Big plans for low-power TV


LPTV licensees are signing on for a proposal which will not only cover the cost of making the transition to DTV, but provide them with a major revenue stream more or less indefinitely. The project is moving ahead rapidly.

We first learned about Cellular Terrestrial Broadcasting Networks (CTB Networks) at the Community Broadcasters Association (CBA) gathering in the Las Vegas Hilton during the NAB Show. The presentation by CTB Networks Managing Director Vern Fotheringham was the last of the evening, but grabbed the attention of many of those present. In short, Fotheringham was proposing to have his company pay for their transition from analog to digital and then share the profits going forward from CTB’s cellular-like underlay to deliver wireless broadband along with their DTV signals.

Sound too good to be true? CBA Vice President of Technology Greg Herman told us he held back on endorsing the project until he could see a demonstration of the technology – that it was really possible to hand-off a DTV broadcast signal just like a cellular telephone call. He witnessed just such a demo in Portland, OR a few days before the NAB show and got onboard. CTB Networks’ patent-pending technology is based on the FCC’s authorization of Distributed TV Transmission Systems to reuse the same channel over and over in a market, much like a cellular telephone system.

CTB Networks’ business plan is to provide a broadband IP pipe in addition to DTV. The LPTV owner will retain control of their license and programming. Their share of the broadband payment pie will be in proportion to the amount of their 6 Mhz of spectrum made available to the broadband service locally because it is not needed for their DTV broadcasting.

Fotheringham told RBR/TVBR that in order to move forward with the project, his company will have to have critical mass on a national scale. When we checked back this week, he said CTB Networks has been doing very well in gathering letters of interest from LPTV owners. In fact, he said, there has been as much interest from what he termed “first tier” markets as from “second tier” ones.

CTB Networks plans to have demonstrations of its Distributed TV Transmission System up and running in Portland, OR and Washington, DC by Q4 of this year. Initially, they will only involve the DTV distribution system and some VOD capability. Ten additional markets, yet to be identified, are also to be built-out with the “overlapping big cells” by the end of this year.

As all that goes on, CTB Networks will continue to ramp up its fund-raising from investors to build out and launch its national broadband system, using the trade name VyAire, based on the partnerships with LPTV licensees. Fotheringham assured us the technology would work just as well with full-power stations, but his company is focusing on LPTVs because the full-power stations have already made the digital transition – or will have by next month.