[opendtv] Re: Are ATSC Stations Going Off The Air?

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2013 09:31:06 -0400

On Oct 12, 2013, at 6:37 PM, Albert Manfredi <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxxx> 

>> First, there is nothing to stop the telcos from offering LTE Broadcast
> Egad! What lack of reading comprehension! That's what I said, Craig. Cellcos 
> could set up such an overlay, and the implied point that you appear to have 
> missed was, "and this would still leave no role for OTA broadcasters."

No Bert. You questioned why the Telcos would allow the broadcasters to set up 
an LTE Broadcast overlay network. I answered the question from two perspectives:
1. Why it may not be in their business interest to do it themselves;
2. Why they cannot stop broadcasters from building an LTE Broadcast overlay 

>> 2. Content - they would need to compete for the rights for the content
>> people WANT on mobile devices connected to LTE networks;
> That's almost immaterial to this discussion, actually. If cellcos can get the 
> right to send that content to smartphones, then they have an incentive to set 
> up this overlay. If they cannot, then they have no incentive to set up this 
> overlay. Either way, the original point remains. (In any event, Verizon 
> Wireless seems to have been able to get those rights, to whatever extent they 
> needed for Vcast.)

IT is completely material. Without the rights to the most desirable content 
there is no benefit to building the overlay network. And RIGHTs cost real 
money, which implies a subscription service like FloTV or Vcast, or Free to air 
with advertising paying for the content.

By the way, Verizon shut down Vcast because they could not sell customers on 
ANOTHER subscription TV package:


>> 3. The telcos are rapidly moving to a business model where third
>> parties own and operate the tower infrastructure;
> That's also immaterial, unless you're suggesting that broadcasters should buy 
> up those infrastructure companies and take over that job. As things are 
> today, the original point still holds. If the cellcos can get something back 
> for those LTE overlay broadcasts, they will be interested. If not, they won't.

Again this is completely material. The telcos are getting out of the cell tower 
business, choosing instead to lease space from companies that own and operate 
the cell tower sites. Broadcasters are just another potential customer for 
these companies; they can lease space on existing towers for a Broadcast LTE 
overlay network, as well as using any existing broadcast tower infrastructure 
(both TV and radio). This is not a new cost of doing business for broadcasters 
- the have spent many billion$ building and operating the existing big stick 

So bottom line, the only real question is which business is in a better 
position to build the LTE Broadcast overlay network? Telcos or existing 

>> 4. The telcos no longer control the devices that connect to their
>> networks.
> Right. For example, this much ballyhooed new AppleTV product appears to be 
> nothing more than a traditional cableco STB. The service providers, including 
> MVPDs or cellcos, still have control, else I would be able to use my iPhone 
> or Lumia on any cell network of my choosing, at the drop of a hat, AppleTV 
> would be a true, unfettered Internet TV box, iPhones would incorporate 
> broadcast receivers, and so forth.

What has Apple TV got to do with this discussion.? 

As far as using any network of your choosing, the U.S. is not there yet, 
although most of Europe IS. There are two barriers here in the U.S.

1. Technical - multiple modulation standards and frequency bands - most 
existing phones cannot work across these multiple standards and frequencies. 
But this should change as we migrate to LTE across all carriers.

2. Subscriptions and Sim cards. The U.S. model is designed to lock customers 
into a carrier via two year contracts; Sim cards lock the phone to a specific 
carrier. In Europe, you can buy Sim cards from any carrier and switch them out 
as needed. The use of physical Sim cards is a significant barrier to a world 
where you can buy bits from any carrier at the lowest cost on a demand basis. 
There are a number of initiatives attempting to move the industry to a software 
based "Sim" that would allow a phone to be assigned to any carrier based on 
user choice or some form of market based sharing of all networks. This is not a 
big problem, as the telcos have operated interoperable networks around the 
world that have tracked and billed for long distance calls for decades.

>> In an LTE world, robustness comes from adequate cell density
> I'm sure we don't need to rehash old discussions here. The point of digital 
> FM was aside from these old discussions. As to the broadcasters being toast 
> if they choose, presumably, anything except LTE, I can't see anything in your 
> post that makes broadcasters less toast. Once again, for this LTE overlay to 
> be of any interest to cellcos, and by extension to the hardware makers, there 
> would have to be some infinite revenue stream created for the cellos.

I tried to make the case that the Telcos are not in a good position to get into 
the broadcast business; they are doing just fine in the wireless broadband 
business, and are making money off of video streaming. Broadcasters are 
squandering their second most valuable asset, after retransmission consent. In 
a sense, they are one in the same - broadcasters primarily use "their" spectrum 
to enable the collection of subscriber fees by the MVPDs. The number of 
consumers using the FOTA service are still relatively small, and for the most 
part are in the least desirable demographics for advertisers. The major 
exception here are Spanish language channels in large cities like Los Angeles 
where the majority of "their" audience uses antennas.

Given the proliferation of second screen devices that will incorporate LTE 
radios, broadcasters are now in a position to once again use their spectrum to 
reach potential viewers, where the MVPDs cannot (other than by using expensive 
unicast wireless broadband bits). Delivering video content to mobile devices is 
a huge new business opportunity and broadcasters are in the best position to 
capitalize on it as they have very affordable access to spectrum.


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