An engineer takes a look at the latest information dump from the FCC on the TV repacking front.
[Blogmeister’s Note: The FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force recently released a number of materials relating to TVStudy, the software that FCC engineers devised to assist them in the modeling and analysis necessary to repack the TV spectrum. Those materials included a public notice, a Technical Appendix, and a boatload of other goodies, all intended to give us a peek into the way the Commission is approaching the repacking process. Unfortunately, the materials are a bit, um, technical in nature, so unless you’re well-versed in a lot of sophisticated engineering stuff – stuff that, as it turns out, wasn’t offered in law school – you’re likely to have a hard time understanding what’s what. No problem. Our friend Mike Rhodes, P.E., of the highly-respected engineering firm of Cavell, Mertz and Associates, has come to our rescue. We asked Mike if he could break down the FCC’s releases into morsels that might be digestible by non-engineers. Happily, Mike agreed to take on that daunting challenge. Thanks, Mike.]
The materials recently released by the Incentive Auction Task Force provide considerably more details than had previously been available about the Commission’s move to repack the TV spectrum.
Move? Let’s stick with that analogy for a moment.
Think of the available spectrum as the empty moving van and all the TV Stations (as well as some other spectrum users) as the entire contents of your house that need to be moved. The first chore in moving is to get organized so that everything will fit in the moving van in one trip. In its recent releases, the FCC has put the entire contents of its TV spectrum house out on the driveway. They’re now looking, first, at the piles of boxes and furniture and, next, at the empty moving truck. They’re scratching their heads trying to figure out what pieces to start with.
So, like any good engineer, they wrote some software to help solve the problem.
The software determines how many combinations and permutations of all that stuff need to be analyzed before they can start loading the truck. The list of furniture includes: 2,177 U.S. Stations (Full service and Class A); 2,557 Canadian Allotments; 603 Mexican Allotments; 25 Land Mobile Channel preclusions; and 424 other Land Mobile (“T-band”) users currently operating in the TV bands. Oh, and don’t forget to reserve Channel 37 for the radio astronomy listening channel (E.T.). That’s a lot of stuff to pack!
The software is a new and apparently improved version of the Commission’s TVStudy software first released back in February, 2013. The FCC solicited comments about the program and, after evaluating the numerous comments and complaints filed in response, the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) has apparently concluded that it is going to continue to use TVStudy for the repacking.
In releasing its preliminary conclusions about TVStudy along with a considerable amount of related information, OET is trying to make good on the FCC’s commitment to “transparency” as the agency works its way through the vastly complex problem of repacking (and the equally – if not more – complex problem of designing the forward and reverse auctions processes). Still, some additional explanation may help non-engineers to get a sense of just what’s going on here.