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

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2013 11:32:35 -0400

On Oct 13, 2013, at 7:04 PM, "Manfredi, Albert E" 
<albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Craig Birkmaier wrote:
>> 1. Why it may not be in their business interest to do it themselves;
> Which is precisely what I have been saying for a long time now. The cellcos 
> would do it themselves, should they think it's a good idea.

And I gave you a list of reasons why it may not be a good idea for the Telcos 
to do this. Why do you continue to argue this point?

>> 2. Why they cannot stop broadcasters from building an LTE Broadcast
>> overlay network.
> Which the cellcos WILL NOT permit the phones on their networks to use. So, 
> what's the point?

Sorry Bert, but the telcos do not have the power to stop this; that train left 
the staion in 2007.  This is a decision for the companies that make the devices 
that connect to the telco wireless networks. The only design issue is the need 
to support additional frequency bands, as long as the Broadcast LTE standard 
uses the same modulation and video formats (e.g. h.264) already supported in 
current mobile device designs. 

And here's another avenue to consider. The telcos offer wireless broadband 
support for tablets support LTE (and other telco standards). Most of these 
services do not require long term contracts - i.e. the wireless data can be 
enabled as needed. There would be NOTHING to stop tablet manufacturers from 
supporting Broadcast LTE, even if a tablet was not currently enabled for a 
telco network. The issue is the cost of including the chip that makes broadcast 
reception possible; ATSC M/H chips are available, but they are not making their 
way into tablets and smartphones due to cost and lack of consumer interest (not 
to mention lack of content in most markets).  You can buy third party ATSC M/H 
tuners to attach to mobile devices 

> We have been over this in painful detail, Craig. A broadcaster's LTE overlay 
> network would entail (a) lower spectral efficiency than ATSC or DVB-T2, and 
> (b) a comparatively huge number of towers, just to keep their b/s/Hz halfway 
> reasonable. So if broadcasters can somehow get the cellcos to use their RF 
> distribution services, and I'm not sure how, that might be worthwhile. If 
> not, and this is where I think we are now, then what's the point? If 
> broadcasters need their OTA structure to be low cost and efficient, and won't 
> have access to cellco phones anyway, they won't go with a scheme that 
> requires 800 towers in a market like DC. I did the numbers for you in the 
> past, using credible sources of information, so now you can google it up 
> yourself.

I agree about the painful detail. The reality is that spectral efficiency 
involves many tradeoffs. Bit per Hz is one where existing and proposed big 
stick modulation standards offer advantages, but spectral reuse is another way 
to gain spectral efficiency. Have you ever heard about the fundamental problem 
with big stick spectral efficiency - the TV white spaces?

You do not need 800 towers to cover the DC market with broadcast LTE. The 
telcos need high density in urban areas for spectral reuse. Broadcasters can 
checkerboard  a few frequencies using slightly higher power levels and far 
fewer towers. The good news is that there may be 800 or more existing towers to 
choose from.

> I think broadcasters might be better off outplaying Aereo at that online 
> game, although possibly there's some potential agreement, which I can't 
> imagine right now, with the cellos.

If you subscribe to Aereo you are paying them a fee, and paying for the bits 
when you get them from a telco wireless broadband service. Even the so called 
unlimited telco data plans are now being compromised; above a certain cap they 
throttle your bit rate. For broadcasters, Broadcast LTE only makes sense if 
they are delivering the bits, and even then, only if they can get the program 
rights at a reasonable additional price to what they are already paying.

> Already discussed. First, the rights can be had by the cellcos, as Verizon 
> proved already (even if customers were not so thrilled). Second, the owners 
> of content have absolutely no reason to withhold those rights, *if* there's a 
> middleman that they see as instrumental. Why would, say, Viacom, deliberately 
> shut off the mobile market? That would be silly. If it's another credible 
> revenue stream for them, they'll jump.

They already jumped, as many programs are already available for mobile devices, 
IF you have an MVPD subscription. Broadcasters can make a good case that moving 
to Broadcast LTE is no different than the switch from NTSC to ATSC - but this 
switch would actually INCREASE the FOTA audience significantly, while doing 
little to threaten the revenues from retransmission consent. Most people 
subscribe to an MVPD today to access content that is NOT available FOTA.
>> By the way, Verizon shut down Vcast because they could not sell
>> customers on ANOTHER subscription TV package:
> Yes, I had suspected as much. So, what does that tell you about the 
> desirability, from the cellco point of view, of sending TV to phones, in a 
> way that can make the cellcos any money?

Exactly what I said in the previous posts in this thread. They are not in a 
good position to do this in a manner that the public would accept that would 
generate a profit. On the other hand, they are profiting from unicast video 
services now.
>> 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,
> First point: what makes you think that "leasing space" on this third party 
> cell network is as cheap for OTA broadcasters as it is to have their big 
> stick (which is very often also shared with other broadcasters)?

Because big sticks are NOT cheap to build or operate. The power bill is one of 
the stations largest expenses, and it does not change if there are multiple 
stations on a tower. And remember, the telcos are passing along a huge "TAX" 
based on what they had to pay for the spectrum. Broadcasters get their spectrum 
for a tiny fraction of what it would cost the telcos.

> Secondly, why would a broadcaster care to go LTE to begin with, UNLESS he has 
> some sort of assurances that cellcos will allow their phones to tune into the 
> broadcaster frequencies? It's just a way of losing some more control, as far 
> as the cellcos are concerned.

Too late. They have already lost control of mobile devices. The economics are 
obvious; they WANT people to use wireless data because it is a big profit 
generator. When they tried to control the evolution of mobile devices by 
controlling the services they lost money on the services and nobody was using 
wireless data.

>> 1. Technical - multiple modulation standards and frequency bands -
>> most existing phones cannot work across these multiple standards
>> and frequencies.
> Sorry, Craig, but that's overstated and legacy. All 3G phones went to W-CDMA, 
> and certainly could have been built to use the different frequency bands. 
> Same goes with LTE. The TECHNICAL limitations are self-inflicted by the 
> cellcos, not by the cell phone makers.

Yes, there have been some self inflicted wounds. But the real issue has been 
related to chip level implementations. You, if anyone, should understand this, 
having spent years trying to convince us that ATSC tuners/MPEG-2 decoders would 
become cheap enough to put in every TV. 

The Qualcomm Gobi chip is the first I am aware of that supports virtually all 
telco standards and frequencies around the world, even the proprietary home 
grown standards in China. You might take a hint from Qualcomm, as they have 
been a key player in the development and demonstrations of Broadcast LTE. 
>> 2. Subscriptions and Sim cards. The U.S. model is designed to lock
>> customers into a carrier via two year contracts;
> Again, you're not telling me anything I don't know, nor are you explaining 
> anything that contradicts my point. Cellcos set it up this way on purpose, 
> and I'm asking you, what would make them change their business model?

1. Competition
2. Government regulation

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