RF CURRENT - January 1996

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This page contains stories from RF Current issues published in January 1996. 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.

January 29, 1996 - Issue 10 Final

SCIENCE - Nando News reports scientists to look for TV signals from space! (Jan. 28)
Nando News in an an article Sunday reported British scientists planned to build a large radio telescope "sensitive enough to detect TV-like broadcasts of alien life living between 10 and 20 light years away." International funding is sought. (Editor's comment - The aliens want to know if this will show up in their ratings, which, of course, would have to be retroactive. ...dl)
TELECOM - Support grows for Telecom bill sans TV auctions (Jan. 28)
Senator Larry Pressler, (Republican - SD) in a speech before the Senate urged law makers to consider a two track approach to the far reaching Telecommunications Bill before Congress. Broadcasters seemed to be gaining support against a demand from Senator and Presidential candidate Bob Dole that broadcasters pay for the loan of their second digital channel. Nando News in a story Sunday said law makers would try to get the bill passed this week, although Dole's opposition remained a problem.
DIGITAL - Science Daily reports on MPEG-4 meeting in Germany (Jan. 24)
Full details are available in the article in Science Daily.
HDTV - FCC releases full transcript of En Blanc HDTV hearing (Jan. 24)
The FCC today released the full transcript (ilmm6001.txt) of its December 12 En Blanc hearing on "Advanced Television Systems and Their Impact Upon the Existing Television Broadcast Service". While this report is close to 450K in size (allow up to ten minutes or more to download it), I strongly urge any broadcaster or company interested in the progress of HDTV to take the time to download and read it. Remember that Netscape and some other Web browsers allow you to save a page to a file by holding down the SHIFT key when clicking on the link. As noted in the earlier RF Current article announcing the hearing, many of the top technical people in broadcasting testified in this hearing. The list is like a "Who's Who" of broadcasting.
FCC reschedules hearing on spectrum policy (Jan. 23)
The FCC's Daily Digest for January 23rd reported that En Blanc Hearing on Spectrum Policy has been rescheduled for March 5, 1996. Contact: Amy Lesch at (202) 418-2049 or Steve Sharkey at (202) 418-2404 for more details.
WIRELESS - Nando News reports on Wireless "Cable" Service in Alaska (Jan. 23)
Nando News in an article Monday reported on the sixteen channel Alaska Choice Television system offering cable TV offerings via UHF Low Power TV stations. While not mentioned in the article, I believe Acrodyne was the transmitter supplier. (Ed. note - I was wrong! ITS supplied the transmitters. See Jan 30 1996 RF Current article. - DL)

January 22, 1996 - Issue 9 Final

INDUSTRY - Westinghouse to keep part of silicon carbide transistor team (Jan. 19)
As reported in the January 8 RF Current, Westinghouse agreed to sells its defense electronics unit to Northrop Grumman. The press release announcing the sale did not mention the fate of the silicon carbide transistor, which holds great promise for use in high power digital TV solid state amplifiers. An RF Current reader told me this week that the plan is for Westinghouse to retain rights to and the engineering team working on the silicon carbide transistor. However, the team and facilities responsible for system integration of the silicon carbide transistor into working amplifier modules goes to Northrop Grumman with the sale. The confusion surrounding this split will likely delay introduction of the technology into the broadcast market place. I heard Westinghouse either had completed or was close to completing a 1500 watt silicon carbide amplifier module for digital signals prior to the sale.
SATELLITE - Primestar passes on DBS auctions, secures spot on GE-2 (Jan. 19)
In a Press Release issued today Primestar said it would not participate in the FCC high power DBS spectrum option. Instead, the company will continue to use medium powered satellite transponders for direct to home transmission. This means Primestar customers will continue to need slightly larger dishes than those required for Hughes DirecTV system and other, proposed, high power DBS broadcasters. Ku transponder space secured on General Electric's new GE-2 satellite should offer significantly better coverage than that currently available from the aging K-2 satellite Primestar is now using. The Primestar signals are digitally compressed and encrypted using General Intruments Digicipher system.
FCC will need more money for telecom overhaul reports infoMCI's Newsletter (Jan. 18)
In an article titled FCC Funding - FCC Chief Says Telecom Overhaul Would Require More Money infoMCI reports Reed Hundt, Chairman of the FCC, will be asking Congress for a $225 million budget in 1996. FCC funding has been cut in past years, leading to closure of local offices and a scaling back of FCC field services, not always to the benefit of broadcasters.
FCC proposes opening spectrum above 40 GHz. for new technologies (Jan. 16)
The F.C.C. today released its First Report and Order on Amendment of Parts 2, 15, and 97 of the Commission's Rules to Permit Use of Radio Frequencies Above 40 GHz for New Radio Applications. While broadcasters weren't specifically included in this rulemaking, several frequency bands would be set aside for unlicensed use. Comments indicated the two most common uses of these extreme microwave bands would be for vehicular radar type collision avoidance systems and limited range (intra-office) computer LAN communication.
HDTV - FCC extends HDTV reply comment filing date to Jan. 22 (Jan. 16)
Swamped with filings after being closed for most of December, first due to lack of funding then due to bad weather, the FCC decided to relax the filing dates for comments and reply comments in many proceedings. The HDTV proceeding was no exception. In the initial comment phase most broadcasters supported the FCC efforts to launch digital TV. There was, of course, strong support for limiting initial applicants to the pool of existing broadcasters. Many comments, most of them verbatim copies of the same script, were filed in support of Low Power TV stations. To date, the FCC has not mentioned LPTV in its filings except in the required "impact on small businesses" section of the rulemaking. Manufacturers argued for a minimum HDTV transmission requirement in lieu of all SDTV (Standard Definition TV) but didn't want minimum requirements on receiver performance. Broadcasters seemed ready to reluctantly accept a minimum HDTV transmission requirement, but felt it would be much better to let the market decide the final outcome.
FCC eliminates one year build out requirement for Interactive TV (Jan. 16)
In a news release (nrwl6001.txt) today the FCC announced it would eliminate the one year build out requirement for Interactive Video Data Service (IVDS) permit holders. The three and five year requirements continue. IVDS introduction has been slow and, at least among cable operators, "on-line" offerings such as Internet access and services such as America On Line seem more attractive. This week Hewlett Packard, Scientific Atlanta, General Instrument and others announced adoption of a standard for interactive applications. Whether or not this will help get the service off the ground remains to be seen.
HDTV - Nando News reports NBC won't support Telecom Bill with auctions (Jan. 15)
Nando News in an article tonight said Robert Wright, President of NBC, said Senator Dole's comments that spectrum rights should be auctioned will likely lead to NBC and other broadcasters dropping their support of the Telecommunications Bill currently being reconciled by House and Senate committees.

January 15, 1996 - Issue 8 Final

SATELLITE - The Wall Street Journal reports DirecTV encryption cracked (Jan. 12)
Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Mark Robichaux in an article in Friday's Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Customs at the Canadian borader seized illegal decoder cards for the Hughes DSS receiver. The article also said information about the "crack" was available on the World Wide Web. One source mentioned was Hack Watch News, a subscription service. Some of the articles were available to the public and I found one that describes how the DSS crack might work. I'd appreciate an e-mail if you find any other sites with more information.
FCC - New spectrum at 40 GHz., delayed date for HDTV reply comments (Jan.12)
Funding restored and snow partially cleared, the FCC returned to work Thursday facing a huge backlog after three weeks of shutdown due to the budget stand-off. In a busy day, the FCC released 6.2 GHz. of new spectrum at 40 GHz. for "the introduction and development of new communications technologies". The filing date for reply comment filings in the Advanced TV proceeding was delay until January 16th. Another snow storm closed government offices Friday. Monday, January 15th, all Federal offices will again be closed, this time for the Martin Luther King holiday.
HDTV - Senator Bob Dole Blasts Broadcasters' "Corporate Welfare" (Jan. 10)
Nando's Internet news service tonight reported that Bob Dole, speaking in the Senate, said the House-Senate subcommittee working on the Telecomunications Bill should not to approve the bill until it changes the provisions that loans broadcasters a second channel to implement digital TV broadcasting. Full text of the speech is available in the Federal Register.

January 8, 1996 - Issue 7 Final

FCC - Interim funding approved for FCC - snow is now the problem (Jan. 7)
The Congress and the President finally approved an interim spending bill which will let the FCC resume operations. Unfortunately, a major snow storm will probably close most government offices Monday, January 8th. The reply comments in the FCC's Advanced TV proceeding are due the end of this week.
HDTV - Dielectric Communications gets contract to design NYC HDTV antenna (Jan. 5)
In a Press Release Friday Dielectric Communications announced it had received a contract to design an HDTV antenna for stations transmitting from the World Trade Center in New York City. This is a difficult assignment because the structure of the twin towers and RF radiation hazard to occupants in the towers has to be considered. Dielectric is considering two options. One would interleave the HDTV antennas with the existing NTSC antennas (many designed by RCA, Dielectric's predecessor) on WTC Tower 1. The other option would construct a separate HDTV antenna site on WTC Tower 2. Kline Towers of Columbia, SC will do the structural analysis for the two options.
INDUSTRY - Westinghouse unit sold - silicon carbide transistor too? (Jan. 4)
Rumours and stories about Westinghouse's silicon carbide transistor technology were widespread at NAB last year. This transistor promised higher power levels in UHF solid state amplifiers than existing technology. Now, Westinghouse announced it has agreed to sell its defense electronics unit to Northrop Grumman corporation. This should help reduce some of the debt Westinghouse incurred purchasing CBS. While I'm not certain the silicon carbide transistor team is involved in this sale, that group did work out of the Linthicum, Maryland office being sold. More details when they become available.
TECHNOLOGY - Oxford Computer develops DSP unit for video (Jan. 3)
Oxford Computer, based in Oxford, CT has developed a single chip DSP (digital signal processing) unit that can handle live video. While targeted at the multimedia market, it could also pave the way for inexpensive digital video processors for using in linearity correction and automatic video correction. Free development software is available at www.oxfordcomputer.com.
SCIENCE - CERN produces first atoms of antimatter (Jan. 3)
In a Press Release issued this week, Centre Européen pour la Réchereche Nucleaire (CERN), said its scientists produced the first atoms of antimatter - anti-hydrogen. The press release closed with the comment "The first ever creation of atoms of antimatter at CERN has opened the door to the systematic exploration of the anti world. " Star Trek fans and others interested in this area should read the Press Release to see the implications of this work. I heard one commentator on BBC radio was saying it could pave the way for "unlimited" energy and batteries that never run out. (Those comments aren't in the press release.)
DIGITAL - Consumer ISDN rate increased proposed - too much use! (Jan. 2)
Pacific Bell and US West have both proposed raising consumer ISDN rates. The reason? Customers are using the lines more than they expected under unlimited rate plans so costs are higher than expected. See my article in the TV Technology Buyers guide included with the December TV Technology magazine for my comments on why I expected to see phone companies having problems meeting the demands of an increasingly computer literate, modem equipped public.

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