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Blockbuster Movies May Boost Emerging 3-D Services

LONDON, March 31, 2010 – The runaway success of the digitally dazzling movies Avatar and Alice in Wonderland has boosted hopes among satellite and cable television operators that their emerging 3-D services will gain significant traction despite the high cost for the TV set and goggles. However, more 3-D means greater use of already scarce broadband.



LONDON, March 31, 2010 – The runaway success of the digitally dazzling movies Avatar and Alice in Wonderland has boosted hopes among satellite and cable television operators that their emerging 3-D services will gain significant traction despite the high cost for the TV set and goggles.

Those films showed that 3-D technology can add depth and power to the visual experience, which is an important step toward adoption of 3-D TV, at least when the price comes down, according to Richard Broughton, senior analyst at the London-based TV specialist research firm Screen Digest.

“Pay-TV companies are keen to use this publicity to their advantage,” said Broughton. “Without such major budget films really highlighting the state of 3-D technology, it is unlikely that 3-D would have reached such a high point in consumer mindsets.”

From the TV perspective, the films timed nicely with the impending soccer World Cup, which will be used to showcase 3-D, particularly in Europe where there are a number of participating countries in the event.

“Sports were a critical factor for [high-definition] uptake,” Broughton said. Another major European sports championship two years ago prompted uptake of HD TV by many households. It’s no coincidence that many of the first HD channels to be launched by platforms are sports channels.

Pictures in three dimensions are likely to follow the same trend, according to Broughton. Sky TV has plans for HD channels and is rolling out a range of 3-D screens to a number of public venues in time for the World Cup. Sky is launching its first 3D channel in the United Kingdom in April timed for the World Cup, planning to follow with a more robust range of 3-D programming later this year.

However, there are still doubts whether 3-D TV really is ripe for widespread consumer acceptance — even if the prices do come down — because it still relies on goggles.

While people are happy to wear goggles to watch a movie occasionally, it is doubtful whether many will be willing to don them on a regular basis.

Goggles currently are needed to simulate the way the human brain creates 3-D image, by presenting each eye with slightly offset images. By contrast, traditional 2-D TV, including HD, is just a fast changing sequence of 2-D still images, relying just on perspective within each frame to convey depth.

The major TV makers have been working on “goggle-less” technology, but have so far failed to translate this into a screen that works without creating headaches or visual problems.

“There are a number of concerns regarding perceived image quality and comfort of viewing for auto stereoscopic (goggle-less) technologies which means that for the near future, 3D televisions requiring glasses are likely to take front stage,” said Broughton.

The problem lies in the way the human visual cortex has evolved to process offset binocular images, which is hard to cater for accurately in an artificial flat screen system. The result is that some people suffer from the same sort of problems caused by wearing someone else’s glasses, for example.

Such problems emerged during the testing of Philips’ 3-D TV, due for launch in summer 2010. Originally this was going to be goggle-less, but after causing visual discomfort among many testers trials will now be introduced with viewing glasses.

Which ever viewing technology is adopted, 3-D TV is going to soak up even more bandwidth than HD, causing further problems for broadband service providers.

It is no surprise that satellite and cable operators are coming out first with 3-D services, which generally consume twice as much bandwidth per channel as 1080p HD, which is the the highest resolution HD category. The 1080p already generates twice as much data as 1080i or 720p HD, the format used by many existing HD services.

In effect, each eye needs its own channel for 3-D. Given that the whole point of 3-D is to deliver the highest quality viewing experience possible, there is little point having anything less than the best HD for each eye. This may be transmitted at around 16 megabits per second with the latest H.264 compression. However, developers and manufacturers are concerned about sacrificing too much quality in the process.

Broadband operators would have to upgrade their digital subscriber line networks to VDSL2 to deliver 3-D. Even then they may run out of headroom when they deliver multiple channels, while their cable and satellite competitors are better placed with more broadcast spectrum.

Over time, further improvements in management of the electromagnetic spectrum over copper, combined with greater fiber penetration will enable broadband operators to deliver multichannel 3-D. Meanwhile, some players in the 3-D community may be hoping that mass acceptance will be delayed by the continuing problems getting goggle-less technology to work.

It may be crystal clear if this is the case when the World Cup is over.

Philip Hunter is a London based technology reporter specialising in broadband platforms and their use to access high speed services and digital entertainment. He has written extensively for European publications about emerging broadband services and the issues surrounding deployment and access for over 10 years, with a technical background in ICT systems development and testing.

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FCC Proposes Notification Rules for 988 Suicide Hotline Lifeline Outages

The proposal would ensure providers give ‘timely and actionable information’ on 988 outages.



Photo via Health and Human Services

WASHINGTON, January 26, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission unanimously adopted a proposal to require operators of the 988 mental health crisis line to report outages, which would “hasten service restoration and enable officials to inform the public of alternate ways to contact the 988 Lifeline.”

The proposal would ensure providers give “timely and actionable information” on 988 outages that last at least 30 minutes to the Health and Human Services’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the 988 Lifeline administrator, and the FCC.

The commission is also asking for comment on whether cable, satellite, wireless, wireline and interconnected voice-over-internet protocol providers should also be subject to reporting and notification obligations for 988 outages.

Other questions from the commission include costs and benefits of the proposal and timelines for compliance, it said.

The proposal would align with similar outage protocols that potentially affect 911, the commission said.

The notice comes after a nationwide outage last month affected the three-digit line for hours. The line received over two million calls, texts, and chat messages since it was instituted six months ago, the FCC said.

The new line was established as part of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, signed into law in 2020.

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FCC Eliminates Use of Urban-Rural Database for Healthcare Telecom Subsidies

The commission said the database that determined healthcare subsidies had cost ‘anomalies.’



WASHINGTON, January 26, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission adopted a measure Thursday to eliminate the use of a database that determined the differences in telecommunications service rates in urban and rural areas that was used to provide funding to health care facilities for connectivity.

The idea behind the database, which was adopted by the commission in 2019, was to figure out the cost difference between similar broadband services in urban and rural areas in a given state so the commission’s Telecom Program can subsidize the difference to ensure connectivity in those areas, especially as the need for telehealth technology grows.

But the commission has had to temporarily provide waivers to the rules due to inconsistencies with how the database calculated cost differences. The database included rural tiers that the commission said were “too broad and did not accurately represent the cost of serving dissimilar communities.”

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel gave an example at Thursday’s open meeting of the database calculating certain rural services being cheaper than in urban areas, when the denser latter areas are generally less expensive.

As such, the commission Thursday decided to revert the methods used to determine Telecom Program support to before the 2019 database order until it can determine a more sustainable method. The database rescission also applies to urban cost determinations.

“Because the Rates Database was deficient in its ability to set adequate rates, we find that restoration of the previous rural rate determination rules, which health care providers have continued to use to determine rural rates in recent funding years under the applicable Rates Database waivers, is the best available option pending further examination in the Second Further Notice, to ensure that healthcare providers have adequate, predictable support,” the commission said in the decision.

Healthcare providers are now permitted to reuse one of three rural rates calculations before the 2019 order: averaging the rates that the carrier charges to other non-health care provider commercial customers for the same or similar services in rural areas; average rates of another service provider for similar services over the same distance in the health care provider’s area; or a cost-based rate approved by the commission.

These calculations are effective for the funding year 2024, the commission said. “Reinstating these rules promotes administrative efficiency and protects the Fund while we consider long-term solutions,” the commission said.

The new rules are in response to petitions from a number of organizations, including Alaska Communications; the North Carolina Telehealth Network Association and Southern Ohio Health Care Network; trade association USTelecom; and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“The FCC listened to many of our suggestions, and we are especially pleased that the Commission extended the use of existing rates for an additional year to provide applicants more certainty,” John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition, said in a statement.

Comment on automating rate calculation

The commission is launching a comment period to develop an automated process to calculate those rural rates by having the website of the Universal Service Administrative Company – which manages programs of the FCC – “auto-generate the rural rate after the health care and/or service provider selects sites that are in the same rural area” as the health care provider.

The commission is asking questions including whether this new system would alleviate administrative burdens, whether there are disadvantages to automating the rate, and whether there should be a challenge process outside of the normal appeals process.

The Telecom Program is part of the FCC’s Rural Health Care program that is intended to reduce the cost of telehealth broadband and telecom services to eligible healthcare providers.

Support for satellite services

The commission is also proposing that a cap on Telecom Program funding for satellite services be reinstated. In the 2019 order, a spending cap on satellite services was lifted because the commission determined that costs for satellite services were decreasing as there were on-the-ground services to be determined by the database.

But the FCC said costs for satellite services to health care service providers has progressively increased from 2020 to last year.

“This steady growth in demand for satellite services appears to demonstrate the need to reinstitute the satellite funding cap,” the commission said. “Without the constraints on support for satellite services imposed by the Rates Database, it appears that commitments for satellite services could increase to an unsustainable level.”

Soon-to-be health care providers funding eligibility

The FCC also responded to a SHLB request that future health care provider be eligible for Rural Health Care subsidies even though they aren’t established yet.

The commission is asking for comment on a proposal to amend the RHC program to conditionally approve “entities that are not yet but will become eligible health care providers in the near future to begin receiving” such program funding “shortly after they become eligible.”

Comments on the proposals are due 30 days after it is put in the Federal Register.

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Digital Inclusion

Broadband Breakfast Interview With Michael Baker’s Teraira Snerling and Samantha Garfinkel

Digital Equity provisions are central to state broadband offices’ plans to implement the bipartisan infrastructure law.



Digital Equity provisions are central to state broadband offices’ plans to implement the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grant program under the bipartisan infrastructure law.

In this interview with Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, Michael Baker International Broadband Planning Consultants Teraira Snerling and Samantha Garfinkel go into detail about the role of Digital Equity Act plans in state broadband programs.

Michael Baker International, a leading provider of engineering and consulting services, including geospatial, design, planning, architectural, environmental, construction and program management, has been solving the world’s most complex challenges for over 80 years.

Its legacy of expertise, experience, innovation and integrity is proving essential in helping numerous federal, state and local navigate their broadband programs with the goal of solving the Digital Divide.

The broadband team at Michael Baker is filling a need that has existed since the internet became publicly available. Essentially, Internet Service Providers have historically made expansions to new areas based on profitability, not actual need. And pricing has been determined by market competition without real concern for those who cannot afford service.

In the video interview, Snerling and Garfinkel discuss how, with Michael Baker’s help, the federal government is encourage more equitable internet expansion through specific programs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The company guides clients to incorporate all considerations, not just profitability, into the project: Compliance with new policies, societal impact metrics and sustainability plans are baked into the Michael Baker consultant solution so that, over time, these projects will have a tremendous positive impact.

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