Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 23:17:50 EDT
So why digital? Why "force" people to convert to something they might not care, or even know, about? The simple answer is that it will free up resources for other uses. The truth of the matter is that the analog cutoff probably wouldn't be happening if it September 11, 2001 had never occurred. Television stations are alloted 6MHz in which to broadcast their signal. That isn't a lot of room to work with when sending analog data. By contrast, Japan uses 20MHz per channel. The additional bandwidth allows them to send high definition pictures without compression. But that also means they have less bandwidth for other services. So if a clearer, larger, picture is desired, either more bandwidth is needed or something has to be done to make the 6MHz work. Enter digital television (DTV). With those same 6MHz, a digital signal can be broadcast that contains way more information than the traditional analog signal. Robert Cringley wrote a good article about the whole mess. It gets a little technical, but it is still easy to follow.
A concern about how the freed frequencies would be sold was brought up in the comments of my last DTV post. In response to that, I present this Ars Technica article. It includes a very clear diagram of what is being offered for sale, and how the frequencies are to be used.
As I've been thinking about how to write this post (and it hasn't come out the way I wanted it to), something occurred to me. Once the analog cutoff is complete, some really cool services can be made available. Think about cellular phones. Their range really sucks. For cellular phones to work, reception towers have to be placed quite frequently over the landscape. Now think about television. How many television towers do you see on a daily basis? I'm willing to bet that you see far fewer of those than you do cellular towers. The frequencies being used by television work well at much greater distances than the ones cellular providers are currently using. I assume that you have been subjected to the horror that is dial-up internet access at some point in the past. Well, there are still a helluva lot of people that only have dial-up access as their only internet access solution; unless they are willing to spend and exorbitant amount on a satellite connection. With the freed up spectrum, a better alternative, one Google and others are itching to provide, can be made available — wide area wireless internet access. How awesome would that be? Not only will you be getting extremely clear television picture, but you could also access the internet wirelessly. If you live in a remote location, that should sound like a pretty sweet deal.