Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sirius Answers Questions on Backseat Video

Today, Sirius fired back at the WCS Coalition who earlier questioned whether Sirius had the right to provide backseat video. The very last footnote says it all:

From the start, Sirius kept the FCC fully informed, including a widely attended January 22, 2004 meeting with FCC staff (at the staff’s request) to discuss its plans and the authority for 3-4 channels of backseat video ancillary to satellite radio.

In another tidbit of information, Sirius states that video will take less than 1/5 of its bandwidth. So, we can calculate that video will consume 2.5 MHz of the 12.5 MHz band, or 0.625 to 0.833 MHz per channel. Since it is broadcast on 3 carriers (two satellites and one repeater), the numbers have to be divided by 3, meaning that each channel per carrier will consume 208 to 278 KHz. If we understand the technology correctly, that should translate into video streaming somewhere on the order of 625 to 833 kbps per channel. That gives us an idea of the quality that we should expect.

Sirius points out to the Coalition that electronic graphic/visual information was specifically mentioned as a use for satellite radio ancillary services. Sirius' argument is in a footnote:

Plainly, the reference to “electronic graphic/visual information” classed the transmission of pictures as properly ancillary to satellite radio. Video is no more than the transmission of 30 pictures a second. See 47 C.F.R. § 2.1 (defining television” as a “form of telecommunication for the transmission of transient images of fixed or moving objects”).

It's an interesting argument that would make a former president proud.

Sirius agreed with its arch nemesis over the need for the FCC to quickly resolve the repeater issue with the WCS licenses holders. This has been in process for nearly 10 years. It has been a sword over the head of satellite radio. Sirius proposed some rules last year to resolve the conflict. These rules were supported by XM and initially received a favorable response from the Coalition as a start, but the Coalition never engaged satellite radio nor the FCC on the issue. It later used the proposed rules against Sirius. Sirius proposed grandfathering the existing repeaters. This has become the source of the rallying cry from the Coalition, since they would like to see all repeaters operating above 2KW disappear.

The Coalition also used its opportunity to request that the FCC rescind the grant to Sirius to launch and operate its geostationary satellite on the technically that Sirius failed to state the compression rate of the video service that it intends to offer. Sirius points out that the Coalition had every opportunity to oppose the satellite but never filed any comment opposing it. As far as not providing a definite compressing rate, Sirius responded as follows:

The FM-5 spacecraft is still under construction. Compression technologies and higher-order modulation techniques are likely to advance substantially by the time Sirius’ FM-5 is ready to be launched. Thus, pointless precision today would rapidly turn inaccurate and antiquated tomorrow. Sirius cannot be faulted for its inability to prognosticate the future.

Who knows why the FCC needs this information. It is indeed a minor point. The audio and video technology is continually progressing. Perhaps it is to help the FCC keep up with current technology.

Sirius concludes:

For these reasons, the Commission should (1) seek comment on Sirius’ Petition for Rulemaking and the WCS Coalition’s response; (2) reject the WCS Coalition’s suggestions about the appropriateness of ancillary video; and (3) dismiss the WCS Coalition’s rescission of the FM-5 satellite license request as procedurally defective. Please contact the undersigned with any questions.

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