Last month’s Smart Spectrum Summit: Broadcast/Broadband Networks for Public Safety and Other One-to-Many Data Applications drew very positive reviews from attendees, with 90% in a post-event survey rating the summit as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good.’ The key to the positive reviews was the innovative content that was presented.
The first-of-its-kind event brought together leading figures from across industries and government to discuss the considerable potential for future uses of our airwaves. A major focus of the conference was on hybrid networks that will utilize the next-generation broadcasting platform, ATSC 3.0. With primary sponsorship by ONE Media and LG Electronics, the intensive day-long event on Nov. 18, 2015, attracted over 120 registrants.
‘High Power, Tall Tower, All-IP’
The summit kicked-off with a roundtable that focused on new technologies for spectrum utilization. Citing the impact of the ATSC 3.0 standard currently being finalized, Sam Matheny, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) CTO and EVP, described the power and the uniqueness of ‘high-power, high-tower, all IP broadcasting infrastructure.’ NAB’s analysis indicates that at least 80% of today’s television stations will be on the air after the upcoming FCC Spectrum Incentive Auction but occupying as little as 59% of the current TV spectrum. Matheny predicted that the post-auction industry will be stronger, more efficient, and more competitive in the media marketplace.
Private equity players John Dooley of Jarvinian Spectrum Ventures and John Kneuer of JKC Consulting provided fresh insights into the value of the one-to-many model of data distribution from broadcasters and the development of secondary spectrum markets. They both saw a major upside for broadcast spectrum, including broadcaster participation in secondary spectrum markets. Kneuer in particular foresees a major return to over-the-air television as cord cutting accelerates and ATSC 3.o improves indoor and mobile reception.
Congressional Support for AWARN and ATSC 3.0
U.S. Representative André Carson (D-IN) gave the well-received morning keynote address. A key advocate in the successful campaign that led to wireless carriers activating the FM chip in smartphones, Rep. Carson specifically praised the potential for the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN). He recognized the power of ATSC 3.0 in enabling broadcasters to provide an overlay for delivering public alerts and mission-critical video to first-responders during emergencies. He said he and fellow members of Congress are ready and willing to support the deployment of next-gen broadcasting technologies for emergency communications, including the ability of future smartphones to receive AWARN alerts.
Video Quality Important for TV Viewers and First-Responders
ATSC 3.0 was the focus at the next panel, ‘Video Quality and Data Applications.’ Dr. Rich Chernock Ph.D., chief science officer for Triveni Digital, and Madeleine Noland, representing LG Electronics and its Zenith R&D Lab, explained how the new standard provides for a more robust signal and many advanced services. Both key players in leading the industry group developing ATSC 3.0, Chernock and Noland pointed out that advanced emergency alerting is a core component of the new standard.
In another highlight on the video quality panel, John Contestabile of the Johns Hopkins University’s Advanced Physics Lab outlined the requirements of the public safety community for video quality. A program manager at the lab for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Contestabile described the importance of the one-to-many architecture of advanced broadcasting to ‘deliver mission-critical video when other networks are congested or off-line.’
Michael Poth, CEO of the U.S. Commerce Department’s First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), presented a compelling overview of the nation’s emergency warning infrastructure during the afternoon keynote. He detailed FirstNet’s vision of an LTE-based first-responder communications network that will have many ‘fail-safes’ built in. He encouraged the broadcast industry to partner with other vendors and to develop a solution that could provide a backstop for delivering mission-critical video and other information to first-responders. He announced that FirstNet should release its major RFP for the network’s prime contractor by the end of this year.
Bullish Outlook on Next-Gen Broadcasting
Marci Ryvicker, managing director of Equity Research: Media and Cable, WellsFargo Securities, and Anne Schelle, Pearl TV managing director, both expressed positive investment outlooks for the broadcasting industry after the upcoming FCC Spectrum Incentive Auction and adoption of ATSC 3.0.
Ryvicker related that money managers are just beginning to see the strong economic position of the broadcasting industry, which ‘can’t be exported to China.’ Both indicated that services like AWARN were important in themselves, but also help make the business case for ATSC 3.0. because AWARN will be a ‘real world’ demonstration of the power of 3.0 in a way that people can understand.
New Thinking on Spectrum
The Smart Spectrum Summit was a groundbreaking event that presented unique content from a chorus of expert voices across the media and public safety spectrum. Speakers and attendees spoke to the value of bringing different communities together to think through innovative spectrum models. In the post-event survey, 80 percent said they were “Extremely Likely” or “Very Likely” to attend a similar event in the future.
Besides lead sponsors LG and ONE Media, other sponsors of the Summit included NAB Labs, Monroe Electronics, Triveni Digital, Capital Broadcasting, Zenith, and Pearl TV.