Spectrum Co’s Sasha Javid talks ATSC 3.0 transition, spectrum opportunities

Spectrum Co is currently running an ATSC 3.0 test site in Dallas. (Pixabay)
Sasha Javid

Sasha Javid is joining Spectrum Co, a joint venture between Sinclair and Nexstar Media, during an inflection point for next-generation broadcast television.

Sinclair and Nexstar both have a vested interest in the success of ATSC 3.0, an IP-based suite of television standards promising improved over-the-air reception, immersive audio, deeper indoor reception, mobile reception, targeted programming/advertising, automotive services and advanced emergency alerting. But first, broadcasters need to transition away from ATSC 1.0.

Javid’s background makes him a good candidate to advance both the entrepreneurial and operational aspects of getting ATSC 3.0 deployed, into the marketplace and onto consumer devices.

Javid has worked as a consultant and a venture capitalist. He co-founded RadioSherpa, an electronic programming guide for HD radio that was acquired by TuneIn. After that, he worked a chief data officer for the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, the group that made the FCC’s complicated two-way auction for 600 MHz radio waves happen.

Now he’s joined Spectrum Co as the venture’s new chief operating officer where he’ll lead the consortium as it looks to create new revenue opportunities out of ATSC 3.0. We recently spoke with Javid about how his background factors into his new role and what the future of ATSC 3.0 will look like.

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

FierceVideo: You held an important role in orchestrating the broadcast incentive auctions. How will that experience inform your work with Spectrum Co?

Sasha Javid: There were a couple of things we learned during the Incentive Auction. One thing clearly is that broadcasters realized that the ATSC 1.0 standard wasn’t as robust and was quite limiting in terms of what they could do. They were starting to have conversations already about sharing capacity as part of the Incentive Auction with its channel sharing agreements.

One of the concepts that came about during the Incentive Auction was the idea that with new encoding, stations could be able to broadcast the same content over less bandwidth. That enabled them to enter into channel sharing agreements which allowed them to put a station in the market but not go off the air, by having the station channel share with another partner.

That process and discussion about different encoding techniques was part and parcel with the desire to move to an OFDM [orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing] standard for broadcasting similar to what broadband providers had done years earlier.

FierceVideo: What’s your first priority in your new role?

Javid: The basic mandate of Spectrum Co is twofold. One is to help usher the transition from [ATSC] 1.0 to [ATSC] 3.0, for the existing members of Spectrum Co as well as other stations that might be looking at it but don’t have the resources yet. We’ll help other stations in markets where we’re transitioning do it at the same because the more stations that participate in the transition, the more efficient the repack can be.

At the same time, Spectrum Co has another mission, which is basically a capacity play. This is to take advantage of the new capabilities that the ATSC 3.0 standard has and to build some new businesses and revenue opportunities for consortium members.

FierceVideo: In your opinion, what’s the biggest business opportunity emerging out of ATSC 3.0 implementation?

Javid: The bottom line is we all believe there’s going to be huge demand for low-band data services. I don’t think anyone has an exact crystal ball of what that might be but there’s this idea of providing data offloading services for mobile broadband providers. There could also be new media content plays and dynamic updates of caches that are at the edges of networks. These are the types of things that people have thrown about that we’re now exploring together. Another one we’ve looked at quite closely and done quite a bit of work with is in the IoT space.

What we’re trying to do is find those applications that are best suited for the advantages that our network has versus others. We have this one-to-many broadcast topology that makes it effective to push download data to multiple nodes at one time.

FierceVideo: How soon will ATSC 3.0 be a reality for consumers?

Javid: The first piece is the transition to 3.0 that has to happen. This is something we’re working very actively on because obviously there is no network if the stations don’t transition. We’ve been planning very carefully with the station groups to facilitate a transition that’s orderly and aligned nicely with the repack that’s going on with the television stations to clear the 600 MHz band.

We’ve targeted a set of markets we want to do this year and we hope in the next two to three years that we should have the rest of the markets completed. As these stations are transitioning and we roll out more sites, we’d like to start to target those applications that have the most promise.