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DBS Hears Northpoint Noise

The Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association, along with leading direct-broadcast satellite members DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp., said last week that field tests showed that a proposed spectrum-sharing service from Northpoint Technology Ltd. would cause harmful interference to DBS operators.

DirecTV and EchoStar conducted interference tests from May 23 through June 7 in Oxon Hill, Md., using a replicated Northpoint terrestrial transmitter operating in the same 12-gigahertz band used by the DBS companies.

According to a report issued by the two companies, significant interference was recorded to signals from DBS birds at 61.5 degrees west longitude, 91 degrees west, 101 degrees west and 110 degrees west, with lower levels of interference noted for signals from 119 degrees west.

In typical DBS rain-fade situations, interference from a Northpoint service could cause DBS' picture losses to last for longer periods, the study reported.

In response, Northpoint said the tests did not use the parameters specified by Northpoint's technology, instead raising the power level until the DBS signal was lost, in a "test to failure" method. The company added that flat-panel DBS dishes could mitigate potential signal loss due to interference.

DBS operators previously tested and rejected flat-panel dishes because they "deliver lower performance at a higher cost," SBCA president Chuck Hewitt said in a prepared statement last Tuesday. "They will not provide meaningful mitigation."

Hewitt urged the Federal Communications Commission to deny Northpoint's application to share the spectrum. "In addition, we urge independent testing, under the commission's supervision, to independently verify Northpoint interference with DBS systems," he added.

Northpoint plans to offer competition to cable and DBS by launching its own broadband-terrestrial service through a network of local affiliates. The company hopes to offer television and Internet service in more than 210 television markets, with programming prices starting at $20 per month.