The Broadcast Broadband Alternative


Part III of a 3-part series: The objective of this three part series has been to attempt to inform the broadcast community and policy makers of some of the technology advances that have been maturing over the current decade.  If the FCC will allow the new technologies to be implemented by broadcasters it will allow for a commercial renaissance and enable broadcasters to fully participate in the realization of the National Broadband Plan.  There is a tremendous opportunity for broadcasters to enhance their legacy business model as full participants in the Internet era by leveraging the unique capabilities of their moribund wireless licenses to address the rapidly increasing demand for delivery of Internet based video and broadband data services to all types of mobile, portable and fixed devices. 

Previously in this series we have introduced the powerful capabilities of OFDM based solutions including the new CMMB protocol to deliver fully converged video and data broadcast services.  Beyond the technical advantages and the mature low cost ecosystem of these new solutions, the most impressive potential of their deployment will be the implementation of new revenue services that will substantially augment the limitations of traditional CPM advertising business models.  It is our goal to enable US broadcasters to immediately participate in the deployment of a system that can broadcast the Internet, including video and broadband IP traffic, using state-of-the-art techniques that will address the most critical requirements of the National broadband Plan.

The business models of the full power broadcasters have morphed to be a hybrid of content rights based on a DMA franchise basis combined with retransmission and must carry rights over cable systems delivering the vast majority of their legacy CPM based advertising audience.  The rapidly growing problem with this model is that the audiences of the future are demanding universal mobile access to their content and services thus rendering the fixed cable connection to be of ever decreasing value. 

The ability to deliver a wide range of broadband services to all types of converged devices is the future potential of the broadcast industry.  The migration from appointment television in living rooms to anywhere, anytime, any device consumption of next generation converged media services is the opportunity.  The now almost complete migration of fixed television consumption to cable and satellite delivered services is the business model of the last decade, not the next.  The cable industry’s refusal to unbundle the delivery of content into an a la carte model has driven the recent explosion of consumer interest and the rapidly increasing demand for over the top Internet delivered video content such as Netflix and Hulu. 

Thus if allowed a place at the broadband table broadcasters will efficiently meet the growing demand for the wireless delivery of video and multicast broadband data content.  The broadcast industry in all its various forms is poised to participate in a dramatic rebirth of their franchises and the continuation of their unique position as servants of the broader public interest that has always underpinned the broadcast industry. 

The well intentioned, but seriously flawed public policy agendas of the current FCC administration should be held to highest levels of scrutiny to ensure that the devastation of a treasured and vital public resource is not lost in the rush to deliver on the worthy goal of expanding the widespread availability of broadband services.  There is an unquestionable role for the delivery of commonly requested content in a broadcast or multicast environment, which is potentially millions of times more bandwidth efficient than the unicast architectures of the existing cellular industry.  Thus we must question why it is deemed necessary to dismantle a robust and existing layer of free to air broadcast capabilities in order to reallocate and auction off this precious public resource to already powerful and dominant mobile telephone companies that exist solely as the purveyors of subscription based services. 

Suffice it to say that the full power broadcasters are caught on the horns of both their reliance on retransmission over cable systems, and the fact that they have already completed their digital conversion, and in almost all cases have implemented High Definition services on their existing broadcast spectrum.  The challenge that is inherent among the full power broadcasters is that in almost all cases they have already consumed the majority of their existing spectrum allocations with an HD transmission and one or two SD services on their sub-channels.  The addition of an ATSC-MH feed for the mobile transmission of their local live content will essentially consume all of the full power broadcaster’s capacity.  Additional capacity to meet this growing demand will largely be found among the presently under-utilized Low Power TV and translator licensees that in many cases are still pending their digital conversion.  We are advocating for the creation of a nationwide consortium of both full power and low power broadcasters to implement a unified mobile broadband content delivery network.  The private sector should be allowed to accomplish this new layer of infrastructure deployment in the near term, rather than hoping for a future network built by the winners of a future auction at some relatively distant date holds the promise of a far better outcome for the American public.

There is a promising pending strategic alliance between the full power broadcasters and the LPTV licensees, given the limitations and constraints under which the full power broadcasters are obligated to collaborate with the cable operators.  Digital conversion is not complete in this sector, and the current NPRM that is seeking to define the timing of the conversion deadlines for LPTV and translator stations to complete their digital conversion reinforces the potential and logical window of opportunity for the FCC to authorize licensees to deploy 21st century technologies to address the public interest of the immediate future, not the public interest of the last century.  Broadcasters have obligations to deliver essential services to the public at no charge in exchange for their operating licenses.  Cellular operators are under no such obligations other than 911 and lifeline services, but even these are on the back of a paid subscription service.  However, the LPTV and Translator licensees are well positioned to deliver a robust addition to the growing demand for video into mobile platforms of all types. 

We advocate for a robust range of new services to complement the traditional fixed broadcast services that will also be enhanced through the adoption of new and more capable CMMB network architectures.

Although it will be left to the creativity of the ever evolving content providers to expand upon these services and respond to the ever changing and evolving demands of the future the following will provide some examples of the new revenue opportunities enabled by a next generation network.

Services – Legacy and New

 Live TV Broadcasting
 Video Downloads
 Over The Top / Free Ad Supported
 Subscription or Pay-per-View Conditional Access System
 Digital Rights Management
Data Multicasting
Real Time Information Services (Stocks, News, Emergency Alerts)
Applications updates and software distribution (3G has a 10 Megabit limit)
Non-Time Sensitive Publications (Newspapers, Magazines, Image Files)
High Volume Internet Content (Edge Caching of the Most Often Downloaded Content)
Facebook Site Updates (Corporate Sites, Celebrity Sites, High Volume Sites)
Software and App Updates (Maintaining Application Updates)
Digital Signage (Integration of Stored Cache + Real Time Video)
Large File Downloads That Exceed Cellular Data Caps (>10 MB files)
Broadcasting of Curated Internet Content

Internet Access Services
Unicast Capabilities (Added via MFN Enhancements to the Network)

 iTunes / Zune / e-Commerce Downloads
 Pandora / Internet Radio – Streaming
User Devices
CMMB to ATSC Converters (Deliver Services to Legacy Digital Televisions)
Dongles (Laptops and Netbooks)
Smart Phones (Integrated with 3G and 4G Return Capability)
Tablets (Larger Form Factor Portable-Mobile Display Devices)
Public Interest and Safety
Emergency Alerts / Traffic / Smart Highways / Fuel Savings / IVHS


The old line popularized by Mark Twain, “lies, damn lies and statistics” seems to be in strong evidence in the current debate over the utility value of the broadcast spectrum, and whether it should be repacked and redistributed for use by the cellular telephone industry post a “voluntary” auction process that in the author’s opinion has been hastily and poorly thought through.  The statistics used to justify the current urgency of the repacking and reallocation initiative as published by the FCC evidence little of substantive insight into the actual distribution of spectrum demand and availability.  The averages applied do not accurately reflect the distribution of demand or consumption of spectrum already in the major cellular operators possession and unused to this day.  The warehousing of spectrum that is unavailable for innovation and competition is one of the growing disparities caused by the now unquestioned, yet highly questionable, auction policies of the FCC.  Spectrum auctions have resulted in a dramatic decrease in competition and have proven to be a serious constraint on innovation, thus robbing the American public of improved access to new services and substantive competition to keep the incumbent service providers from imposing virtual monopoly control over the delivery of wireless broadband services to the US public.

The question we seek the FCC to answer is why they are not encouraging the broadcasters to innovate in order to meet the demands of the future?  Freeing the broadcasters to deliver on the promise of the National Broadband Plan in the near term future will be a public policy win for the FCC, as contrasted to their present course of action which will inevitably lead to innumerable legal challenges and delays due to the failure of the framers to recognize the shortsighted and destructive nature of their means, in pursuit of what are unquestionably worthy ends.

See Part I here: Benefits of allowing alternate modulation schemes on U.S. TV broadcast spectrum

See Part II here: Alternative Modulation Schemes and Enabling Interactive Broadband Services?