Using leased broadcast spectrum, mostly low-power, the startup envisions partnering with telcos to bring high-speed broadband service to consumers now struggling with no broadband access or low-speed service only. “This is a great use of a spectrum," says DTVCast founder John Kyle.
DTVCast Aims To Broadcast Broadband
A new Sunrise, Fla.-based company is looking to help telecommunication companies deliver quality broadband to consumers in hard-to-reach rural areas using broadcast spectrum.
More than two years in the making, DTVCast has developed a technology and a business plan to get consumers online using the same spectrum they use to watch television.
“We’re marrying broadcast to broadband,” says John Kyle, co-founder of DTVCast, and president of DTV America, an operator of low-power TV stations. “This is a great use of a spectrum and it solves the problem of providing adequate broadband to consumers who live in under-served areas.”
Depending on how big a slice of a station’s 19.4 mbps of spectrum is used for broadband, consumers could achieve Internet speeds of 10 mbps or faster.
DTVCast uses the one-way broadcast spectrum to download data. It is partnering with telcos around the country that would provide the upload path through their telephone lines and market the service.
To receive the service, dubbed DTVCast Reach, consumers pay a monthly fee and buy or lease DTVCast’s proprietary set-top box, which is expected to cost between $250 and $400.
DTVCast would lease spectrum from local broadcasters, providing them will another source of revenue.
For the past several months, DTVCast has been testing DTVCast Reach with ITS Telecom, an Indiantown, Fla.-based telco. WDOX, a low-power station owned by Kyle’s DTV America, is providing the spectrum. Indiantown is located northwest of West Palm Beach.
Jeff Leslie, CEO of ITS, says that he is pleased with the service so far.
Customers on the outskirts of the company’s coverage area were struggling to get 1 mbps downloads. With DTVCast, some of those same customers are now connected at 10 mbps.
In its National Broadband Plan, the FCC is calling for minimum of 4 mbps down and 1 mbps up for all households.
“It’s a great low-cost solution to cover people that currently don’t have adequate Internet,” Leslie says. The CEO adds that the technology could be a viable solution for the estimated 15% of ITS customers that don’t have access to high-speed fiber, and even help expand the company’s reach into new areas.
In setting up the service, Kyle says, telcos may be able to tap government money from the Connect America Fund, a $10 billion pool that aims to bring broadband to rural America.
“It doesn’t make economic sense for a telco to lay down expensive fiber or even DSL for a low number of households,” he says. “Our solution can help the phone companies go after those subsidies and pay for our system.”
Kyle says the company is finalizing a deal with a major, nationwide telco, but declined to name the company, because the two parties are under a non-disclosure agreement.
The broadband-over-broadcast service could also be an extra revenue-generator, especially for low-power TV station operators who are looking to lease their spectrum.
Mark Aitken, VP of advanced technology for Sinclair Broadcast Group, says the groups is allowing DTVCast to use one of its Florida towers for testing.
“It’s certainly a creative use of the low-powered TV spectrum and infrastructure,” Aitken says. “Low-powered TV stations are prevalent where this service is filling the void because rural areas have a lack of high bandwidth broadband access.”
To kick off DTVCast Reach, the company will rely on the low-power spectrum DTV America already owns. “We looked at it and said, ‘Wow, this is a neat technology we developed for our spectrum,’ but this could be applicable to any TV station — low power or high power — in the country,” Kyle says.
As the business takes off, DTVCast will pitch its product to other LPTV owners. The company hired Brian Cobb, president of media brokerage Cobb Corb., as an adviser, mainly for his contacts within the industry. Cobb says he’s been introducing the DTVCast team to people in the industry, in addition to the some of the telcos.
“I think what they’ve got is the real deal,” Cobb says. “They’ve found a use for the spectrum, without going through any government auctions, that really provides something — especially for the low-power community — something for them to do with their frequencies.”
While DTVCast Reach is geared toward rural Americans, a 2.0 version of the technology, DTVCast Extreme, will be marketed in major markets as a content delivery network for companies like Netflix and Google.
Kyle declined to comment further about the next-generation of his product.