TECH SPOTLIGHT

DTVCast Aims To Broadcast Broadband

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.

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.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

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.


Comments (11)

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Ellen Samrock says:

September 12, 2013 at 11:04 am

The cost of the box could be a turn off unless it was included in a one year contract or the service was under $25 a month. As it is, high speed internet in my area is running anywhere between 40-50 dollars a month. But this is a great idea with a lot of potential and shows the tremendous flexibility inherent in the digital broadcast signal. Let’s hope soon-to-be chairman Tom Wheeler and the rest of the FCC agree.

Colin MacCourtney says:

September 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm

This is an innovative use of the LPTV spectrum. However, as consumers increasingly use streaming video, how many simultaneous streams, during Prime Time, can be supported by a 19.4 mbs downstream feed using an LPTV station’s spectrum.

QUESTION: How do consumers upstream content, like videos they want to post to YouTube, or that Skype connection with relatives?

    Wagner Pereira says:

    September 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Take the 19.39 Mbps and divide by the 10 Mbps (or faster) stated in the story for your answer (and that is with no video/audio on the main channel!, lol). UPLOAD: telephone.

Tony Alexander says:

September 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm

OMG, as if this has not been done before!!! Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Don’t invest in this.

    Gary Epstein says:

    September 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I am curious about your post, can you please elaborate? When/where has this been done? I’m hoping you’re not just trolling and have something helpful to offer.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    September 12, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Just another broadcast-hating troll (you wonder why they bother posting here). You won’t get any elaboration because there isn’t any to give. The DTVCast is fully compatible with ATSC 1.0, so it can be implemented now with current 8VSB equipment (but only on the UHF band).

Joe P. says:

September 12, 2013 at 1:16 pm

http://www.dtvcast.com/media

Tony Alexander says:

September 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Some of those who have tried this or something very similar are as follows:
Clear Channel Television (this is the television station company and not the current company and before Clear Channel Television was purchased by a private equity firm) tried this at WKRC in Cincinnati (perhaps at other stations as well). The person who was in charge of this was Mike DeClue who was the engineer at Clear Channel at that time. This was using the DTV channel for Internet access. I have lost contact with Mike, but he’s one of many who are very aware of these kinds of projects. This project existed in about 2001 or 2002 at Clear Channel.
iBlast (which was a consortium of several broadcasters) tried something similar to this. The iBlast web site is still active. Admittedly, their concept was slightly different than simply Internet access, but similar in the sense that it was using unused bits in the DTV stream to broadcast rich multimedia content.
There was another firm that also tried something similar to this in Salt Lake City but I don’t recall the name of the company.
Others were companies like Geocast (similar to what was done by iBlast) and Datacast.
This is not a case of the concept not working from a technical perspective. It can and does work despite all of the hand wringing about supporting several streams at once. It does work technically. This has nothing to do with ATSC 1.0 or 9.4. The concept fails because of business issues. I don’t know all of the business issues, but some of them are as follows:
1. It is very difficult to build scale here and will be even more difficult when it is being done by LPTV. In wired broadband the cable or fiber is strung down streets and roads and the subs are connected to the cable or fiber. In broadcasting the customers are all over the coverage area so it is difficult to support them. It is even difficult to explain to the unsophisticated whether the service will work in their location or not. In other words, when answering calls, can you accurately predict that the person will get the service? This is not the case with wired systems. Since there is no scale, it is very difficult to market and promote this. Yes, you might get a telecom company to help with marketing, but if it is successful the telecom company will take the business. The back office stuff is a nightmare. Again because there is no scale, it is nearly impossible to market it even market-wide let alone nationwide.
2. One of the major issues in all of these attempts is the customer care that is needed to get people “connected” and to keep them connected. Customer care is the death of some of these businesses. Broadcasters don’t know customer care at all. They are not used to providing customer care services; they really cannot do it and to do it right is incredibly expensive and technically challenging. Broadcasters don’t know what a CSR is.
3. If, by chance, you can build scale on the LPTV model (which I doubt), then the broadband providers (cable, satellite, wireless, telcos) will come in and eat the broadcast business alive. This is not a long term business. Broadband is becoming like air and is a commodity so the chances of keeping this business going are slim and none.
4. I have heard before that telecom companies are interested in this and yes, they may even participate in trials, but they hate the customer care support that is required for this kind of effort. They definitely don’t want to be supporting different kinds of broadband services through one customer care center. They already do enough of that between wired broadband and wireless broadband.
5. The STB is way, way too expensive. It has to be at $100 or less. Ideally, it is free.
6. Mark Aitken is quoted in the article and he is great and knows tons about this, BUT I suspect that Mark is supporting this because it is another way to delay giving up spectrum. Mark and others can say: “look over here at these genius LPTV broadcasters; they are using their spectrum to provide Internet access to poor people. Who can be against that?” The LPTV guys have been looking for the NEXT BIG THING that will save their investments. This is the NEXT BIG THING. Another expert on this is Sam Matheny. Or still others would be Tom Paquin or Charlie Jablonski.

    Franz Moser says:

    September 13, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Thank you Broadbandisbest for admitting that these type of technologies do work in your comments. Not only do they work, we have improved upon the examples you gave to make it a better product. The technology you are referring to was called DeltaV. It was a nightmare to support because it was a PC based solution which was dependent on PC software, attached tuners and all the associated issues that come with loading software into a myriad of disparate PC machines. We are establishing a “continuously online” bi-directional communication path terminating in an Ethernet port through which the customers data will flow. It’s functionality is consistent with that of a cable modem set-top box including the fact it is network managed by the service provider’s NOC not the individual end user as in the PC based example thus dramatically reducing operational overhead.

    Additionally, we are not advocating broadcasters convert to learning the ISP business with all of it’s associated networking support requirements. This solution is tailored towards the EXISTING telecom operators who cannot cost effectively reach their existing customer base which sits just outside the operational distance limitations of their DSL network. It is an alternative last mile reach to the typical geographically dispersed communities found throughout rural America.

Meagan Zickuhr says:

September 13, 2013 at 4:32 pm

This is nothing new for SpectrumEvolution.org. We’ve been pitching & trying to do this for years now. Check out this article from January 2011 – http://www.spectrumevolution.org/politico-article-fcc-broadcasters-not-on-same-wavelength

    Marnie Roozen says:

    September 13, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    So why is that dtvcast actually says they are using the technology and spectrum evolution has just been talking about it for two years?


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