Could Ultra Wideband Fuzz Cable Nets?


A wireless-broadband technology designed to operate at high speeds and low power has the potential to disrupt satellite feeds between cable networks and thousands of cable headends, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

A coalition of numerous cable networks -- including C-SPAN, A&E Network, Home Box Office and Showtime -- is urging the Federal Communications Commission to modify rules adopted in 2002 to eliminate potentially crippling interference from ultra-wideband (UWB) providers.

In a Dec. 3 letter, the NCTA told the FCC that UWB posed a significant risk to the quality of signals viewed in millions of cable-TV homes.

“Even a slightly degraded signal due to increased noise will reduce satellite-link margins and system availability and ultimately can lower the quality of services that are provided to consumers,” wrote Dr. William Check, the NCTA’s senior vice president of science and technology.

The vast majority of national cable networks use so-called C-band spectrum (3.7 gigahertz-4.2 GHz) to beam, via satellite, their services to 9,000 cable headends around the country. UWB providers have been allocated 7.5 GHz of spectrum that overlaps with the C-band, but UWB’s low power requirements were expected not to raise interference issues.

However, Check said that because the FCC imposed no limitation on the deployment of UWB emitters, the combined “noise floor” created by a surfeit of UWB emitters could cause harmful interference with cable-network downlinks.

“Under the current rules, cable operators and cable programmers have no guarantee that satellite-distribution systems will remain free from interference,” he added.

UWB data rates are projected to reach as high as 1,000 megahertz per second, making the service a potential rival to cable, broadcasting and wireless providers. UWB is so fast that it can download a Hollywood movie in just a few seconds. Some see UWB’s strength mostly in routing data around homes and offices at lightning speeds.