IBC 2014

Kaplan: World Is Watching Incentive Auction

If the incentive auction of TV spectrum is successful in the United States, governments and regulators from around the world will take notice and may implement similar measures, according to NAB’s Rick Kaplan.  

The United States is a “cautionary tale” for television broadcasters around the world when it comes to spectrum and the desire of lawmakers and spectrum regulators to reclaim bandwidth, warned Rick Kaplan, NAB’s EVP, strategic planning, during the “FOBTV” session Monday at IBC 2014.

Kaplan’s comment reflected the concern of many U.S. broadcasters and the industry association over the upcoming FCC incentive auction and repack.

If the incentive auction is successful in the United States, governments and regulators from around the world will take notice and may implement similar measures, he said.  

Kaplan was one of a full slate of presenters and panelists at the session put on by the Future of Broadcast Television, an organization of broadcasters, industry associations and research institutes on a mission to promote adoption of a common worldwide standard for digital television.

Joining Kaplan during the two-and-half hour session were: Rich Chernock, chief science officer of Triveni Digital and the chairman of ATSC’s Working Group developing the ATSC 3.0 next-generation digital television standard; Pete Klenner, research engineer, and Frank Hermann, project leader, Digital Broadcasting, Panasonic AVC, Langen Development Center;  Pablo Angueira, professor, Department of Communications Engineering, Bilbao Faculty of Engineering, University of Basque Country; Wenjun Zhang, chief scientist, National Engineering Research Center of Digital Television; Tomhiro Saito, NHK; and Phil Laven, chairman, Digital Video Broadcasting Project.

Kaplan told those in attendance that repacking U.S. television spectrum will — by NAB estimates — affect 1,000 full-power television stations; however, he added, it is “up in the air” whether the incentive auction will even work.


While the FCC has made it clear that it is not going to slow down the auction process, Kaplan said he expects a delay — perhaps until the end of 2015 or into 2016 — before the auction commences. However, that delay likely will be insufficient to sync up the government’s move to take back TV broadcast spectrum with completion of the ATSC 3.0 standard.

“We could have two transitions back-to-back,” he said. Appeals to the FCC to slow down the process to time the auction with acceptance of the standard “don’t seem to be doing much right now,” falling on deaf ears.

“The politics in the [U.S.] is that mobile broadband is No. 1,” he said.

“Broadcasters, generally have been slow to innovate,” said Kaplan, adding that has put them in a weaker position relative to the wireless industry.

The session kicked off with an update from Chernock about the ongoing work at ATSC on the 3.0 standard. Chernock said it has been decided that the modulation technique selected for 3.0 will “have an OFDM-based waveform.”

Other areas where consensus has been reached include: IP transport for broadcast delivery of streaming and file content; the use of ISOBMFF (ISO Base Media File Format) as a content format for streaming delivery; and HEVC, or High Efficiency Video Coding, as the standard’s initial compression algorithm. However, like so many things with 3.0, HEVC can be replaced with a new compression technology that’s not even on the drawing boards today at some point in the future, he said.

Similarly, those developing the standard are targeting 4K ultra-HD as its initial high-resolution image format for fixed location viewing. However, if demand for 8K materializes, the standard can support the higher-resolution format, he added.

The standard, which will not be backwards compatible with today’s ATSC format, will allow sound to render adaptively to whatever speaker environment is in the home and includes support for an immersive, user-definable experience.

Besides transmission to the home, ATSC 3.0 also will support mobile transmission to smartphones and tablets, he added.

Angueira, professor at the University of Basque Country, presented an update on the work he is doing on LDM, or Layered Division Multiplexing, as a way of enhancing the capacity of a transmission system.

LDM, which grew out of the concept behind cloud transmission of data, has undergone field testing to determine its performance. It also is one of the candidates in the running for a piece of the physical layer of ATSC 3.0.

Displaying images of single- and double-decker busses in his slide presentation, Angueira said broadcasters could decide how much data to assign to each layer.

Klenner’s presentation focused on Multiple Input-Multiple Output, or MIMO, as a way to enhance data carrying capacity of a broadcast transmission system. “Multiple antennas increase the data rate without bandwidth expansion,” he said.

He added that DVB-NGH is the first broadcast system to employ “pure” MIMO transmission and reception.

NHK’s Saito updated the audience on the Japanese Broadcasting Corp.’s efforts to deploy 8K ultra-HD television transmission and reception in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Zhang, who works with NERC-DTV in Shanghai, talked about the state of television today in China, and discussed the elements of a viable approach.

During the question-and-answer portion of the program, one audience member asked the speakers if FOBTV isn’t, in effect, working toward the ultimate demise of broadcast television by developing standards and systems that are so efficient that regulators will never stop taking back spectrum based on the premise that more TV can be transmitted in tighter allocations.

In response, Kaplan said broadcasters must demonstrate to lawmakers why they need their spectrum, and the best way to do that is through innovation. “Lawmakers can feel and touch [smartphones and tablets] as new developments come along,” he said. “We haven’t been able to prove that we can be as innovative,” he added.

Another question looked for the one technological reason the world has been unable to achieve a unified television broadcast standard.

Panelist looked as if they felt a bit uncomfortable, and for a long moment no answer was forthcoming. Encouraged by the discussion leader on stage to answer, the Digital Video Broadcasting Project’s Laven said there really isn’t a technology-related reason, attributing the fragmented world of TV transmission standards to the “not-built-here” perspective.

For more on IBC 2014, click here.

Comments (11)

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Ellen Samrock says:

September 16, 2014 at 1:28 am

Never mind the full powers. It’s going to adversely affect thousands of low power stations and translators. The full power stations have either auction participation or repacking reimbursement to look forward to. LPTV has nothing. We can thank the FCC Dems like Rosenworcel for that.

Bobbi Proctor says:

September 16, 2014 at 10:14 am

The FCC continues to be determined to destroy the broadcast TV service we enjoy today. The repacking idea will do great damage to our ability to watch a quality signal. The primary channels look great now but when too many programs are on the same channel there is a loss of quality. Has anyone at the FCC ever watched over-the-air television?

    Tanya Pavluchuk says:

    September 16, 2014 at 10:30 am

    ” Has anyone at the FCC ever watched over-the-air television?” No, they think we all pay for TV.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    September 16, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Like a badge of honor, little Julius proudly stated that neither he nor his family watched TV using an antenna. And if he didn’t nobody does it.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    September 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

    The main problem with repacking, Chuck, is adjacent channel (and in some cases co-channel) interference which will drastically reduce a station’s service contour. By law, the FCC has to preserve, to a reasonable degree, a TV station’s coverage (FP and Class A only). But it seems the agency is playing fast and loose with the definition of “reasonable.” Hence the NAB’s lawsuit. So the favorite station that you’re receiving with rabbit ears today, you more than likely will not be able to receive after the repack in the future…and may not even with an outdoor antenna. Plus we have the FCC’s disastrous idea of spectrum sharing, with wireless communication co-channeled with TV but in different cities, which will also cause interference if not spaced properly (and the needed spacing is so large that it becomes an inefficient use of spectrum). Your complaint about too many channels causing a loss in video quality has mostly to do with using MPEG 2, an archaic compression standard that will be replaced with H.264 or H.265 or something even newer when (and if) ATSC 3.0 is implemented.

    Bobbi Proctor says:

    September 17, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Thanks for your explanation. We are located between two major cities with most of our viewing from the closest one. When analog went away there is one channel that is the same in both cities and we often lose the one closest to us. I know it is because of the two stations being on the same channel as stations from the more distant city can be viewed on channels that are not common to both cities. This repacking based on our home viewing will be a disaster. An indoor antenna is not sufficient now. We do receive some nearer stations from a smaller community, but the choice is limited. A major network is offered as a second service by one of the stations, but the quality is not as good as watching that network on a station where it is the primary station. Things like MeTV where some of the programs are in black and white are fine as they were never HD in the first place.


September 16, 2014 at 12:46 pm

it won’t be successful and once again we will look foolish. If there is a way to screw it up, the FCC and our government will do it. This entire auction scenario will make Obama Care look like a well-oiled machine…

    Keith ONeal says:

    September 16, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Amen to that!

Keith ONeal says:

September 16, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I think that the wisest decision the FCC can make is to CANCEL this stupid auction NOW!!!

    Ellen Samrock says:

    September 16, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Auctioning off the 600 MHz band is stupid because now they are cutting into the muscle and bone of broadcast TV. Broadcast television will be effectively and permanently hamstrung. What is especially frustrating is that the Obama liberals who haunt the halls of the FCC don’t care. Many have a vested interest in seeing broadcast TV fall. The only thing they understand is an injunction and a lawsuit. If you’ve had a chance to read any of the petitions for reconsideration on GN 12-268 filed on the FCC CDBS a few of them have brought up some interesting legal problems concerning the auction and confiscation of spectrum and licenses that may play more of a central role as the auction and repack become increasingly challenged in the courts.

Bobbi Proctor says:

September 17, 2014 at 9:11 am

I sure hope the auction fails. It would cost us over $1,000 a year just to get TV if we couldn’t rely on an antenna. We have better things to use the money for and don’t want most of what we would “gain” and would lose some of what we have. We are not alone.