A dozen major broadcasters are creating a
national wireless network to deliver speedier Web downloads of
digital media such as music, software or video games, without the
need for high-speed cable or phone lines.
The "iBlast" network, announced Tuesday, will broadcast over a
portion of the digital spectrum that the government has allocated
to local TV stations to provide high-definition television.
iBlast expects to begin providing service in 102 markets early
next year, broadcasting through 143 local stations affiliated with
the network's backers, which include Tribune Co., Gannett Co., Cox
Communications Inc. and New York Times Co.
The affiliates, some of which serve the same market, would
continue to provide their own mix of TV programming in addition to
the new content from iBlast.
Because digital TV signals require less capacity than
traditional broadcasts, the new spectrum allocated to each station
for digital TV has enough room to carry more than one program at a
time or additional content such as iBlast's proposed downloads from
However, since a broadcast signal needs to be scheduled for
specific times, downloads won't be available "on-demand" like
they are with other Internet connections. Another limitation is
that a broadcast connection doesn't allow two-way communications
like a dial-up connection, a high-speed cable modem or the
telephone-based service called DSL, or digital subscriber line.
Still, since more than 60 percent of all U.S. households can now
receive a high-definition, digital signal from one or more TV
station, broadcast delivery has an early jump-start on the
iBlast President Ken Solomon said TV broadcasting offers a more
immediate way to bring high-speed Internet access to people who
can't afford more than a dial-up service or those who live in areas
where the cable systems and telephone networks haven't been
upgraded yet for digital communications.
"Two-way cable costs $40-to-$50 a month. That's not for the
masses," Solomon said.
Using iBlast, a person who goes online with a regular dial-up
telephone service can buy a music album and then receive it with a
special antenna attached to the computer, downloading at far
greater speeds than the dial-up connection can provide.
iBlast said its broadcasts can deliver data up to 200 times
faster than a conventional dial-up modem, and five times faster
than a cable modem or the telephone-based service called DSL, or
digial subscriber line.
Still, because broadcast doesn't have two-way capabilities,
iBlast is trying to position itself as a complement to other
The federal government has ordered all TV stations to switch
from today's analog signal to digital by 2006. During the
transition, stations are airing programs on two channels one in
digital and the other in analog so people can still watch
broadcast shows on their analog TV sets.
The other partners in the iBlast venture are Post-Newsweek
Stations, E.W. Scripps Co., Meredith Corp., Media General, Lee
Enterprises, McGraw Hill, Smith Broadcasting, and Northwest.