Washington

Exclusive: FCC OKs Test of TV Transmission Standard

Station owner says it has support from other broadcasters, vendors, standards bodies 2/19/2013 02:41:26 PM Eastern

Could WNUV soon stand for "World of NU Video"
delivery?

According to a copy of the FCC document obtained by B&C, the FCC has granted Cunningham
Broadcasting's WNUV-TV Baltimore a six-month experimental broadcast license to
use the CW affiliate as a test bed for a "next-generation" broadcast
standard that the station argues could help broadcasters be a player in the
mobile, multiplatform and ultra-high definition of the video future. The
company says other broadcasters, vendors and trade associations will
participate in the WNUV test, according to the original petition for testing
authority. Sinclair/WNUV had no comment.

The station is operated by Sinclair under a Local Marketing
Agreement. 

WNUV has six months to test from Feb. 15, when the
authorization was granted, though it can seek a renewal. The FCC's Media
Bureau, which granted the experimental temporary authority, makes it clear that
only a small number of test devices can be used and no commercial application
is allowed, both of which WNUV itself offered up as conditions of the
experimental license.

WNUV will conduct its test mostly in overnight hours (1 a.m.
to 5 a.m.). Between those hours, it will replace its ATSC signal with the test
OFDM DVB-T2 signal, receivable by only a handful of devices. WNUV has promised
to make a feed of CW programming that would have aired on WNUV during those
times available to cable operators and other MVPDs. It also will broadcast that
programming on a digital subchannel of Sinclair's Baltimore Fox affiliate,
WBFF, which operates WNUV under the LMA.

The DVB-T2 standard is currently being used in a number of European countries.

"The commercial viability of WNUV as Baltimore's CW
network affiliate depends on the station's viewers, and the station will strive
to ensure that its audience is not inconvenienced by the testing," the
station said.

Sinclair pushed for a flexible mobile DTV standard more than
a decade ago and has continued to push for giving broadcasters the
technological tools to compete.

WNUV says it will share the results of the test with the
National Association of Broadcasters, the Advanced Television Systems Committee
and others. In seeking the test permit, it also told the FCC it has the backing
of Capitol Broadcasting and Univision-with whom it will share the results.

WNUV told the FCC that it "believes that upon FCC
consideration and grant of this request, it will obtain the commitment of many
others in the industry to participate in this effort. Discussions (under
nondisclosure agreements) have already taken place," it says. It says a
large number of broadcasters, as well as vendors and standards bodies will
participate in the test.

Sinclair has told
the FCC
repeatedly it wants the spectrum auction to be a success, but that
means for broadcasters as well as wireless companies. Testing the standard on
WNUV is a way for the industry to come together on a path forward, the
broadcaster is suggesting.

Sinclair signaled the move in comments on the FCC's
September Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) suggesting a framework for
incentive auctions and broadcast spectrum reclamation. Sinclair
said the FCC's goal
should include the development of a next-generation
broadcast technical standard that would allow TV service to improve, not just
survive, the government push toward wireless broadband.

WNUV's request for the testing authority pointed out that
the current standard is designed for large-format video to fixed receivers,
while, it points out, viewers are increasingly mobile and are viewing video on
phones and tablets. As a result, it wants to test the Second Generation Digital
Video Broadcasting - Terrestrial (DVB-T2) OFDM transmission technology standard-already
in use in some European countries-and succeeding iterations as a possible new
standard for the U.S.

Among the things WNUV and Sinclair saying they are looking
for the testing to do are:

"Identify representative link budgets for a variety of
use cases in different locations within the service area;
"Determine how a scalable Quality of Service offering combined with
flexible transmission attributes might facilitate the simultaneous provision of
television broadcast to multiple viewing devices;
"Provide data that may support the development of coverage and service
contour matching techniques;
"Confirm the ability of OFDM to support Ultra High-Definition television
within the existing 6 MHz channel assignments; and
"Explore technological capabilities that could lead to the ability to
evolve a future broadcast standard."

Sinclair has been arguing that broadcasters should look at
hanging on to their spectrum rather than put it up for auction, suggesting they
will need it for advanced TV services and flexible delivery. It has also said
broadcasters could work with wireless carriers to help offload traffic at peak
periods.

At a Hudson Institute event Tuesday, former FCC chairman
Dick Wiley, who helped develop the HDTV transmission standard, said he thought
a new transmission standard accommodating ultra-HDTV and multiplatform delivery
was in broadcasting's future, but says it might take up to a decade because it
is not backward compatible-it will require new TV sets. Wiley opined that
perhaps if the standard could have been changed sooner, there might not have
been a need for the incentive auctions.

Just last month, the FCC took steps to make it easier to do
spectrum R&D, driven, per usual, by its desire to promote wireless
innovation.

"Streamlining our experimental licensing process will
help stimulate R&D, which is essential to new innovation, and reduce the
time it takes for an idea to get from the lab to the market, FCC chairman
Julius Genachowski said at the FCC's
Jan. 31 open meeting,
where it voted on a National Broadband Plan proposal
to "establish more flexible experimental licensing rules for spectrum and
to facilitate the use of spectrum by innovators."

September
October