FCC Votes to Share TV Spectrum

By a 5-0 vote, the FCC approved a notice of proposed rulemaking that lays the groundwork for reallocating broadcast TV spectrum for wireless, including via incentive auctions. Television broadcasters don’t pay anything for their spectrum because it’s a “public service”.

The proposed new rules (pdf) would allow broadcasters to lease spectrum to service providers and would also enable multiple TV stations to combine their lineups onto a single TV channel.

The rules will create a licensing framework for spectrum in the UHF and VHF bands and will allow for voluntary channel sharing. The FCC still needs approval from Congress to conduct incentive auctions with broadcasters.

“NAB has no quarrel with incentive auctions that are truly voluntary,” said NAB President Gordon Smith. “Going forward, we believe policymakers have an obligation to maintain digital TV services currently provided by broadcasters and to allow free TV viewers to benefit from DTV video innovations.”

“CTIA and its members look forward to working with the FCC, Congress and all stakeholders to ensure that significant amounts of broadcast spectrum are made available for auction,” said CTIA President Steve Largent.

The Commission also proposed three types of program licenses (pdf):

  • Research license: This would allow universities, laboratories, and other qualified research institutions to conduct experiments over a wide variety of frequencies.
  • Innovation Zone license: This would identify discrete geographic areas — generally relatively remote locations — where researchers could conduct a wide range of experiments.
  • Medical license: This would allow medical institutions to innovate and develop new devices and services.

This NOI is a result of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan released in March. Among other things, it seeks to enable more efficient use of spectrum by proposing rules that would facilitate the use of smart radios in spectrum held by the FCC that would otherwise be unused.

The FCC has set a goal of reallocating 500 MHz of spectrum to wireless broadband over the next 10 years. Of that total, the commission is looking to reclaim 120 MHz from television broadcasters.

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End Near for Indian WiMAX?

Momentum behind TD-LTE technology in India has grown, says Mobile Business Brief. Reliance Industries – previously a proponent of WiMAX – has successfully trialed TD-LTE services and plans to launch TD-LTE service throughout India.

Reliance has until now been linked to use of WiMAX. They are the only firm to hold a nationwide 20 MHz BWA license, having acquired a 95 percent stake in startup Infotel Broadband, which originally won the license.

The TD-LTE trial claimed to achieve peak rates of 80 Mb/s in the downlink and 20 Mb/s in the uplink using ST-Ericsson dongles and network kit from Ericsson.

It follows a move by Qualcomm to buy a BWA license and promote the use of TD-LTE. Qualcomm says it plans to sell its Indian TD-LTE business to a major mobile operator, with the provision that TD-LTE technology is used rather than WiMAX.

Qualcomm and Ericsson have demonstrated LTE Time Division Duplex (TDD) in India, including the ability to hand off calls between basestations. Qualcomm and Ericsson say dualmode 3G/TD-LTE infrastructure and chipsets should be available in 2011.

Qualcomm could exit its Indian broadband wireless operation by as soon as the second half of 2011, by which time it expects its TD-LTE network to be ready to launch, reports Light Reading. Qualcomm has already held talks with some of India’s major mobile operators about selling their assets with the provision that the operator uses TD-LTE technology.

India’s top mobile firm, Bharti Airtel, No. 2 Reliance Communications, Vodafone, Tata Teleservices, and Idea Cellular spent a combined $23 billion for licenses in recent 3G and 4G spectrum auctions (auction results) in the world’s fastest-growing cellular market.

Big winners in the 2.3 GHz (4G) auction earlier this year included Bharti Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone Essar, and Tikona Digital Networks. The decision by Reliance and Qualcomm to back LTE TDD, may result in an unstoppable LTE wave in India.

Alcatel-Lucent believes that India could begin migration to LTE as early as next year.

Huawei has deployed more than 70 LTE experimental networks and won 18 LTE commercial contracts worldwide, and runs a close second to Ericsson as a global telecom supplier. So far, Huawei has received big orders in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In Europe, it overtakes Ericsson in terms of delivery to major carriers.

The cost/effectivenes of TD-LTE has yet to be proven. Could you, for example, build a solar-powered base station in a remote village that serves 500-1000 people (using O3B for backhaul) and bring it in for under $20K? It might be possible with WiMAX.

India’s economy grew 8.9 percent in its second quarter, the Central Statistical Organization said Tuesday, as farm output and manufacturing expanded.

The Indian telecommunications industry includes some 706 Million telephone (landlines and mobile) subscribers with 670 Million mobile phone connections as of Aug 2010. Virtually none are yet 3G. According to Informa Telecoms latest forecast, the number of active mobile subscriptions in India will rise to 1.159 billion by the end of 2013, making it the world’s largest mobile market.

Only nine million of India’s 1 billion people have access to broadband. India’s Department of Telecoms hopes the country will have about 48 million broadband users by 2012, and 100 million by 2014.

ABI Research says more than two billion of the world’s population is now being covered by high-speed data networks, with more than 500 3G networks, and over 300 WiMAX and LTE announcements to date. World-wide, mobile devices with integrated wireless broadband are expected to top 2 billion by 2014, according to research firm In-Stat.

Related Dailywireless articles include; 3G Launches in India, Qualcomm India: For Sale?, Qualcomm Gets Indian Partners, Vendors Scramble for Indian Backhaul, India’s Broadband Auction: It’s Done, WiMAX & LTE: Policy Vs Pragmatism, WiMAX: Good News, Bad News, Yota: Planetary LTE Swap, Yota Dumps WiMAX, WiMAX Forum: Not Dead Yet, WiMAX Forum: In Trouble?, Russian WiMAX, Battle for Britain, European 2.5 GHz Auctions & the Global Market, BT’s European WiMAX Plan, WiMAX Roundup, Australia Unwired, India 2nd Largest Mobile Market, Intel: $500M for M-Taiwan, AT&T: More Transpacific Cable, Satphones: Merger Ahead?, Malaysian WiMAX: Now or Never, WiMAX Auctions: NZ & Hong Kong, and Cellular Penetration: Half the World.

Google Buying Groupon?

Google has offered $5.3 billion for Groupon, in what would be its largest acquisition yet, if completed, says Kara Swisher in All Things D.

The deal may be clinched as early as this week, says Bloomberg. At the price being discussed, Google would be paying almost twice the $3.2 billion it paid for online advertising provider DoubleClick. Google also bought AdMob for $750 million.

Launched in November 2008, Groupon provides localized display advertising. The company offers one “Groupon” per day in each of the markets it serves. If a certain number of people sign up for the offer, then the deal becomes available to all; if the predetermined minimum is not met, no one gets the deal that day.

With every click on Google or Facebook, companies get a chance to grab a bigger slice of the $26 billion annual pie for online advertising, reports the WS Journal.

Google is on track to generate $2.5 billion in annual revenue from selling display ads, according to their third quarter report. Google’s share is 2.7% in display ads.

Facebook has twice the market share of Yahoo among the top hubs for online display advertisements, according to comScore. Google for now is king of search ads, but Facebook is responsible for one out of every four graphical display ads. Facebook’s more than 500 million users spend lots of time online, and ringing up ads in the process.

Comcast: Netflix Must Pay More

Cable giant Comcast has threatened to block movie service Netflix unless new tolls are paid by the company that streams its films, reports the NY Times.

Level 3, which helps to deliver Netflix’s streaming movies, said Comcast had effectively erected a tollbooth.

“With this action, Comcast demonstrates the risk of a ‘closed’ Internet, where a retail broadband Internet access provider decides whether and how their subscribers interact with content,” said Thomas C. Stortz, the chief legal officer for Level 3, in a statement Monday.

“It would be premature to comment on it without knowing what the facts are. We’re looking into it. The staff is looking into it,” said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC at a press conference Tuesday.

Comcast explains how internet peering works (above), although it doesn’t explain while only Comcast seems to have a problem with Netflix.

Comcast denied that the clash had anything to do with network neutrality. Instead they called it “a simple commercial dispute.”

Comcast, says it has had a peering agreement with Level 3 to swap traffic evenly. Now Level 3 is sharply increasing its traffic, while resisting a commercial agreement to pay for that.

Other internet service providers don’t demand a toll for competitive content, say critics.

Netflix represents some 20 percent of Internet download traffic in the United States. It is a competitor for Comcast movie content.

Public interest groups like Public Knowledge oppose the combination of Comcast and NBC Universal. They say the Level 3 case proves that Comcast would discriminate against competitors if it could. If the Comcast/NBC merger is approved, it’s likely that that a lot of free NBC content may disappear, says Consumer’s Union.

Comcast’s TV Everywhere plan enables Comcast subscribers to watch content outside of the cable operator’s footprint through an Internet connection — as long as you subscribe to Comcast pay-TV services.

GoogleTV, AppleTV, MicrosoftTV, and competitors like Roku, Boxee and others enable anyone to watch television — without paying Comcast extra money. But competitive internet TV boxes could wreak havoc on the average $70-a-month cable-TV customer.

Cable modem manufacturer Zoom also complains that Comcast refuses to even test competitive cable modem devices, violating Comcast’s own public commitment to abide by the Commission’s Open Internet principles (pdf).

Timothy Karr, of Free Speech, lists seven reasons to stop an out-of-control Comcast, which include:

  • Killing Off Competition: Netflix
  • Stifling Innovation: Zoom Modems
  • Consolidating Media Power: NBC Takeover

Comcast, the largest broadband provider, largest pay-TV company, and third-largest telephone company in the USA, has never been subtle (or sophisticated) in using its overwhelming market power.

Perhaps management in the Comcast Center, believes it is untouchable. They’ve got a franchise.

The gospel of Comcast is pretty simple. Overbuilding doesn’t pay and huge profits are their manifest destiny.

Still, it’s bad timing for Comcast.

The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to discuss Net Neutrality at its to Dec. 21st meeting. The FCC has seen a flurry of lobbying in the past two weeks, says the Washington Post.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson called Genachowski on Nov. 23, and “urged the Commission not to adopt regulations that lack sensitivity to the dynamics of investment in a difficult economy. The FCC has also met with Public Knowledge, the Open Internet Coalition, and Amazon — who are all in favor of open Internet rules, reports The Post.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Net Neutrality: On Again?, Net Neutrality Legislation Dead, AT&T: Wireless is Different, Microsoft TV Platform?, Google TV Verdict: Underwhelming, Naked Boxee Box , Sony’s GoogleTV and Internet TV Boxes Compared

Animated Holiday Lights

Chuck Smith and Carson Williams are considered by many to be the fathers of computerized holiday displays. Smith started PlanetChristmas over 10 years ago as a place for people to learn how to light up the world.

The members of PlanetChristmas became pioneers in animated displays, building their own home brew systems. He uses a micro-powered radio station on site. The music heard through the outdoor speakers is also going out over the radio station 24 hours a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

If you’re a do-it-yourself person, Vixenlights.com has open source free software but doesn’t support commercial hardware. It’s primarily for DIY projects. Ready to go kits are available from Animated Lighting, D-Light, Galaxia or Light-O-Rama. Here are some Bay Area Christmas light displays.

Light-O-Rama, a leading manufacturer of user programmable light controllers, has 16 Channel to 128 Channel controllers that are ready to go. Packages include and the PC software to synch the lights with your music. You supply the lights and a Windows PC to run the show.

Holiday light shows (You Tube videos) can be customized by using a Programmable Logic Controller. Stage lighting often uses the DMX512 protocol. A single DMX512 controller can be the master of the network, controlling one or more slave devices such as dimmers, fog machines and intelligent moving lights. Art-Net is a proprietary protocol, developed by Artistic License for transmitting DMX512-A over UDP/IP.

Projection Mapping projects a modeled 3D object onto a the facade of a building. That way the CG image throws realistic shadows. Free projection mapping downloads and video tutorials are available here. Projection Mapping can output to two projectors when using a Matrox DualHead2Go or similar graphic cards.

Portland’s NW AudioVisualists get together regularly. Really Big Video used projection mapping at Portland’s Time-Based Art festival.

Microsoft TV Platform?

Microsoft is rumored to be launching an Internet TV platform in a year’s time. Reuters says that a Microsoft pay-television subscription service would allow people to view content through multiple Microsoft devices, like the Xbox. Microsoft has already added live-streamed ESPN content to its Xbox Live 2010 update. It would compete with AppleTV and Google TV.

Those hoping for a Microsoft TV reveal during Microsoft’s CES 2011 keynote might have to wait, says PC Magazine. It won’t be out for a year.

In addition to a current agreement with Netflix, Microsoft operates its own built-in movie marketplace that sells downloads and offers streaming video rentals.

Microsoft has reportedly proposed creating a “virtual cable operator” delivered over the Internet for which users pay a monthly fee. Other options include using the Xbox to watch shows with enhanced interactivity or creating content silos and selling more individual channels directly such as an HBO or Showtime. It already has Walt Disney Co’s ESPN on the XBox Live online service.

Both Google TV settop box and the Boxee Box share nearly identical processors, says Engadget.

Boxee uses Intel’s CE4110 and Google TV uses the CE4150, each clocked at 1.2GHz.

According to Wikipedia, the Top 5 Cable operators in the United States are:

  • Comcast Corporation 23,891,000
  • Time Warner Cable, Inc. 13,048,000
  • Cox Communications, Inc. 5,316,100
  • Charter Communications, Inc. 4,929,900
  • Cablevision Systems Corporation 3,093,000

The Top 5 Ad-Supported Cable Networks (Primetime) are:

  • USA 3,571,000
  • TNT 2,435,000
  • Fox News 2,157,000
  • Nick at Nite 1,780,000
  • TBS 1,592,000

Wikipedia has a list of cable and satellite networks broadcasting or receivable in the United States, organized by genre.

Doug Sylvester, chief strategy office of Avail-TVN, says cable lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 700,000 subscribers last quarter, but about 600,000 of them went to DBS or IPTV.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Google TV Verdict: Underwhelming, Naked Boxee Box , Sony’s GoogleTV and Internet TV Boxes Compared