[opendtv] Re: Doug Lung series on OFDM

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2012 07:46:46 -0500

At 7:54 PM -0600 11/13/12, Manfredi, Albert E wrote:
I'll take a look, but honestly, that debate is hardly interesting anymore. Reason being, the main topic of discussion is whether one-way broadcast as the sole transmission protocol has much of a future. Just like we discussed some time ago, what the broadcasters claim to want (e.g. per your other posting today), and what consumers have come to expect more and more, amounts to access to the TV broadcast content via 2-way networks. Wired or wireless. Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition

You may be reading more into all of this that I do. I did find the announcement about the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition to be VERY INTERESTING!

One line in particular seems to tip their hand a bit:

He said he was aware of discussions about forming a spectrum operators coalition-"people who don't want to talk about the auction, but to gain a cohesive idea of the value of broadcasting."

Connecting the dots, one could reach the conclusion that broadcasters are now starting to look at ways they could work together to create a new and more appropriate infrastructure to preserve (and EXTEND) their franchise. While some are interested in protecting the 6 MHz of spectrum they now "own," others are looking for a way to either cash out, or raise some capital while becoming part of a new "spectrum utility." The concern about stations shutting down may be overblown, when it is very likely that they can continue operations as part of a utility at nominal cost, without having to operate a transmission facility.

If stations do choose to take the money and go black, it is most likely because they are not financially viable today, or new streaming distribution options will allow them to reach their niche audience without the need to operate within a government regulated broadcast regime.

Bert may be right that the expectations of the public have changed, however, I'm not sure this amounts to a shift away from one-way-broadcasting to on demand 2-way networks. What I think that both broadcasters and the public may want is a mix of both, especially as this relates to serving wireless devices.

The issue of zoned advertising, something I have been talking about for years, is especially interesting. Yes it is possible to cache ads for a single big stick in a receiver and insert the appropriate ad for a zone. But this requires a new broadcast receiver with local storage, a greatly improved User Interface, and most likely a back channel connected to the Internet. While this is technically possible, even with a smart phone, I suspect that a successful standard will address service to a range of devices at different levels of complexity and price points. And let's not forget that this will need to work with an entire generation of ATSC HD receivers.

Thus at the low end of the market we may see devices similar to the Government Cheese ATSC receivers that simply receive one way broadcasts and decode them to baseband digital. At the high end we may see devices that pull content from multiple networks into cache and provide a GUI that integrates broadcast programming with streaming programing and other Internet based services.

Moving to a network of COFDM (and LTE?) transmitters ads the ability to zone advertising by default. It also allows existing and new "broadcasters" to develop geographic coverage that may be appropriate to their business models.

That being the case, I can't blame broadcasters (i.e. local broadcasters and station groups, not the major networks) for being worried about losing their spectrum. Because there is little doubt in my mind, the "most efficient" way for local broadcasters, and major networks, to get the services of a 2-way distribution pipe is to piggy-back on the wired and wireless ISP networks. Not to create their own, separate RF infrastructure. The technology required is well understood and is already deployed, so we're only really talking about "more of the same."

There IS a compelling argument for broadcasters to simply build their own LTE networks, which may give them access to smart phones and tablets. But even here, the devil is in the details. These devices must support the frequency bands used by broadcasters, which will necessarily be different than those used by the telcos. The current state of the art in LTE chips for smart phones generally require carrier specific implementation because of the wide range of frequencies that must be supported around the country and the world.

The way Bert frames this argument, broadcasters should give back ALL of their spectrum and let the telcos handle their wireless distribution. I do not favor this approach. Then again, I suspect Bert would be quite happy to see the spectrum re-packed after the auction, with the remaining broadcasters riding ATSC 8-VSB over the digital cliff some day in the future.

Targeted ads, as far as that goes, can EITHER be done with ATSC/8-VSB, through clever use of A/91 and users being made to identify their interests in an on-screen menu, OR they require a two-way distribution pipe, where each receiver is identified by the source. And as an aside, I don't know to what extent ads are targeted now on Internet TV, but if they are, I wouldn't make a bigger deal of them than they deserve. Interacting with ads gets real old, real fast. And even if you do interact, they have a way of never becoming more interesting anyway.

Not an accurate analysis.

Yes, as I described above, you can use A-91 to cache ads in a receiver, which is identified by geographic location (either Zip code or GPS location). This obviously requires new set-top boxes for existing receivers.

And yes, it would be relatively easy to use existing broadband connections to deliver ads to cache for local insertion. This approach greatly improves targeting, as the identity of the receiver is known, and ad insertion can be based on geographic location or other criteria, INCLUDING the ability to target a specific home with specific ads. This too requires a new set top box with cache.

Targeting is also possible when broadcasters move to a distributed transmission network, based on geographic location. This requires NO intelligence in the receiver - it is basically just a packet routing issue, something the cable guys have been doing for years with their branching tree topology.

And who said anything about interactive ads?

The ads are just the come on. Like any Internet ad, you must "click through" to get to the interactive stuff. A better way to think of this is that your receiver could keep a "history" of the ads that were delivered with links to the back end Internet resources. These "bookmarks" could easily be integrated with web browsers connected to the in-home network, so the viewer might choose to get more information at another time on a tablet or PC.

And then there's the whole realm of using multiple devices simultaneously. We know that many people watch TV while surfing the web. It is quite easy to imagine a table becoming the remote control for the TV, with the ability to support search and interaction related to what is being re on the TV screen.

As far as a pipe for one-way broadcast, though, ATSC with 8-VSB works pretty darned well. I told you that I'm getting 47 channels now, right? And there's plenty of room there for more, without increasing the number of multiplexes. And reception with indoor antennas, IMO, is far more acceptable than it was with analog TV. The quality is excellent, so the solution is viable. As opposed to being a temporary solution, to be used as an excuse to go to cable. Which analog TV was, used with indoor antennas.

Pretty darn well for what it was designed to do two decades ago.

The world has changed dramatically since then.

I think it would be a reasonable expectation that any transition to a new broadcast infrastructure should provide EVERYTHING that ATSC can do today, AND the ability to fully integrate with our new digital communications infrastructure in a manner that will allow innovative broadcasters to pursue new GROWTH opportunities.


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