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RF Shorts for Sept. 26, 2013

AT&T Announces Plans for 700 MHz Broadcast Service
Phil Goldstein describes AT&T's plans for the 700 MHz D and E Block spectrum it acquired from Qualcomm in his article AT&T to use Lower 700 MHz D and E Block spectrum for LTE Broadcast. The plans were revealed by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson during an appearance at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia Conference.

This isn't surprising, as AT&T has been working with Qualcomm on ways to incorporate this unpaired spectrum into an LTE system using carrier aggregation. The carrier aggregation capability of LTE Advanced allows LTE Broadcast capability--one stream to reach an unlimited number of devices--using evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS).

Talking about when AT&T would deploy LTE Broadcast, Stephenson said, “You'll see it mature in scale over a three-year time horizon.”

Goldstein reported Verizon Wireless expected to first deploy LTE Broadcast early next year and will use the Super Bowl as a test case for the technology.

I first wrote about MBMS in my March 1, 2011 TV Technology article Is LTE in Broadcast's Future?. Last week I reported Dish Network Gives up Channel 56 Mobile TV Plans noting that while Dish Network was not planning to use its Block E spectrum for ATSC-MH, its switch to LTE technology in the spectrum would allow it to use it for eMBMS--LTE Broadcast.

Given AT&T's announcement, it isn't unreasonable to ask if Dish Network might be looking to sell this spectrum to AT&T or perhaps offer capacity on it to both AT&T and Verizon for an LTE Broadcast service.

Note that without a major change in policy, unlike mobile DTV initiatives by broadcasters, which are available on all supported devices, AT&T subscribers probably will not able to watch the broadcasts Verizon is planning for its LTE Broadcast network. Will this lead to carriers competing with each other for popular programming to grab subscribers from their competitors?

Why Can't We Fix Things Anymore?
I found Elizabeth Royte's article Why can’t we fix things anymore? on interesting even though only a few of the devices mentioned are RF related. She writes about a repair shop in New York that was set up by Sandra Goldmark and Michael Banta, veteran professionals who teach and produce theater at Barnard College. They handle carpentry, electrical work, rigging, welding, drafting, painting, sewing and model making.

Royte writes, “When the store opened in June, sandwiched between a hair salon and a pizza joint in a former pharmacy, a line of customers stretched out the door. Soon the storefront, which started with the clean and organized look of an Apple Genius Bar, resembled a theater workshop on opening night. Spools of thread and wire, boxes of nuts and screws, glue guns, paint brushes, screwdrivers, vice grips, and clamps littered the counters. Customers milled around work benches and the sewing machine, eagerly sharing stories about their broken stuff, all under the gaze of a patron saint of handiness: MacGyver.”

I'm sure many readers enjoy fixing gadgets for friends and family. The Internet has made it easy to find some parts, especially discrete parts (from suppliers DigiKey or Mouser, for example) or appliances parts. Some of my recent repairs involved replacing a computer board for a malfunctioning out-of-warranty refrigerator, a burnt resistor in a toaster, a motor-start capacitor in a drier, and a triac to get a replacement drain pump working on our washer.

On the other hand, it’s now almost impossible to find schematics and repair parts lists for items ranging from laser printers to a simple electronic microphone/recorder that I should have been able to repair. In both of these cases the cost of sending the unit back for repair exceeded the cost of replacing them. I suspect most “in-warranty” repairs of small electronics and appliances are really replacements.

Royte quotes Neil Seldman, president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a nonprofit that advocates for environmentally sound and equitable community development. “Manufacturers make products unrepairable. They don’t sell parts because they don’t want people to repair their products.”

They want them to buy new stuff.

Royte provides other explanations for unrepairable products, but ends her article saying, “Perhaps the most valuable--if subversive--lesson of the pop-up shop is that we, as consumers, have options. When something breaks, we don’t have to throw it away. By this measure alone, the shop was hugely successful. It kept more than a ton of stuff out of the landfill, and it encouraged customers to get involved not only with repair, but with other like-minded people. Some of those folks hung around for hours--Goldmark told me with admiration in her voice--learning new skills and gaining the confidence to try them out. Then, under the spell of MacGyver, they went home and tackled their own repairs.”

Comments and RF related news items are welcome. Email me at