director of advanced technology Jim Kutzner, who is heading up the committee responsible for developing ATSC 3.0, noted at the 2013 NAB Show last month that development of the new standard should move forward independently of the incentive auction process.

“There are good reasons why the industry may not want to dawdle in considering and developing a new standard; but it would be a mistake to think that the process could be collapsed to coincide with the auction and repacking process under the Spectrum Act,” said Lake.