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Broadcasters Accuse Telecom Companies of Hoarding Spectrum 102

Posted by timothy
from the most-efficient-use-of-resources dept.
angry tapir writes "The National Association of Broadcasters, asked by the US Federal Communications Commission and some lawmakers to give up television spectrum for mobile data uses, has fired back by accusing several other companies of hoarding the spectrum they hold. In recent weeks, the NAB has gone on the offensive by suggesting that several spectrum holders, including Verizon Communications, AT&T and Time Warner Cable, have not developed the spectrum they already have."
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Broadcasters Accuse Telecom Companies of Hoarding Spectrum

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  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday March 21, 2011 @08:17AM (#35557832)
    There seem to be a lot of parallels to IPv4... our general supply of unallocated spectrum/addresses is running out while everybody is accusing everybody else of hording unused spectrum/addresses and to turn them over for others to use.
  • Kiss HTDV goodbye (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2011 @08:41AM (#35557962)

    My friend who works at the FCC tells me that no broadcasters currently use 1080p transmissions even though everyone is investing in TVs that support it. The current maximum in 720p. And that it is likely that we will never see that since the telecom companies are going to grab the spectrum needed to do so away from the broadcasters. Apparently the a lot of channels this has already been done.

    This concerns me because I am one of the few people who depends on over the air broadcasting rather than a wired network. So who should the government please? The minority who like me use broadcast TV? Or the majority who want to browse the internet on their smart phones? And how does funding NPR fit into public broadcasting fit into this?

  • 700 MHz band (Score:5, Interesting)

    by necro81 (917438) on Monday March 21, 2011 @08:42AM (#35557968) Journal
    TV Broadcasters in the U.S. freed up huge swaths of bandwidth in the 700 MHz range during the switchover to digital TV. This frequency range has a lot of very useful attributes, like being able to penetrate buildings and travel large distances - attributes that are ideal for wireless data transmission. Portions of that bandwidth was subsequently auctioned off [wikipedia.org] for about $20 billion, austensibly to permit the development of new wireless services. The auction concluded a few years ago, and yet I haven't heard anything about anyone developing new wireless infrastructure around it. As far as I know, there isn't even a baseband chipset for it yet. What gives?
  • Re:Kiss HTDV goodbye (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cimexus (1355033) on Monday March 21, 2011 @09:06AM (#35558090)

    I don't live in America but a similar thing is happening here in Australia. There is very little broadcast in 1080p here. Most is broadcast either in 1080i, 720p or increasingly, standard def (576i on most channels, 576p on a couple).

    I say 'increasingly' standard def because what's happening over here is that most TV networks have looked at the spectrum granted to them and made the decision they'll make more money from broadcasting, say, four or five SD channels in that multiplex, than they would from broadcasting one or two HD channels. So you see networks with half a dozen SD channels playing endless reruns of old stuff, rather than concentrating on one good HD channel with new content.

    Which isn't all bad: it does give you a lot more choice when you're flipping channels. But all those people that bought 1080p sets really aren't getting use out of them unless they have it hooked up to a bluray player or HTPC. A few years ago when I was shopping for a TV I was on a limited budget, and consciously bought a high end 720p set rather than a low end 1080p set. Haven't regretted the choice once to be honest.

  • Re:Kiss HTDV goodbye (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GrumpyOldMan (140072) on Monday March 21, 2011 @09:06AM (#35558098)

    First, the best quality is arguably 1080i (1920x1080 at 30fps), which is same resolution as 1080p once it is de-interlaced. 720p (1280x720 at 60fps) is better for motion, since it is not interlaced.

    Second, the reason that nobody broadcasts 1080p is because there is not enough bandwidth in a single channel. To clarifly the current ATSC standards provide for 19Mb/s and require MPEG2 and limit the codecs they can use, which terrible compression. If broadcasters could use a modern codec (H.264, VP8, etc), then they could probably squeeze 1080p out of a single channel. But then you'd need to buy new digital tuners to get the h.264 encoded TV.

    Third, broadcasters's greed is their own worst enemy when it comes to signal quality. In my area, many stations have as many as 2 SD sub channels (and our ABC has 2 HD channels, and one SD channel). Some are also carrying mobile DTV. These subchannels are usually re-runs of crappy old TV/Movies, music videos, shopping channels, and other junk like you'd see on basic cable. They limit the bandwidth for the main HD channel to 12Mb/s or less. I've recently put up a bigger antenna so I can pull in channels from a market 50 miles away, simply because the broadcasters there use less subchannels, and have far better quality.

  • Is this a record? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2011 @09:28AM (#35558294)

    Is this a record of misinformation in a slashdot post?
    Broadcast HDTV over the ATSC standard supports 720P or 1080I, with a maximum on one channel of 1 1080i stream + 2 480i streams. There's two important reasons why broadcasters can't provide 1080p;
    1: It's not part of the ATSC spec. When ATSC was agreed as a standard the only HDTVs being sold were CRTs with horrible AV boards and Plasmas that were XGA (with "rectangular pixels"). Neither of these TVs supported 1080p, and a lot of them didn't even properly implement 720P.
    2: Since the spec must change to support 1080p as a resolution it would be worth upgrading to a better codec like x264. The broadcasters could easily double their resolution using x264 in place of the existing MPEG2.

    Why do the broadcasters care about more spectrum space? Likely because with the quality of OTA digital signals there's a real opportunity to compete with cable channels, and to be prepared for 3d tv.

  • Re:Kiss HTDV goodbye (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 21, 2011 @09:39AM (#35558362) Journal
    It is fairly hard to make a public-interest argument in favor of using scarce(note to spread spectrum and other tech-trick enthusiasts: yes, how limited it is strongly depends on how smart you are about it; but it is finite) spectrum for high-bandwidth broadcasts.

    There are the "public information dissemination"/"cultural goods" arguments, which are reasonably strong; but also amply satisfied by even AM quality voice and smeary NTSC quality video. More video bandwidth is certainly better; but that "better" is simply an aesthetic improvement, not a matter of any significant interest(especially in a world where the bandwidth of blu-ray+USPS is so damn high. There is a value in people being able to get current news/political events/hazard warnings in real time; which is a broadcast specialty; but there is no need to allocate enough spectrum so that they can count the pores on senator scumweasel's nose. For ~$12, you can get 50GB video entertainment chunks mailed to your door, not to mention consoles and HTPCs and all the other non-broadcast uses of HDTVs)

    That said, I'm really not an enthusiast of the "sell it all to Verizon, Ma Bell knows best." theory of spectrum allocation. I'd prefer to see a much stronger support of un or minimally licenced data-transmission spectrum, along the lines of wifi; but with spectrum that doesn't totally blow. Even laboring under those restrictions, wifi has been an amazing success, and the possibilities of future minimal-licensing wireless are really much more compelling than "another bunch of TV channels" or "200mb/s TO YOUR CELLPHONE* *Capped at 5GB/month, overage $10/GB, you're damn right other terms and restrictions apply, see 2,000 pages of fine print for details.*"
  • by rufty_tufty (888596) on Monday March 21, 2011 @11:43AM (#35560084) Homepage

    The Nyquist rate applies to the symbol frequency. This is related to, but not actually the bit rate.

    (Struggling to remember decade old university lectures)

    A symbol can carry many bits of data e.g. 16 QAM can carry 4 bits per symbol. The amount of data you can carry on your symbol being limited by your channel and your TX-RX hardware. Our lecturer in this subject was very keen to drive home the fact that "The only thing that stops you sending one Gigabit in one kilohertz is your budget to pay for your phase discriminators."
    So the GP is right in that data spectrum is infinite if you have the right hardware, you are right that at the moment we can only parcel the spectrum up so finely.

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