Conversion boxes for the old spectrum


As we all have heard, with the advent of high definition digital TV, old analog TVs aren’t going to work anymore. This is because HD digital TV will be broadcast on a different frequency, thus freeing up the old TV frequencies for other uses. The FCC is going to auction this spectrum off to the highest bidder. The likes of Google are bidding on parts of the famed 700MHz spectrum with the intent of providing free wireless internet to the masses. It’s considered ‘beachfront’ property on the wireless spectrum because of its propagation properties. Apparently, 700MHz has a wider coverage area.

But my question is: what to do with all the analog TVs? While more than half of America watches TV through satellite or cable now, there is still a significant portion of people receiving TV signals the old school way. Sure, after the conversion, our old analog TVs can still receive signals, but it won’t be able to correctly interpret them. Most people have assumed that if you want to use your old TVs, you’d want to use them to watch TV. Thus, the solution is to buy converter boxes that receive digital TV signals and convert it to the old analog signals.

If we’re going to have converter boxes, why not have different types of converter boxes–not only ones to watch TV? As of now, the auction for those bands hasn’t happened yet, so we don’t know what type of signals are going to be on those channels. But if there’s signals that provide free wireless internet, I don’t think it’s too far fetched to make converter boxes that are thin clients that use the old TV as a monitor. That way, it can not only be a telephone through VOIP, but it can still be television, but an internet television.

Going one step further, the converter box could have a software radio in it, so you can tune to a wide range in the spectrum of radio frequencies, and make use of that signal and the data on that signal if you had the software to interpret it. However, that’s not exactly happening soon as today’s computational prowess isn’t fast enough to digitally process signals at high frequencies. You need to sample the incoming signal at least two times the highest frequency in the signal in order to recover it, and we’re just not there yet digitally (at least that’s what I read about a year ago).

I hope that people see opportunities here, and take advantage of it, so we can see some innovation in reusing what was once old for the new.

image credit: xkcd.com

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