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For Spectrum, Broadcasters EyeBetter Standards and Practices

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U.S. broadcasters may be facing the upcoming FCC auctions, but they won’t be the only ones worrying about spectrum issues at IBC2013, as regulators in a number of other areas are also eyeing ways to recapture some broadcast frequencies.

“Better use of terrestrial spectrum is a global issue,” says Bill Hayes, VP of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Broadcast Technology Society. “So there are a number of standards organizations that are working on improvements to make terrestrial broadcast more effective and to provide a more interactive, dynamic experience for consumers.”

That will make new standards promising more efficient use of spectrum and better transmission technologies particularly hot topics in Amsterdam at this week’s convention.

On the standards front, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), European Broadcast Union, Future of Broadcast Television, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and other groups will give presentations and participate on panels related to new broadcast standards.

Fight for Global Harmony

ATSC president Mark Richer says members of the group will present papers during IBC—including one on its work on the ATSC 3.0 standard. Richer says ATSC has received preliminary proposals for how the standard will deal with over-the-air transmission or the so-called “physical layer.” Detailed proposals are due Sept. 27.

“There will be a lot of discussion on how we can harmonize [standards] from around the world and come to as much commonality as possible,” Richer says.

SMPTE will also be active at the market, with around 60 members speaking. Executive director Barbara Lange notes they will issue a report on Ultra HD and have started work with the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement on open standards to better identify ads and measure viewing on multiple platforms.

The push for improved transmission is not, however, limited to standards that will take years to make their way into the market. “There will be a lot of focus on improving the operational cost of transmitters,” says Stan Moote, VP of business development at Harris Broadcast, who adds that stations are increasingly looking at power consumption for transmitters and the infrastructure around it.

During IBC, Harris will show several products that promise to reduce power consumption. “When you look at the power savings over three to five years, you have essentially bought yourself a new transmitter,” Moote says.

These transmitters also offer more flexible ways of using spectrum, which will simplify the process of changing frequencies after the FCC holds its auctions and repacks spectrum. “You can get the improved efficiency today and not have to worry about the impact of repacking,” Moote adds.

Transmission gear is also in high demand internationally, as many developing countries make the digital transition, says Pascal Veillat, president of Thomson Broadcast, which will announce deals at IBC and has a six-month backlog of orders. “There is a lot of transmission equipment that will have to be replaced in the next few years,” Veillat says.