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 January 1997. 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. If you find a changed link, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know by dropping me a note indicating the new location at dlung@transmitter.com.

January 27 - Issue 55 Final Edition

SCIENCE - Atom Laser Created At MIT (Jan. 27)

Most readers are familiar with how light lasers work. MIT announced today it had created a laser that generates a single coherent atom wave. The technology should be useful in highly precise nanotechnology applications such as atom lithography. An experimental configuration termed an "rf output coupler" by the MIT researchers who developed it is used to create the laser beam of atoms. Full details, including diagrams and photos, are available on the American Institute of Physics news page.

HDTV - WCBS-HD to Begin Broadcasting With Harris Transmitter (Jan. 27)

Harris Corporation said today that WCBS-TV awarded it a contract to supply an HDTV transmitter for WCBS-HD, New York City. WCBS-HD will operate on channel 33 and transmit from the WCBS backup facility atop the Empire State Building. Refer to the recently updated DTV Reference Page for more news on other HDTV projects by Harris, Dielectric, Comark and Acrodyne.

FCC Extends TV Broadcast License Terms to Eight Years (Jan. 27)

Friday the FCC issued a news release (nrmm7002.txt) stating that the Commission had "implemented Section 203 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by adopting rules that ordinarily extend the license terms for television and radio stations to eight years, with the exception of experimental broadcast station license terms which will remain one year." Auxiliary and booster licenses will continue to be tied to the license terms of the broadcast stations. Renewals granted as part of the current renewal cycle that had been granted five or seven year term will be extended to eight years.

HDTV - KOMO Claims Spot as First West Coast HDTV Station (Jan. 21)

Fisher Broadcasting in Seattle, Washington, announced it had begun test transmission of HDTV from KOMO-HD-TV on Monday, January 20th. The station uses a digital TV transmitter from Larcan and an antenna from Dielectric Communications. The digital modulator, demodulator and decoder were developed and provided by Zenith Electronics Corporation. KOMO TV's Senior VP & General Manager Dick Warsinske, said "Digital HDTV is as close to reality as I have ever seen. The crystal clear pictures and surround sound stereo audio will take our viewing experience to an extraordinary new level". Plans for the next phase of testing, involving the ABC Television Network, will be announced next month.

More information is available in a press release from Fisher Broadcasting and Zenith Electronics.

FCC Releases Closed Captioning NPRM and Sets Comment Dates (Jan. 21)

Friday the FCC released the full text of its Notice of Proposed Rule Making in the Matter of Closed Captioning and Video Description of Video Programming, MM Docket 95-176. A WordPerfect version is also available. This NPRM was summarized in the January 13th RF Current and in the News Report (nrcb7002.txt) it referred to. The NPRM has more details, including a request for comments on exclusion of some foreign language programming from the proposed rules. Comments are due February 28, 1997 and reply comment are due March 24, 1997.

FCC Modifies Standards For Part 74, 78 and 101Microwave Antennas (Jan. 21)

The FCC released its Report and Order in ET Docket 96-35, Amendment of Parts 74, 78 and 101 of the Commission's Rules to Adopt More Flexible Standards for Directional Microwave Antennas. The amendents adopted "will allow licensees to show compliance with the Commission's Rules for antenna standards using either minimum antenna gain or maximum radiation beamwidth." The previous antenna standards, based on antenna gain, did not allow use of new types of antenna which had sufficiently narrow beamwidths but insufficient gain.

The FCC dismissed SBE's request to apply the proposed flexible minimum antenna standards to receiving antennas as well as the transmitting antennas. The Report and Order did, however, "encourage any party desirous of requiring that receive antennas used by television broadcast auxiliary stations and/or in the cable television relay service meet the pertinent antenna standards to file a petition for rulemaking." The Commission also declined to act on SBE's request that the Commission issue an updated list of "frequency congested areas" in which Category A antenna would be required, citing lack of a record on which to base such a decision.

As this Report and Order has many tables, the text version of it is difficult to read. The PDF version is recommended. The Office of Engineering and Technology has set up an ET96-35 page which includes links to both documents plus additional, helpful information.

January 20 - Issue 54 Final Edition

SCIENCE - Purdue University Research Offers New View of Electron Structure (Jan. 18)

In a press release issued last week, Purdue University physicists say the electron may not be a simple negative point charge. David Koltich, professor of physics at Purdue, said "Science and engineering students have learned for years that the electron has a constant electronic strength, but now we've seen that this may not be the case." His research found a fuzzy "cloud" of virtual particles winking in and out of existence surrounding the electron's core. The press release has more details as well as an artist's interpretation of what the cloud looks like.

SATELLITE - AT&T Declares Telstar 401 Permanently Out of Service (Jan. 17)

In a press release issued Friday, AT&T said that "it has been unsuccessful in attempting to re-establish contact with Telstar 401 and has declared the satellite permanently out of service." AT&T said it will petition the the FCC to allow it to move Telstar 302 to Telstar 401's slot at 97 degrees west longitude. Telstar 5, scheduled for launch in May, will be the permanent replacement for Telstar 302 at 97 degrees. Once Telstar 5 is in operation, AT&T plans to re-establish the services it had to pre-emempt on Telstart 402R.

BROADCASTING - NAB releases 1997 Broadcast Engineering Session Details (Jan. 15)

The National Association of Broadcasters today posted a listing of the proposed Broadcast Engineering Sessions at the April 1997 NAB Convention in Las Vegas. The transition to Digital TV is the main topic, with a session on DIgital TV Signal and Transmission Issues Sunday afternoon. One paper, by Oded Bendov of Dielectric Communications, is titled "Moving from VHF-NTSC to UHF-HDTV without Bankrupting Your Station". Thursday's session will examine Digital TV Allocation and Policy Issues and Digital TV emerging RF Technologies.

CABLE companies and CEMA Solve Consumer Cable Compatibility Problems (Jan. 15)

The Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) announced today that the joint volunteer effort with the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) had developed an "elegant, technically feasible and user friendly solution to the problem of maintaining VCR and TV receiver features while retaining cable programming security." The Cable Consumer Electronics Compatibility Advisory Group (C3AG) reported that it "has not defined a set of functions for TVs and VCRs to be labeled 'Cable Ready' and an advanced interface to be labeled 'Advanced Cable/Media Ready.' More details can be found in the CemaCity Gazette story.

FCC releases Order Extending Time for DTV 6th NPRM Reply Comments (Jan. 14)

Today the FCC made the full text of its Second Order Extending Time for Filing Reply Comments in the Matter of Advanced Television Systems and Their Impact upon the Existing Television Broadcast Service. As reported last week, the date for filing reply comments was extended to January 24, 1997.

Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Sullivan Broadcasting Company requested an extension on January 2nd, citing concerns about the vast power discrepancies beween VHF and UHF stations' DTV facilities. On January 7th, the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers (AFCCE) requested an extension of at least six weeks. The extension was opposed by Motorola and MSTV.

January 13 - Issue 53 Final Edition

SATELLITE - Telstar 401 Satellite Fails (Jan. 11)

In a press release issued Saturday, AT&T said that its "Telstar 401 satellite experienced an abrupt failure of its telemetry and communications this morning at 6:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time affecting service for all customers." Those customers whose contracts called for transfer to Telstar 402R in the event of a service outage were able to restore service immediately. A good source, although often unconfirmed, of information on what is happening with Telstar 401 is the rec.video.satellite.tvro Internet newsgroup.

FCC Adopts Report and Order on 5 GHz. Unlicensed NII Operation (Jan. 10)

At Thursday's open meeting, the Federal Communications Commission made available 300 MHz. of spectrum for Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices that will provide short-range, high speed wireless digital communications. A summary of the Report and Order is available in a News Report (nret7002.txt) posted on the FCC's Internet site today.

The Report and Order (ET Docket 96-102) is also available. Three bands are authorized for U-NII use: 5.15-5.25 GHz., 5.25-5.35 GHz. and 5.725-5.825 GHz. The FCC did not adopt a channeling plan, spectrum modulation efficiency requirement or a spectrum etiquette plan, stating that "we believe such technical standards are unnecessary at this time, could preclude certain technologies, and could unnecessarily delay implementation of U-NII devices."

In order to protect primary users sharing the bands, the Commission established different power limits for each band. In the 5.15-5.25 GHz. band, the maximum peak transmitter output power allowed will be 50 mW with up to 6 dBi of antenna gain (200 mW EIRP). In the 5.25-5.35 GHz. band, the maximum peak transmitter output power allowed is 250 mW, also with up to 6 dBi of antenna gain (1 W EIRP). The maximum transmitter output power limit in the 5.725 to 5.825 GHz. band will be 1 W, with directional antenna gains up to 6 dBi permitted (4 W EIRP). Higher gain antennas may be used, but the transmitter power has to be reduced accordingly so as not to exceed the maximum authorized EIRP for the band.

The 5.15-5.25 GHz. band is limited to indoor operations only to provide additional protection to co-channel MSS operations. The 5.25-5.35 GHz. band, with its higher power limit, is seen as useful for campus wide operations, while the higher power 5.725-5.825 GHz. band should be useful for community wide operations.

The Commission also placed limits on peak power spectral density and out of band emissions. Full details are in the Report and Order on ET Docket 96-102.

FCC Proposes Rules for Video Closed Captioning (Jan. 10)

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to prescribe, by August 8, 1997, rules and implementation schedules for closed captioning of TV programming. Yesterday the FCC issued a News Report (nrcb7002.txt)that outlined what is contained in a new Notice of Proposed Rule Making in MM Docket 95-176. Text of the NPRM is not yet available on the Internet.

The News Report listed some of the key elements of the Notice adopted Thursday. Broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs)will be ultimately responsible for compliance with the rules. However, program producers will generally have the responsibility for the captioning. The proposed transition schedule will require that all non-exempt, new programming be closed captioned within eight years. This will be phased in at the rate of 25% of programming every two years. The Commission sought comment on whether a ten year period should be adopted. The Commission also sought comment on how exemptions for economic burden should be applied, but stated that it "does not propose to exempt any class of provider since all classes of providers appear to have the technical capability to deliver closed captioning to their viewers intact."

DIGITAL - Microsoft to "create new ways to experience television" (Jan. 9)

In a Press Release issued today Microsoft announced "the early delivery of new technologies to make personal computers more interactive by integrating them with television. Building on the Simply Interactive PC (SIPC) initiatives announced in April 1996, these technologies consist of broadcast components that allow PCs to receive television programming, data services and new forms of entertainment blending the two, plus user interface elements appropriate for use on large-screen display devices, such as a large VGA monitor or television."

Some of the new ways to experience television included combining PC, television and the Internet to create interactive programming and, of interest to broadcasters, using broadcast networks to deliver bandwidth demanding multimedia content to the consumer's PC where it would be stored locally. This would reduce the Internet bandwidth bottleneck and reduce frustrations with Internet delays. The release also raised the possibility of "delivering new business models, such as subscription services for software, electronic periodicals, and news and entertainment delivery through a set of secure, billable and scalable data services."

The companies Microsoft listed as intending to use this technology to produce new products and services is impressive. Companies include many major computer manufacturers, many consumer electronic manufacturers, TV data equipment manufacturers Norpak and Wavephore, consumer equipment, NBC, Hughes (several divisions) and cable programmers USA Network and TV Food Network.

Microsoft said it intends to deliver initial development kits to key companies this February. For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/broadsvs.htm/. An attempt to access the site January 12th resulted in an error message, but it should be available later in the week.

DIGITAL - Keynote Speakers at CES See Digital Future (Jan. 9)

A recent news story on the Consumer Electronic Manufacturers Association CEMACity site summarized the remarks of the keynote speakers opening the Winter CES show in Las Vegas last week. Michael R. Bloomberg, president and founder of Bloomberg Financial Markets said that the industry should develop products that match the functionality of a newspaper. He asked "What is it about newspapers that keep people reading? There are two fundamental benefits -- a newspaper is a random access device, and it keeps readers informed. If our businesses are going to grow, we have to make our products more like a newspaper." He saw video on demand as the killer digital product of the future. Regarding the "convergence" of TV and computer, he said "in the next two years the difference between PCS and televisions will go away." For more quotes from the speeches, including comments on HDTV, refer to the news story on CEMACity.

FCC Extends Reply Comment Period in Advanced TV Rule Making (Jan. 8)

Today's FCC Daily Digest carried this item:

ADVANCED TELEVISION SYSTEMS. Granted requests for the extension of the time to file reply comments in this proceeding; reply comments are now due Jan. 24. Dkt No.: MM- 87-268. Action by Chief, OET. Adopted: January 8, 1997. by Order. (DA No. 97-23). MMB

FCC Extends Transition Period for New RF Exposure Rules (Jan. 7)

In a Public Notice released today on the FCC web site, the FCC extended the transition period for determining compliance with the new requirements for evaluating the environmental effects of RF electromagnetic fields from FCC-regulated transmitters. The Commission based its action on comments received that most station applicants will need additional time to determine that they comply with the new requirements. By extending the transition period, the Commission sought to "1) eliminate the need for the filing and granting of individual waiver requests; 2) allow time for applicants and licensees to review the results of the decisions that will be taken in the near future addressing other issues raised in the petitions; and 3) permit applicants to review a revised information bulletin and make the necessary measurements or calculations to determine that they are in compliance. " As of January 7th, the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology had not released the updated version of OST-65.

The transition period was extended to September 1, 1997 for most radio services. The date for the Amateur Radio Service was extended to January 1, 1998. More information is available on OET's Docket 93-62 Guidelines for Evaluating the Environmental Effects of Radiofrequency Emissions web page.

January 6 - Issue 52 Late Edition

FCC to Hold Bandwidth Forum on January 23rd (Jan. 6)

In a news release issued today the FCC announced it would hold "an open forum on access to bandwidth" on January 23rd. The news release indicated the forum "will address the deployment of advanced data technologies, the implications of Internet usage for the public switched telephone network, and mechanisms to facilitate widespread availability of new network access technologies at affordable rates." From the news release, it appears the forum will focus on land-line rather than wireless bandwidth, although wireless was not excluded. More details will be released later.

FCC - Effective January 1 - Emergency Alert System Replaced EBS (Jan. 2)

January 1 marked the end of the Emergency Broadcast System and the introduction of the Emergency Alert System. Although some broadcast and cable operators complained that their equipment manufacturers were not able to ship the necessary equipment in time to meet the deadline, the FCC did not delay it. Broadcast stations or cable companies unable to meet the January 1 deadline should contact the FCC to see if it is possible to obtain a waiver of the Rule until the equipment is installed. Comments from FCC officials speaking at various industry meetings indicate that EAS compliance will be a top enforcement priority in 1997.

The FCC has a wealth of information on EAS available on their web site, including full text of the Rules, the EAS Handbook (in PDF format) and plain text explanations of what stations must to do comply. Refer to these links:

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Last modified January 27, 1997 by Doug Lung dlung@transmitter.com
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