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The Battle for Tiny Bits

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blinkx’s CEO acknowledged as much in the Prime Visibility acquisition press release, noting that online video is the fastest-growing advertising format, but most large advertisers still prefer television as a mass medium for big brand campaigns.

"Brands continue to move an increasing amount of their TV advertising budgets to online video, but need to be able to reach an audience of equivalent size on the Web," blinkx's chief executive officer Suranga Chandratillake said in a statement. 

The Fight for Wireless Spectrum

In early 2011, we covered the Battle for the Air, looking at the spectrum debates as wireless service providers attempted to wrest control of "unused" airwaves from over-the-air (OTA) broadcasters. The wireless industry presented the case
at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hearings and to members of Congress that OTA broadcasters had an inordinate amount of unused frequency spectrum at their disposal, which could help alleviate the spectrum crunch on the wireless airwaves.

This was due, in part, to the OTA broadcaster approach to their own spectrum allocations: Instead of filling the spectrum slice with one high-definition (HD) signal, many OTA broadcasters were filling a portion of the spectrum slice with several standard-definition (SD) signals and earmarking the extra spectrum for multicasting of OTA channels to mobile handsets. In other words, OTA broadcasters saw a way to make money through advertising while also pitching themselves as
relievers of the spectrum crunch by removing the need for wireless companies to deliver as much video.

Early skirmishes in 2010 turned into full-blown battles in 2011, as the FCC advocated voluntary auctions of spectrum from the broadcasters to the wireless providers. AT&T also announced a plan to acquire T-Mobile USA, Inc., justifying the acquisition as a need to buy spectrum. Opinion was split between other wireless service providers, with Verizon Wireless stating it would not object to the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, while Sprint's CEO Dan Hesse vigorously opposed the merger-and used his status as the 2011 chair of CTIA to voice opposition in front of the whole industry and the FCC's chairman.

While the FCC and the Department of Justice ultimately blocked AT&T's path on competitive grounds, the FCC did allow AT&T to buy extra spectrum from one of the companies mentioned earlier: Qualcomm had unused spectrum in a number of cities, from its defunct U.S.-based MediaFLO attempt at multicasting to a personal portable digital television device.

On Dec. 20, 2010, Qualcomm announced the sale of the FLO spectrum to AT&T. The FCC, however, chose to wait almost an entire year to grant approval to AT&T to purchase this extra spectrum, bringing into question the true nature of the FCC's decisions surrounding the spectrum crunch as a whole—and its treatment of OTA broadcasters as spectrum hoarders.


So where does this leave us for 2012? Will we see the Big 4 wireless carriers reduced to the Big 3? Probably not, as we've seen the FCC and the Department of Justice step in over competitive issues. In the meantime, we do expect to see the "white space" and WiMax spectrum battle heat back up again, as Google, Apple, and others try to maximize the always-online capabilities of their customer bases.

We also suspect we'll see a push for broadcasters to transmit to mobile phones, although more in linewith the updated adaptive bitrate solutions (including DASH) instead of the mobile digital video broadcasting solutions that circumvent the wireless carriers.

In all of these cases, including DASH and the emergence of a common file format, the tiny bits carry an outsized influence on a number of streaming landscapes.

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