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

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 21 Oct 2013 12:41:41 -0400

On Oct 15, 2013, at 7:31 PM, "Manfredi, Albert E" 
<albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Craig Birkmaier wrote:
>> So ask yourself this question. Did the telcos have the ability to
>> develop the smartphone, an OS to run it, and an open ecosystem for
>> third party app development?
> The answer to your question is, the telcos have (and had) agreements with all 
> manner of cell phone manufacturers, each of which had that potential. My only 
> point was and is, the cellcos had to agree to let these phones on their 
> network. Not me, a consumer. I can't just buy a phone and THEN decide what 
> telco to use. I have to go to the Verizon store and see what THEY will allow 
> me to use.

Nice try, however, you continue to miss the point.

Yes, the telcos had substantial control over the devices they sold, and the 
features that these phones offered. There were several early attempts at 
smartphones that failed to capture the opportunity. Some of this may have been 
because they may have believed, as you do, that they had no leverage to make 
the telcos change their strategy. And some of it may have been the lack of 
vision and innovation among the device manufacturers. 

Apple brought the vision and innovation to the table and offered the iPhone to 
both AT&T and Verizon. Verizon chose poorly, telling Apple it was a steep too 
far, for many of the reasons you cite. AT&T saw the iPhone as a game changer 
that could help them develop the market for data services and gain strategic 
advantage over Verizon. Maybe it was Steve Jobs "reality distortion field."  It 
certainly did not hurt that Apple was an outsider, was growing rapidly, and had 
 proven its ability to reach tyne broader consumer marketplace with the iPod.

What cannot be denied is that it changed the fundamentals of the wireless telco 
market; Verizon and the device makers had little choice but to adapt; and the 
rest of the global telcos quickly followed. 

> You're basing all your opinions on a false notion, IMO, which is that ATSC-MH 
> here, and by extension DVB-H in Europe, were way too expensive to incorporate 
> into phones. I don't buy that. So, I also don't buy that using LTE on much 
> lower frequencies, instead of the other options, would be all it takes. It's 
> that simple.

Sorry, but marketplace realities speak for themselves. Keep in mind that the 
smartphone wars began in 2007; prices were high and the screens were small and 
much lower in resolution than today's devices. Subscription video services for 
feature phones were too expensive and limited in terms of content choices. 
Video was not the application that drove the market at that time; it was the 
availability of a viable browsing environment, messaging, e-mail, and games 
that drove the market.

The game changer was the introduction of the iPad, and all of the tablets that 
have followed. These devices quickly became second screens where people WOULD 
watch feature length programs; mostly via a WiFi link to wired broadband. The 
increased bandwidth available with LTE, combined with HD resolution displays on 
both smartphones and tablets, have made viewing video a much more desirable 
feature today. 

As for ATSC-MH, it was not only the cost of incorporating it into a device, but 
the general lack of service (and compelling content) that have created barriers 
to adoption. LTE broadcast "could" be a game changer, as it can reach both 
fixed and mobile devices, in the home and away from home. 

> In Europe, where the cellcos don't control everything, they did have DVB-H on 
> some phones. Did it work out? No. Was it just a pricing issue? Hard to say, 
> but I doubt it. Consumers allow themselves to get hooked on all sorts of 
> infinite revenue streams, so there has to be something else involved.

See above. 

I will add, that it will continue to be difficult to get consumers to pay for 
another video subscription service. That being said, my son subscribes to 
Netflix, and now uses his iPhone to watch feature length programs, when he is 
away from home with little to do. And I will watch some live content on my 
iPhone - especially sports.

If the content is compelling and FREE, consumers will support Broadcast LTE.
> And, as I already said, the LTE solution is more expensive from the 
> infrastructure point of view, for OTA broadcasters. So again, if anyone will 
> use the LTE broadcast mode, my bet is it will be the cellcos. They already 
> have the towers, transmitters, and the backhaul networks they need for this. 
> And they will probably get TV content from the broadcasters or networks, when 
> they think it makes sense. And they can decide what to charge, or not charge, 
> for the service.

I'm not sure how you can conclude that the LTE Broadcast infrastructure is more 
expensive, either to build or to operate. I honestly do not know the relative 

But I do know that broadcasters have a major advantage over the telcos since 
they do not need to spend billions for the spectrum. 

The cost of the physical infrastructure is the same for broadcasters and 
telcos. The telcos are getting out of the tower business and the transmitters 
are essentially the same, although LTE Broadcast may be able to operate at 
higher power levels depending on the density of the cells needed for any given 

And broadcasters already have the backend TV infrastructure (and expertise) 
that the telcos would need to develop, and the sales organizations that are 
needed to generate revenue for the ad supported Free TV business model.


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