WASHINGTON Jan 28 The U.S. wireless industry
lobby is proposing a pilot project to test how two television
stations could share radio frequencies, hoping the practice
catches on and broadcasters free up more of the valuable
airwaves to be sold in an upcoming spectrum auction.
The wireless association, CTIA, said on Tuesday it has found
two stations in Los Angeles - KJLA and KLCS - interested in
testing how they could send their video through the same radio
Known as channel sharing, the practice has been supported by
the Federal Communications Commission as a way to clear up more
airwaves, or spectrum, for the so-called incentive auction
currently scheduled for 2015.
In the auction, TV stations would voluntarily give up
control of low-frequency airwaves so that they can be sold to
wireless providers such as AT&T Inc or T-Mobile US
. The wireless companies are keen to boost the strength
and reach of their networks as consumers increasingly rely on
wireless phones for data-heavy uses like streaming video.
The auction proceeds would reimburse the broadcasters and
also help fund a new U.S. public safety network.
The auction is widely regarded as the most complex
undertaking by the FCC to date, balancing numerous economic,
engineering and political considerations, including a vocal push
from smaller carriers for limits to how much spectrum their
larger competitors will be allowed to acquire.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has worried
about numerous implications of the auction for the industry,
including the push for participation and the ultimate
rearrangement of how frequencies are used after changing hands.
The FCC has promoted channel sharing as a way for TV
stations to clear up spectrum and sell their airwaves in the
auction without leaving the broadcasting business.
Channel sharing would not affect the availability of
familiar TV content to consumers, experts say. With digital
television, the virtual channel numbers that viewers see
displayed on TV are unrelated to radio frequency channels.
In an order last year, the FCC said it was "interested in
possibly authorizing one or more channel sharing pilots in order
to demonstrate the technical and legal arrangements necessary to
implement a successful channel sharing operation."
"This project gives us the opportunity to explore channel
sharing in the real world," said Scott Bergmann, CTIA's vice
president for regulatory affairs.
"It's another way that broadcasters might participate in the
auction ... and broadcaster participation is key to having a
successful auction and freeing up more spectrum."
Bergmann said the CTIA will be filing a request for the FCC
to approve the pilot program. With the commission's approval,
the pilot would run through the first quarter of 2014.
The FCC in 2012 passed rules to guide the process of channel
sharing for TV stations looking to participate in the spectrum
auction but the technical and legal aspects of it have not been
tried in the industry.
"We want broadcasters to know that sharing means separating
themselves from the future of broadcast television, by which I
mean mobile, 4K, 8K (new high-definition formats) and
multicasting," NAB President Gordon Smith said in an interview
with Broadcasting & Cable magazine published last week.
"That would be equivalent to Ford saying they were going to
keep building cars, but only the Ford Mustang," he said.
The CTIA said the two Los Angeles stations volunteered to
participate in the pilot. KLCS is a public broadcasting station,
and KJLA is home to Spanish-language entertainment network LATV.
Los Angeles is the second-biggest broadcasting market in the
United States after New York.
In the pilot, KLCS would try hosting KJLA's content and
transmitting various video feeds, including high definition, to
see how channel sharing may work between two unaffiliated
broadcasters. The results would be reported to the FCC.