The main policy concern about delaying the digital transition is the potential for consumer confusion, but the communications industry is focusing on a major downstream consideration: The potential delay for carriers upgrading their mobile networks to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology.
Carriers will use the 700 MHz spectrum that TV stations are now using for terrestrial broadcast. If the FCC were to push out the date that TV stations must relinquish that spectrum, some analysts speculate that will slow carriers’ plans to roll out LTE.
For example, Neeraj Singhania, an analyst with Think Equity, is of the opinion that “… any delay in the digital TV transition imposes a day-for-day delay in Verizon's ability to launch its new network.” Verizon is specifically cited because its LTE rollout schedule is more aggressive than AT&T’s.
As a practical matter, however, there is nothing impeding any carrier from building out infrastructure, so any delay of the digital transition at the front of anyone’s LTE build-out schedule may have minimal impact on the date any proposed LTE service is turned on.
Other uses of 700 MHz spectrum include broadcaster members of the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), who plan to use the spectrum for mobile digital television.
Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the OMVC said various members intend to launch mobile DTV across 63 stations in 22 markets, covering 35 percent of U.S. television households. The organization said it does not expect any short-term delay in the digital transition to affect its member companies from beginning to provide service toward the end of 2009.
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