The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is on a multi-year mission to redistribute wireless spectrum in the United States, with plans to purchase some from TV broadcasters and auction it off to the cellular industry in mid-2015, so that wireless broadband can continue to proliferate. How well will broadcasters be able to serve their customers without their full six megahertz of spectrum, though? That will be the focus of a new pilot program in Los Angeles, California.
In April, 2012, the FCC announced new rules to let two or more TV stations share a single band of spectrum, and today the cellular industry has announced that it has found two volunteers. Pending FCC approval, Los Angeles TV stations KCLS and KJLA will both broadcast their content simultaneously over a single digital stream, trying out a variety of combinations of HD and SD content to figure out how viable spectrum sharing really is.
"There will be no impact to KJLA's and KLCS' viewers during this test."
As you'd expect from an organization which represents the cellular industry, the CTIA already believes the trial will be a success. "There will be no impact to KJLA's and KLCS' viewers during this test," reads the association's press release.
The FCC also seems tentatively happy with the idea: "Channel-sharing represents a unique option for broadcasters that wish to continue to broadcast over-the-air programming, while also taking advantage of the incentive auction's once-in-a-lifetime financial opportunity. We welcome this pilot project proposal, and look forward to reviewing it closely," said the organization in a statement.
The National Association of Broadcasters, however, which represents the TV stations, seems to be sending mixed messages. On the one hand, the NAB told FierceWireless that the association is looking forward to the results of the trial, and will try to help out if it can. "We will continue to work with any interested parties to make the process as simple as possible should stations seek to go this route," NAB communications boss Dennis Wharton told the publication.
"We want broadcasters to know that sharing means separating themselves from the future of broadcast television."
But two weeks ago, NAB president Gordon Smith told Broadcasting & Cable that he thought spectrum sharing wasn't a great idea.
"We want broadcasters to know that sharing means separating themselves from the future of broadcast television, by which I mean mobile, 4K, 8K [new HD formats] and multicasting. You are going to need 6 MHz to do that."