FCC denies WATCHTV/SpectrumEvolution.org authorization request


Looks like the effort to deliver broadband services via extra DTV spectrum has taken a setback: While Gregory Herman, President and CEO of WATCHTV and SpectrumEvolution.org (which advocates the use of extra spectrum from DTV broadcasters for mobile broadband applications) was none too happy about the FCC staff “apparently blocking” an application for his experimental license to test and demonstrate the new technology in the US, the FCC’s William Lake Chief, Media Bureau, officially turned the application down 2/10.

Herman had told RBR-TVBR that his routine request for an experimental broadcast license was languishing at the FCC, and he wanted an answer. Herman had said the technology is already deployed in other countries and was created by the same University of Washington professor who was the original developer of the OFDMA technology that is now the core of LTE and Mobile WiMAX. WATCHTV/SpectrumEvolution.org had demonstrated a simple configuration to FCC’s OET on 11/19/10 and provided sample handsets made by most of the world’s major electronics manufacturers, refuting previous FCC Staff suggestions that there is no market-ready approach to combining broadcasting and broadband.

Nonetheless, Lake said it was turned down because the technology is inconsistent with the existing ATSC standard for transmission of digital television in the US, among other reasons:

Dear Mr. Herman:

This is to inform you that the above-captioned request for modification is denied.  Although your submission is styled as a request for an experimental authorization, the request is a very unusual one.  The proposal contemplates that analog TV service from four stations would cease and their programming would be transmitted from a different digital TV station on a multicast basis.  The request contains no analysis of the potential impact on consumers; it merely assumes that virtually all viewers who previously received the analog signals will be able to receive the multicast digital signal.  The four analog stations would then be converted to a different technology previously implemented in China, intended to support what is described as broadband service.  That technology is inconsistent with the existing ATSC standard for transmission of digital television in the United States.

This Commission supports innovation and technological experimentation. However, we are also mindful to ensure that experiments not undermine our rules.  An experimental license is not to be used to introduce a new service that does not comply with our rules, as this request appears to contemplate.  Although the proposal itself is silent about the number of participants in the experiment, it is our understanding from the applicant’s counsel that the applicant hopes that thousands will participate.  In addition, you, as the applicant’s CEO, have been quoted as saying that, “If the technology works as well as anticipated, deployment can start within a year, with widespread penetration, including rural areas, faster than any other technology.”    
The request thus appears to be more akin to a developmental license, which may in appropriate circumstances be used to introduce a new service that does not comply with our existing rules; however, such a request should be accompanied by a petition for rulemaking seeking changes consistent with the operation under investigation.   Where a new service would employ technology inconsistent with the existing ATSC standard, any rulemaking most likely would be accompanied by industry standards development.

In short, the information submitted with the request is not persuasive that the proposal is truly for a technical experiment.  It does not describe except in the most general of terms what tests, if any, will be performed.  The Commission generally looks favorably on experiments designed to examine technical issues.  We cannot, however, authorize an experiment that appears designed to establish a new service that is not currently permitted under Commission rules. 

Accordingly, the above-captioned request for modification is denied, without prejudice to submission of a new request for an experimental license for a properly defined technical experiment.

William T. Lake
Chief, Media Bureau

RBR-TVBR observation: Herman had previously told RBR-TVBR he pondered if there was a potential fear on the part of the FCC that if he succeeded in demonstrating that the technology can allow broadcasters to participate fully in the National Broadband Plan, it could confound their moves for auctioning of more chunks of the UHF spectrum away from broadcasters. The multi-carrier modulation scheme WATCHTV needs to have implemented for their system to work is Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM). It has successfully been implemented for virtually every broadband wireless solution over the past decade, with the exception of the U.S. adoption of the 8VSB ATSC single carrier protocol for digital television.