RF CURRENT - November 1995

Welcome to RF Current, a weekly electronic newsletter focusing on Broadcast technical and F.C.C. related issues. This newsletter is part of The RF Page @ www. transmitter.com, a web site devoted to TV Broadcast RF engineering. For more information see the What is... guide to the R.F. Page site.

This page contains stories from RF Current issues published in November 1995. Links referenced in the articles were current when published but by this time may have changed. If you find a bad link, try connecting to the home page of the publication or company and look for an archive of past articles.

November 27, 1995 - Issue 3 Final

WIRELESS - Wall Street Journal says PacTel to acquire wireless systems (Nov. 24)
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Pacific Telesis would acquire wireless cable licenses from Videotron and Transworld Telecommunications. More information is available in a news release titled New Acquisition Makes Pacific Telesis a Wireless Digital TV Leader from PacTel. The subtitle is "Company to Compete Vigorously with Cable". For the implications to broadcasters of this and other purchases of wireless cable systems by telco operators see my article in TV Technology's year end Buyers' Guide.
FCC - Engineering Positions Available (Nov. 22)
The FCC announced it was looking for "Supervisory Electronics Engineers, GS-855-14" for temporary (not to exceed one year) duty at their Norfolk, VA, San Francisco, CA and Allegan, MI offices. See the FCC's Job List for more details.
FCC to hold open meeting on tower responsibilty Nov. 28th (Nov. 22)
This meeting regards "streamlining the Commission's Antenna Structure Clearance Procedure and Revision of Part 17 of the Commission's Rules Concerning Construction, Marking, andLighting of Antenna Structures (WT Docket No. 95-5). The Commission will consider whether to replace the current antenna structure clearance process, which affects all licensees on such structures, with a simplified registration procedure affecting primarily structure owners and whether to amend Parts 1, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 73, 74, 78, 80, 87, 90, 94, 95, and 97 to reflect revised FAA painting and lighting recommendations and to implement new statutory requirements, holding owners primarily responsible for painting and lighting antenna structures." All broadcasters, whether own towers or lease space on them should find this interesting. RF Current will have the decision as soon as the FCC releases it.
FCC Freeze on applications accepted for filing 40 GHz. (Nov. 21)
From the November 21 FCC Daily Digest - "Imposed freeze on applications accepted for filing for the 38.6-40.0 GHz frequency band in the Common Carrier or Operational Fixed Point-to-Point Microwave Radio Services. (By Order [DA 95-2341] adopted November 13, 1995 by the Acting Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau)" These frequencies are often used by broadcasters for short range video transmissions at events like political conventions where camera cables are impractical. I've noticed a lot of activity in this band in recent months and it appears the FCC may be getting ready to auction it as well. No word yet on whether or not existing licenses held by broadcasters would be affected.
DIGITAL - PacTel releases survey showing viewers prefer MPEG (Nov. 20)
PacTel in a News Release outlined details of a study that showed viewers preferred MPEG compressed video to VHS recorded analog video, even at data rates under 2 Mbs.
FCC - The government shutdown ends - FCC back in business (Nov. 20)
The FCC reopened after stop-gap funding was approved by Congress. As a result of the shutdown, the schedules for the MDS auction, the 900 MHz SMR auction and PCS C Block auction have changed. Full information is available in a Public Notice from the FCC's Wireless bureau.

November 20, 1995 - Issue 2 Final

DIGITAL TV - EE Times daily news - interesting articles (Nov. 17, 1995)
Electronic Engineering Times electronic edition (as well as the printed edition) continues to be one of the best sources for the latest information on developments in HDTV and Digital TV engineering. This Friday's edition carries has several interesting items. Carl Yankowski, President and CEO of Sony Electronics Inc. wants digital TV standards set by January 1998 in an article titled Sony urges digital-TV specs. An indication of the various standards in digital TV shows up in the article immediately following that one, which mentions Broadcom's QAM chip which is designed to work with the Digicipher set top boxes. Testing MPEG-2 compression systems requires special test equipment and EE Times reports on Symbionics MPEG-2 tester.
LPTV - CBA in D.C. Ends - No New LPTV Filing Windows Announced (Nov. 15, 1995)
The Community Broadcasters' Association convention in Washington DC ended Tuesday without assurances from the FCC that LPTV would exist after the digital TV transition. FCC Chairman Hundt cancelled plans to speak. Keith Larson, head of the LPTV branch, now moving to an engineering position in the FCC's Mass Media Bureau, spoke on Monday. Attendees heard that no new LPTV filing windows were planned in the near future, although there was hope of a window for filing major change applications. The general feeling at the show was the Congress and FCC intended to maximize income by auctioning broadcasters' spectrum and that even full power broadcasters might have to pay for spectrum if they want to continue broadcasting after the transition to ATV.
FCC - "Pending a new appropriation, the FCC has shut down." (Nov. 14, 1995)
So read the heading with the HTML "strong" attribute on the FCC Web Page page today. The announcement continued... "No public business will be conducted until further notice. Until the FCC reopens, there will be no further updates to this site. A small staff is authorized to work." The listing went on to list emergency numbers for the Mass Media Bureau (202-632-6975), Wireless (717-337-0682) and satellite requests (202-632-6975). On a slightly humourous note, the announcement added that "Mellon Bank will continue to accept items during the shutdown. " No daily digest was published today. Visit the FCC Web Page for other emergency phone numbers and updates once funding is restored. Note that if you are using Netscape's browser you may have to clear both memory and disk caches before the modified welcome page will load. With Mosaic clicking on the reload button once or twice should be sufficient. I've changed the address on the links in this story to try to avoid that problem, but no guarantees.
Technology - Biznews Reports Viewcall Will Sell a $250 Info Appliance for TV's
Biznews reported earlier this week that a European company "Viewcall" will sell a set top box in Europe that will offer interactive TV and Internet World Wide Web services over conventional TV sets. An email address viewcall.easynet.co.uk was given in the release. A search of Easynet's web sites and a search for more information on the 'Net on Viewcall was unsuccessful. Any additional information readers can supply would be appreciated. The product was to be officially announced at Comdex this week.
FCC postpones auctions, prepares for shutdown today (Nov. 14, 1995)
In a Public Notice posted on the FCC Web Page yesterday the Commission announced delays in MDS, 900 MHz. SMR and PCS C block auctions. From the text of the Notice the FCC appeared ready to resume the auctions quickly once normal government operations resume. While not referenced in the notice, another action likely to be affected by the shutdown is the deadline for comments on Advanced TV, now set at November 15th.

November 13, 1995 - Issue 1 Final

HDTV - EE Times - HDTV may slip, opening way for other services (Link no longer available) (Nov. 13, 1995)
This article points out broadcasters' delays in implementing HDTV may allow other services to get the jump on providing digital TV to viewers and threaten broadcasters' chances of obtaining a second channel without paying spectrum fees. While I found the arguments difficult to follow and suspect some of the quotes may be out of context, you will find the article interesting.
HDTV - Field Test Report of Grand Alliance Completed (Nov. 13, 1995)
NAB's TV TechCheck" reported completion of the Grand Alliance's field test report. If any RF Current readers know of a source of this document on the Internet, please drop me a note at dlung@gate.net.
FCC Chairman Hundt at the CBA LPTV convention Monday (Nov. 13, 1995)
The FCC Daily Digest reported Chairman Hundt will address the Community Broadcasters Association LPTV Annual Convention, Washington Hilton, Washington, DC, at noon. If the budget deadlock doesn't prevent his appearance, it will be interesting to see if Chairman Hundt comments on the future of LPTV. The Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making and Third Notice of Inquiry on Advanced Television failed to address the future of LPTV in the digital age and implied spectrum not used for existing full power broadcasters' ATV channels may be recovered for auction. LPTV broadcasters will also be watching to see who the new head of the FCC's LPTV branch will be when Keith Larsen moves to the Mass Media Bureau.
FCC Releases Consumer Information Series on Cable TV (Nov. 8, 1995)
Check Daily Business - November 8, 1995 for a collection of text files outlining, in simple language, the FCC's policies and rules on various Cable TV topics. The file names describe the contents fairly well. These may be useful if you have to explain problems with cable TV to your viewers.
Technology - Intercasttm Industry Group to merge TV & PC (Nov. 5, 1995)
A series of press releases from the new Intercasttm Industy Group announced plans to combine the "digital power of the PC" with the "interactivity of the Internet" and the wealth of programming from TV. Intercast's list of sponsors reads like a who's who's of media and computing interests -- NBC, CNN, QVC, WGBH, America Online, Netscape, Packard Bell, Intel, Gateway 2000 and more. This group has the resources and creativity to move broadcast TV into the future. These announcements took place a few days after I submitted my annual look at the future of over the air broadcasting for publication in TV Technology's year-end Buyers' Guide. I wrote that broadcasters would have to find new ways to take advantage of their wireless, universal availability status in order to compete successfully with emerging new technologies. This group looks like it is on the right track.
Science - Pictures from the Hubble telescope of Star Birth in M16 (Nov. 3, 1995)
Not broadcast related, but amazing none the less!
Science - Scientific American cover story - Holographic Memories (Nov. 1, 1995)
One of the limiting factors in moving TV broadcast and video production away from tape has been the high cost per megabyte of hard drives and optical disk storage. While hard drive costs are dropping, industry engineers are warning we may be approaching the physical limits of these technologies (Electronic Engineering Times, October 30, 1995). Demetri Psaltis and Fai Mok from Holoplex in Pasadena California describe how large amounts (terabytes) of data can be stored in lithium niobate crystals using holograms. Take a look at the November issue of Scientific American for the details or check out these Web sites:
FCC replaces EBS with the Emergency Alert System (EAS) (Oct. 27, 1995)
The FCC released its long awaited Order on the new Emergency Alert System. Broadcasters have to have the new EAS gear installed and operational on or before January 1, 1997.
FCC Adds Shortwave Schedules to their Web Site (Oct. 27, 1995)
A complete listing of shortwave broadcast schedules for both domestic and international broadcasters is now available from the FCC. Be prepared to wait a while as the listing is long.

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