Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shaw's LTSS Provides No Solution To Saskatchewan Francophones

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After Canada's digital TV transition last August, Shaw launched a program to help those who lost access to over the air TV signals.  Shaw's Local Television Satellite Solution (LTSS) provides a free dish, receiver and access to the nearest available TV stations carried by Shaw Direct.  Shaw's LTSS program is expected to see thousands of applications from over the air TV viewers when they lose access to CBC at the end of July when analog transmitters are shut down due to budget cuts.

For French speaking viewers watching Radio Canada near the Saskatchewan communities of Willow Bunch, Gravelbourg, and Ponteix when the rebroadcast transmitters carrying the signal from CBKFT-DT the Regina based Radio Canada station are shut off on July 31st, it will also end access to Television in French in these communities.  CBKFT-DT is not carried on satellite, not on Bell, and not on Shaw Direct.  Shaw at this time is unable or unwilling add CBKFT-DT to their line up on satellite provide replacement access to
CBKFT-DT to French speaking Saskatchewanians.  Cable service may not be able to provide access to CBKFT-DT in smaller communities after July 31st ether.  Cable TV headends in small towns depend on over the air signals for local channels that are not carried in Satellite.

Undoubtedly cutting off over the air service will hit minority language speakers worse than anybody else.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Will an Unlocked American LTE Phone Work in Canada?

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More than 15 years after the cellular industry divided itself under different network technologies after a decade under a common standard analog technology, cellular carriers will once again will be on a common standard network technology called Long Term Evolution or LTE. 

One of the advantages of GSM and newer HSPA networks is that phones can be unlocked and used on another carrier's network just by changing the SIM card.  Subscribers on GSM and HSPA networks were not limited to the phones offered by their carriers.  

Cellular carriers across North America are currently upgrading or planning to upgrade their networks to LTE.  LTE phones use SIM cards just like older GSM and HSPA phones.  Since many Canadian LTE subscribers on Rogers, Telus and Bell may be looking south of the border for unlocked LTE phones they like better than what their own carriers offer. 

Unlike buying an unlocked GSM or HSPA phone, one thing that needed to be considered when buying an unlocked LTE phone is original carrier that sold the phone.   All three of Canada's cell carriers offering LTE uses HSPA as their fall back legacy network for areas that do not have LTE coverage.  LTE handsets originally sold by AT&T are universally compatible on all three LTE networks in both LTE and HSPA coverage areas.

Those phones originally used on Verizon and Metro PCS are another story.  LTE equipment from Verizon and Metro PCS are designed to use CDMA as a fall back outside of an LTE coverage area.  If an unlocked LTE phone from Verizon or Metro PCS is used in Canada it will only wherever there is LTE service available.  If an attempt to use that phone in an area that doesn't have LTE service it will try to connect to any available CDMA network.  The legacy CDMA networks on Bell, Telus, MTS or Sasktel will recognize the phone as being foreign from it's Electronic Serial Number or ESN.  That phone's ESN will not have an active account with it's home carrier, an message "You are roaming on the Bell/Telus/MTS/Sasktel mobility network and cannot place calls at this time" message will be heard when attempting to make a call.  Unlocked LTE devices can cost well over 500 dollars on Internet auction and classified sites, Now in the biggest way, buyer beware, and check to see if you live in an LTE coverage area first.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why CBC Should Be Forced To Sell Soon To Be Mothballed Transmitters

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Two months remain until thousands of Canadian cottage owners,RV'ers and many more who by choice or circumstance use antennas to receive TV signals lose access to CBC television when the public broadcaster shuts down analog transmitters as a cost saving measure. 

While its the small towns and rural areas that are served through Analog over the air transmission.  Larger cities such as London, Ontario and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan will lose CBC TV service as well.  No matter if watched by many or just a few over the air TV is an important source of local news, weather and public safety information.  When cable TV infrastructure gets destroyed TV viewers would only have over the air broadcast to turn to.  The malfunctions with the Anik E1 and E2 satellites in 1994 and 1996 proves that satellite TV service cannot provide the reliability that terrestrial over the air broadcast can provide. 

If the CBC had to sell transmitters rather than shut down and dismantle the analog transmitters as they intend to, there could be many interested parties that be willing to take over all those transmitters.  Firstly CBC's competitors from the private sector would be willing to buy some transmitters for the right price to increase their coverage areas.  For example, Shaw can bring back advertising revenue back to Saskatchewan by taking over the transmitters serving Yorkton and North Battleford, Saskatchewan since Yorkton cable subscribers receive Global Winnipeg and North Battleford cable viewers get Global Edmonton.

Rogers Media is another potential beneficiary from having access to CBC analog transmitters as they look to grow their CityTV brand across the country.  Rogers may not seem like a company that would invest in over the air broadcasting given their large cable footprint, however in areas of the country served by other cable operators broadcasting CityTV and Omni over the air would make those stations mandatory to carry on basic cable.

Despite the consolidation in Canadian media in the past decade there are still independent broadcasting companies that still exist, such as Hamilton based Channel Zero owner and operator of CHCH and Newfoundland based NewCap broadcasting that owns and operates several radio stations across Canada and TV stations CITL and CKSA in Lloydminister, these companies could make a bargin basement purchase of transmitters from CBC and create new TV stations with CBC affiliation to reap all that advertising revenue from Hockey Night in Canada.

Demand on the CBC to keep the small town transmitters id coming from the small towns and surrouning areas they serve.  For the local news and public safety information relevant in those areas that the big city TV stations don't carry, it should mandated by the CRTC that those communities should have the opportunity to start their own community TV stations.  Over the air community TV stations would have a positive presence for the economics of small towns by giving small town businesses the opportunity to advertise on television that they wouldn't normally have. 

These ways to save small town over the air TV may be unlikely to actually happen, but do prove that there are ways that over the air television could have a bright future, not the future that the CBC and other public broadcasters are going to create on July 31st.

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