Connect with us


Commissioners Welcome DTV Delay, but Concerns Remain on Consumer Outreach

WASHINGTON, February 5, 2009 – The three members of the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday expressed relief over Congress’ Wednesday passage of legislation delaying the date of the digital television transition from February 17 to June 12.



WASHINGTON, February 5, 2009 – The three members of the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday expressed relief over Congress’ Wednesday passage of legislation delaying the date of the digital television transition from February 17 to June 12.

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps did not present any “grand plan” of action for the next four months, but said at a monthly meeting that it was still important to “take stock of where we are” and assess what kind of efforts will be necessary to create a “new and effective game plan.”

The DTV Delay Act was pushed by advisors to President Obama, and the president is expected to shortly sign the legislation. Former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin had opposed – as had the consumer electronic industry – although his predecessors Michael Powell and Bill Kennard joined Obama in seeking a short extension.

Copps, a Democrat, said it had “long been clear…that we were not ready for a nationwide transition on February 17.”

Copps welcomed the commitments of broadcasters to “step up to the plate” and keep their analog signals on the air until the new transition date.

By keeping their analog signals up until June, Copps praised broadcasters as “truly serving the public interest.” But the delay should not be used by anyone to “take a break,” he warned.

Instead, Copps stressed the need for all stakeholders to “redouble our efforts” and work together to make the transition successful. “Working together, we can make a huge difference for consumers.”

With the new delay, “unprecedented cooperation is finally underway,” said Commissioner Jonathan Adelsten, a Democrat. He said prior efforts on the DTV transition were “not ready for prime time.”

Adelstein said he remained “deeply concerned” about the availability of enough converter boxes – as well as whether FCC-sponsored DTV outreach call centers are delivering a consistent quality of service.

Outreach efforts should initially target at-risk communities, but in the coming months they should shift to a “nationally coordinated, but locally based grassroots effort” targeting all affected consumers, Adelstein said.

The transition will be “messy, regardless of when it happens,” said Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican. McDowell noted that he had been warning about potential problems for some time now, and welcomed the extra time Congress has given broadcasters and consumers to prepare. “Now is not the time to play the Washington blame game,” he said.

McDowell also expressed concern that there were two million Americans on a waiting list for government sponsored coupons.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which administers the coupon box program, also welcomed the additional time presented by the delay, Acting NTIA Administrator Anna Gomez said in a statement.

Acknowledging the need for improvements in the coupon program, Gomez stressed that NTIA could not provide more coupons without additional budget authority.

The extra four months would allow for more outreach by the commissioners, said FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Chief Cathy Seidel. Seidel praised the FCC’s efforts leading up to the transition, and suggested that continuing the same kinds of programs in the interval before the new transition date would be helpful in alleviating remaining concerns.

With adequate funding, the backlog in the government’s DTV converter box coupon could be cleared in approximately three weeks, said NTIA Consumer Education Director Tony Wilhelm said. Despite fears of shortages, Wilhelm told Adelstein that retailers have been a “great partner” in helping to execute the coupon program so far.

The new cutoff date could pose unintended consequences, Seidel said. Consumers could interpret the delay as a reason to not take action, she said. Putting out a clear message to consumers about the new transition date will be a major concern, she said. “There is no downside to acting now.”

Wilhelm similarly cautioned the commissioners that consumers whose coupons have expired need to be informed that they will be allowed to have them re-issued. But re-issuing coupons will require time to complete a new rulemaking process, he said.

NTIA is currently in discussions to cut down on the three week turnaround time required to issue new coupons, it will take until at least early April until those new coupons could hit the mail, he said.

Even in a “best case scenario,” millions of people could be left in the dark, McDowell warned, given the number of available coupons and capacity of the NTIA’s factory.

McDowell expressed dismay over a “lack of ownership” for outreach in many individual markets, asking Seidel why every community did not have someone who could “crack the whip” on broadcasters and other stakeholders.

Closer coordination between the FCC and broadcasters would be extremely helpful during the next four months, Seidel said.

Broadcasters have spent $1.2 billion in consumer education, said NAB President David Rehr. Broadcasters “stand ready” to assist the FCC in informing consumers of the new June 12 date, he said. NAB is taking “immediate action” to distribute new public service announcements to stations. The association will host a webcast for stations tomorrow to discuss the change.

The FCC can also take action to help, Rehr said. Among his suggestions were an improved FCC DTV hotline and coordination of consumer outreach between the FCC, NTIA, NAB and the DTV Transition Coalition, along with the continuing participation of the FCC as unofficial “DTV czar.”

The FCC should continue to cooperate with stations that do make the switch before June 12, Rehr added.

Outreach efforts should be tailored to individual states, said National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations president Dennis Lyle. Lyle cautioned against a “one size fits all” approach, but praised local stations and state associations for spearheading efforts at consumer outreach.

Rehr dismissed a question from McDowell expressing concern over a lack of local accountability and emphasized that NAB was operating a successful national campaign.

McDowell immediately disagreed. “I’ve been yelled at in too many communities,” he said, noting while many consumers may be aware that “something is happening,” they may not know exactly what.

McDowell repeated his concern over lack of local accountability, citing a town hall where he was chastised regarding consumer confusion over the cable industry’s separate transition to digital signals. McDowell attributed this to poor outreach and education efforts.

“There needs to be ownership of each [designated market area],” McDowell said, emphasizing that different areas of the country have different sets of problems. “There are only 210 [markets]…it’s not that hard.”

The state associations have “the pulse” on what is going on, Lyle said. However, he told McDowell that broadcasters were loathe to cooperate for fear of inviting antitrust problems. But McDowell quickly quashed Lyle’s argument against industry cooperation, pointing out that despite the advice of antitrust counsel, “if the government mandates something…it’s not collusion.”

Consumers Union’s Joel Kelsey applauded the “modest” extension. Consumers Union is “heartened to see the FCC acting swiftly and decisively to begin taking advantage of the extended deadline,” he said.

With the new cutoff date, non-profits, business and the government can work together to better help consumers navigate the transition, he said.

The market for converter boxes has responded to the new cutoff date, said CEA Vice President Michael Petricone. The worst case scenario, he said, is if the available inventory of boxes is the lowest estimate of three million. It is more likely that the actual inventory of six million boxes will be enough to meet demand by the time new coupons are issued, he said.

Manufacturing of converter boxes resumes at full speed in anticipation of the new transition date, he said. Petricone said that while there could possibly be a temporary shortage of converter boxes, accelerated manufacturing processes will ensure that an adequate supply will be available by April when the new round of coupon funding is in place.

Broadband Breakfast Club

Don’t miss the Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday, February 10, 2009, with Donald C. Brittingham (Verizon Communications), Tom DeRiggi (Rapid DSL & Wireless), John Kneuer (formerly of NTIA), John Muleta (M2Z Networks) and Steve B. Sharkey (Motorola) on “The Role of Wireless Frequencies in Widespread Broadband Deployment” at the Old Ebbitt Grill, from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.

Webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club Produced in Partnership with:

TV Mainstream

Andrew Feinberg was the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.


Sen. Mark Warner Says He’ll Push to Make ‘Rip and Replace’ Funding a Priority

$1.5B Innovation Fund money must focus on O-Ran, senator says.



Photo of Senator Mark Warner, D-VA.

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2023 – Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said Thursday that Congress needs to do more to ensure a fund intended to replace technologies in the country’s communications networks deemed a national security risk is replenished.

“We need more,” Warner said, responding to a question during his keynote speech at an event hosted by law firm Hogan Lovells about open radio access networks. Warner is the chair of the Senate select committee on intelligence and subcommittee on national security, and is a member of the budget committee and global competitiveness.

“[I’m] trying to make sure that that becomes enough of a priority,” Warner added. “We need to do it.”

The Federal Communications Commission was granted $1.9 billion for the rip and replace program as required by the Secure Networks Act. The program is intended to reimburse providers for removing perceived problematic gear, largely from Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE, from their networks.

But the FCC has already identified a roughly $3 billion shortfall in the funds because requests from applicants far exceeded the amounts available. In January, the commission said in a report that nearly half of respondents required to submit status reports on their replacement efforts complained about a lack of funding.

Industry associations, including the Competitive Carriers Association and the Rural Wireless Association, have raised the issue to the FCC for months. The fact that the omnibus spending bill didn’t include rip and replace funding apparently “stunned” the Telecommunications Industry Association.

Warner’s comments came during a discussion on open and interoperable radio access networks, or O-RAN, which experts and officials said would lead to better security for the country’s networks. O-RAN is expected to allow providers use different vendors in their radio networks instead of relying on proprietary technologies from specific companies.

Specifically, Warner touched on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s $1.5 billion Innovation Fund grant program, which is principally intended to promote open technologies and to seek alternatives to Chinese wireless products, which are attractive because of their relatively lower prices. The funds were provided by the Chips and Science Act of 2022.

But Warner warned that funding could get lost in other priorities.

“We need to make sure that this money is spent on O-RAN deployment and not simply cyber training under a different name, so I still got work to do with the administration,” Warner said. “I need your help and support on that,” he told the crowd of experts, which included global telecoms.

Warner said there needs to be more American company involvement in international standard-setting bodies, especially for O-RAN, so that there are existing alternatives to problematic company products.

He also said there needs to be more test sites for O-RAN, such as in India. “We need more markets to try this out,” he said of O-RAN.

“We need to push, both domestically and around the world, on more test beds to try out this technology as we see it rolled out…we need to test it.

“The [Chinese Communist Party] is not playing for second place.”

Continue Reading


John Cinicolo: The Benefits of Deploying Small Cells in the Next Phase of 5G

The true benefits of 5G are delivered with millimeter wavelength frequencies of 24 GigaHertz and above.



The author of this Expert Opinion is John Cinicolo, who leads Tillman Digital Cities’ Technical Operations.

The digital divide continues to grow, but a solution may be here: small cells. As we enter into the next phase of 5G, cell carriers need to understand the importance of deploying small cells to increase connectivity and help close the digital gap that many Americans are facing. Here’s how small cells can help bridge the digital divide and what impact they will have on communities and the overall infrastructure market.

While 5G can be deployed across all frequency bands, the true benefits are delivered with mmWave (24 GigaHertz and above) frequencies.  These frequencies support increased data bandwidth and speed over a smaller, dense user environment.  In this context, 5G mmWave small cells are ideal as a targeted overlay for high bandwidth areas where 4G provides only the foundation of service.

At these frequencies, the benefits of 5G mmWave small cells include:

  • High data rates/bitrate
  • Very low latency
  • Wide channel bandwidth for higher data capacity
  • Small sized advanced antenna systems to implement high performance Massive-MIMO, RF Beamforming and Radio Frequency Beam Steering

However, the tradeoffs of 5G mmWave small cells include:

  • Smaller coverage area due to Radio Frequency propagation characteristics, i.e. poor wall penetration
  • Fronthaul requirements for high data capacity and throughput
  • Handset designs required to support Radio Frequency benefits, i.e. Massive-MIMO antenna.

As 4G evolved, many enhancements were implemented such as MIMO and carrier aggregation, which improved performance. The additional performance improvements of 5G are somewhat dependent on frequency bands. At low bands (sub 3 GHz) the performance benefits over 4G are relatively minor since these bands have narrower channel bandwidth with a slower data rate.  Coverage area is larger at these frequencies which is a benefit for use on macro towers.  However, since antenna designs are a function of frequency, Massive-MIMO features require a relatively large and heavy antenna array which is not generally practical, so there are limitations in the implementation of those Radio Frequency enhancements.

The availability of Midband frequencies (3-6 GHz) has improved this, which includes C-Band and Auction 110 frequencies in the 3.4 GHz to 4 GHz range in the U.S.  These frequencies offer a balance of coverage and performance including a wide channel bandwidth, but do not match the low latency and high data rate characteristics of mmWave.  5G deployment in this frequency range is practical in areas where total data throughput demand is high and coverage area requirements are moderate, so fewer small cells are required in this frequency compared to mmWave.

mmWave small cells provide the highest performance of 5G and are ideal for concentrated areas of high traffic and/or low latency requirements.  The hardware is smaller in size due to the Radio Frequency design characteristics which reduces deployment restrictions and aesthetics.  Due to its small coverage area this service would typically be targeted as an overlay of 4G service.

Overall, the implementation of 5G small cells must consider the frequency bands and their capabilities in order to meet the performance needs of the targeted area.

How small cells can mitigate local concerns of larger towers being developed

Radio Frequency characteristics are a key factor for determining macro network densification.  For example, tall towers using low bands can serve a large coverage area, but that also means that its capacity is shared over that larger area. This is ideal for rural areas with low user density, but not so much for dense urban areas.  Small cells are needed to further densify the mobile networks in areas where the coverage area and corresponding traffic demand is in line with the solution being designed.

As the frequency range increases, the size of antennas decreases.  For example, a Massive MIMO antenna for a low band tower can be over 6 feet tall, yet the size of a postage stamp in a mmWave small cell is much smaller  Therefore, higher frequency small cells can be more easily concealed, especially with mmWave small cells, and can be more easily approved by local entities.

The cellular infrastructure market in 2023

Tillman Digital Cities is focused on supporting mobile carriers in densifying their networks where they need it most: indoors.  As we know, the majority of mobile calls are made indoors yet mobile coverage is generally more challenging.  This is further impacted by new building construction materials for energy efficiency and LEED certification where Low-E glass significantly attenuates Radio Frequency signal penetration, resulting in poor indoor signal levels from the outdoor towers.

The challenge for mobile carriers is how to solve this problem for the vast majority of buildings that fall below their priorities which are driven most often by venue size.  TDC’s approach to solve this indoor mobile coverage and capacity problem includes leveraging newer technologies that are more economical to deploy.  This allows us to offer innovative and cost-effective options to both the mobile carriers and the real estate owners where TDC owns and manages these solutions over their lifespan including upgrades to new technologies and services.  We see the increasing demand for indoor service, both coverage and capacity, across all venue types.

John Cinicolo leads Tillman Digital Cities’ Technical Operations function including solution architecture, technology strategy, program execution and technical services.  Cinicolo has more than 35 years of experience building mobile technology business around the world in leadership roles with global network infrastructure provides and entrepreneurial startups.  He holds a Bachelors of Engineering in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Continue Reading


Industry Dissent on Whether Spectrum Sharing is Sustainable

Experts disagree on the capabilities of spectrum sharing, particularly the CBRM model.



Photo of Colleen King of Charter Communications, John Hunter of T-Mobile, and Matthew Hussey of Ericsson (left to right)

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2023 – Industry leaders disagreed on the capabilities of spectrum sharing and its future in the United States at a Federal Communications Bar Association event Wednesday. 

Dynamic spectrum sharing – a technology that allows for 4G, LTE, and 5G wireless to be used in the same frequency bands – is essential to a successful national spectrum strategy, said Jennifer McCarthy of Federated Wireless.  

Establishing a combination of access points for one frequency band can open its availability for all prospective users, she continued, touting the success of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service established by the Federal Communications Commission in 2012. 

CBRS is the spectrum in the 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz band which is shared through a three-tiered framework. Access to the spectrum is managed by a dynamic spectrum access system where incumbent users have protected access, priority access users enter through competitive auction, and general authorized access is given to a broad pool of users when not in use by others.  

Representative of T-Mobile, John Hunter, disagreed, claiming that dynamic spectrum sharing means there is less power available for technologies, particularly on higher frequencies that don’t propagate very far despite power disparities. As such, deploying the CBRS framework at scale across the country is not cost-feasible, he said. 

We should not conclude to share just for the sake of sharing, he said, particularly because it will decrease utility of the band so much that it will decline quality of networks down the line. “In many cases, sharing just outright won’t work,” said Hunter.  

Colleen King, vice president of regulatory affairs at Charter Communications, pushed against the argument that dynamic sharing’s lower power will stop providers from providing great service, claiming that it instead allows for more carriers to provide great service. In fact, the CBRS auction had 228 winning bids, 10 times the amount of other spectrum auctions, she said. 

The FCC’s Communications Marketplace Report showed that in one market where Verizon is using the CBRS framework, the company is providing “much faster speeds” than its other markets, King cited. Charter will use the CBRS system for its spectrum uses, she said. 

Panelists nevertheless agreed on the importance of maintaining US leadership in the spectrum space by developing a national spectrum strategy to address sharing issues. 

The panel followed considerable debate over spectrum allocation, sharing, and expansion. Earlier this week, industry leaders suggested that the allocation process be updated in preparation for future disputes. Additionally, debate continues over whether 5G operations can be shared on the 12 GHz spectrum with satellite service providers.  

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast News

Broadband Breakfast Research Partner