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 1998. 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 26 - Issue 102 Final Edition

DTV - TCI Disputes CEMA Concern It May Not Carry Broadcast HDTV Signals (Jan. 26)
PR Newswire carried a release from CEMA dated January 23, quoting CEMA's President Gary Shapiro comments at NAPTE saying that "Manufacturers and broadcasters have committed to bringing Americans the astounding picture resolution of HDTV, but now TCI's 14 million customers may never have the chance to see it. This is a huge tragedy for the American consumer." The story said "TCI's recent announcements indicate its intention to down-convert broadcaster transmission of 1080 interlace HDTV and pass it on to its subscribers in the much lower resolution 480 progressive format." Shapiro said "This highlights the importance of the FCC's upcoming must-carry proceeding. The FCC must ensure that if broadcasters transmit programming in high definition, cable companies are required to pass the programming through to the consumer in the same manner." See the CEMA Press Release for more information

TCI's rebuttal said "TCI unequivocally affirms that its advanced digital set-top devices will indeed have the capability to pass through, to high definition television sets, HDTV signals in the 1080-I format, or any other proposed HDTV format which may be selected by broadcasters and the consumer marketplace." "In no way is TCI planning to "down-convert" any higher format HDTV signal to a lower HDTV format."

Leo J. Hindery, Jr., President of TCI, said,
"CEMA's information is incorrect, and it was extremely irresponsible of them to mislead the public. The truth is, TCI has provided for additional choices and flexibility for all involved. The technology in TCI's advanced digital set-top devices allows a television signal in any HDTV format to be transmitted to a customer's high definition television set. Secondly, customers who do not own an high definition television set can receive 480-P HDTV signals, translated into a standard definition format, with the set-top device as currently configured. As the market for HDTV evolves, TCI will continue to respond to the needs of its customers. Any accusation that we are impeding this process is dead wrong."
While this announcement appears to guarantee TCI will carry broadcasters HDTV signals, it is less clear whether TCI or other cable companies will carry the data or programs broadcasters may imbed in the signals - extra information on commercials and programas (such as the Microsoft and Intercast VBI transmissions today), html (web) formatted information (such as WaveTop offered through PBS' National Datacast service) and specialized standard definition TV programs (such as foreign language or public affairs programming). Updated Jan. 28 to add link to CEMA release

DTV - Harris And Lucent Form Strategic Alliance to Offer DTV Encoders (Jan. 21)
Harris and Lucent Technologies announced today they have formed a strategic alliance to provide DTV encoding equipment to broadcasters under the Harris FlexiCoderTM brand name. The encoders feature a modular platform, allowing broadcasters to start with a single-channel HDTV or SDTV system then upgrade it to a multi-channel or redundant configuration later.

Bruce Allan, vice president and general manager for Harris' Broadcast Division said "The lack of encoding equipment has been a major concern for broadcasters. With this alliance, we can deliver the most advanced and flexible encoders available." The Harris / Lucent Press Release did not mention the cost of the system, but did state that Harris had received orders for the new encoders from A.H. Belo Corporation and WSB-TV, the Cox Broadcasting station in Atlanta, GA. More information is available in the Press Release.

DTV - Acrodyne and KBLR-TV Sign Adjacent Channel Transmitter Contract (Jan. 20)
UHF TV broadcasters have been watching Acrodyne's annoucement of its Adjacent Channel Technology (ACT) with interest. It would allow the use of one transmitter, one transmission line and one antenna for both NTSC and an adjacent channel DTV signal. The big question - will it work?

Engineers attending this year's NAB Convention in Las Vegas may have an opportunity to find if it does. Acrodyne and KBLR have signed a contract that calls for a new ACT transmitter system on the air at KBLR in time for the NAB Convention. Scott Gentry, KBLR-TV General Partner and General Manager said "We looked at all of our options. This is cutting edge technology and we are excited about being part of it. This is a win-win situation for everybody."

More information is available in the Acrodyne Press Release.

SPACE - NASA's NEAR Spacecraft Visible from Earth January 22-23 (Jan. 20/27)
Frequent readers of this newsletter know I like to keep informed about happenings in the sky above us. If you share this interest, you won't want to miss the NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft. NASA says NEAR will become "the first interplanetary spacecraft that can possibly be seen with the naked eye when it swings by Earth Jan. 22-23 [Thursday and Friday]." If you are lucky, you will be able to see the reflection of sunlight from the spacecraft's solar panels.

The spacecraft was launched on February 17, 1996, completed a flyby of the asteroid Mathilde in June 1997 and is now returning to Earth. After it swings by Earth, it should rendezvous with the asteroid Eros on January 10, 1999.

Update: The chance to see the spacecraft has passed, but you can read details and see images of the NEAR spacecraft's earth swing by at http://sd-www.jhuapl.edu/NEAR/. NASA's Press Release has additional information on the NEAR spacecraft and its mission.

FCC Discussion on Evaluating RF Exposure Compliance of Portable Devices (Jan. 20)
The FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, in a Public Notice dated January 14, announced it would hold its next "Round Table" discussion on equipment authorization matters on February 18, 1998. The all day schedule consists of three sessions:
  9A - 10:30A Methods to ensure RF exposure compliance for 15.247(b))(4) Spread Spectrum Transmitters
  10:45A - 12P Evaluating mobile devices with respect to MPE limits using field strength and/or power density.
  1P - 4P Evaluating portable devices with respect to SAR limits using measurement or computational methods.

The sessions will be held in the Conference Room of the FCC Laboratory, 7435 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia, Maryland. If you are interested in attending please see the OET Public Notice for instructions on registering.

OTHER Items of Interest

January 19 - Issue 102 Final Edition

CHIPS - Philips Semiconductor Claims First 'Zero-IF' QPSK Down-converter IC (Jan. 19)
Philips Semiconducters announced today that it had made a "major technological breakthrough in digital satellite broadcast receivers" with its 'Zero-IF' QPSK downconverter IC. Philips Semiconductor claimed this was a "world first". Last year, as reported in the December 15th RF Current, ParkerVision CEO Jeffrey Parker claimed his "Eddie" Chip was the first "universal direct conversion receiver IC".

Although it was state the "Eddie" chip worked over a frequency range from 1 MHz. to 1 GHz., the Philips TDA8060 is specified for operation up to 2200 MHz., making it suitable for use in both digital video broadcasting and directo broadcast satellite systems. Philips said the chip is "compatible with the SMA-TV standard that is currently emerging in the USA."

By eliminating the IF (intermediate frequency) stages, "zero-IF" and "Direct Conversion" receivers are able to reduce complexity, costs and RF radiation, due to the reduction in the number of oscillator frequencies involved. Philips said "In addition to reducing equipment size and cost, the TDA8060's unique Zero-IF feature provides set-top boxes with a number of significant performance advantages. Because there are no intermediate frequencies involved, there is no possibility of interference with other signals in the receiver. The result is a reduction in the number of errors that occur in the MPEG digital video and audio information extracted from the broadcast signal, particularly under poor signal conditions, thus providing the viewer with the added benefit of better picture and sound quality."

For more information see the Philips Semiconductor Press Release.

TOWER - OmniAmerica Obtains Towers In N.E. Ohio and Florida (Jan. 19)
OmniAmerica, Inc., the company formed last year by Hirsch and Ocepek, in collaboration with Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst to own and manage transmission towers for broadcast and wireless services, announced last Tuesday it had closed a deal to acquire the land, tower, buildings and tower business of WCLV (FM) located on the east side of Cleveland. The tower is 510 feet high.

Today, OmniAmerica said it had acquired three wireless communications towers in Palm Beach County, two broadcast and wireless communications towers in Ft. Pierce, from Ardman Broadcasting Corporation of Florida, and 25 towers serving Tampa/St. Petersburg and western Florida, from HSW Associates, Inc.

See the October 13, 1997 RF Current for more information on OmniAmerica and its interest in tower company Kline Iron and Steel.

DTV - Former Intel Execs Form ShareWave, Inc. - Digital Convergence is the Focus (Jan. 12)
ShareWave, Inc. was formed by four industry veterans, including three experts from Intel, to pioneer "a new approach to digital convergence in the home." Bob Bennett. co-fouder and president of ShareWave described the his company's focus:
"Over the last few years, there has been an increasing focus on bringing digital content into the home, either through internal means, such as CD-ROMs or DVDs, or through external means, such as telephone lines, cable modems, and satellite feeds" said Bob Bennett, co-founder and president of ShareWave.<br><br> "No one, however, has developed a coherent strategy for what to do with this content once it enters the home. ShareWave is developing products that establish the PC as a central 'information furnace' in the home. This information furnace will centrally aggregate digital content and computing power, then wirelessly distribute them to appliances throughout the home that are ideally suited for user interaction with that content."
A ShareWave Press Release said "ShareWave will focus on products and technology that establish and manage the wireless connectivity between the home PC and various home electronic appliances."

OTHER Items of Interest

January 12 - Issue 101 Final Edition

DTV - ATSC and CEMA Unveil DTV Certification Logo at 1998 CES (Jan. 10)
A notice on the ATSC web site said that the ATSC and the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) agreed on a DTV certification logo at the 1998 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The ATSC announcement said "The presence of the ATSC Certification logo on a consumer DTV receiver will signify that the receiver will receive and display digital television in all of the video formats incorporated in the ATSC Digital Television Standard."

ATSC is finalizing the guidelines for consumer receiver compliance and will also address compliance guidelines for broadcast equipment.

WIRELESS - New Microsoft© Windows© CE OS Spurs Palm Top Wireless Services (Jan. 10)
Version 2 of Microsoft's Windows CE operating system and the Microsoft Palm PC© initiative have attracted the interest of wireless data equipment providers. Motorola and Microsoft announced a "strategic agreement to develop products and technology enabling wireless communications to be extended within a service coverage area to any supported mobile device based on the Microsoft© Windows© CE operating system." One-way paging services using Motorola's FLEXTM Protocol-based networks will provide these devices with "integrated wireless connectivity". Microsoft's Bill Gates said "Microsoft's vision is to give users the ability to access and receive information wherever they are - in the office, at home, in their car, or any mobile environment... This agreement with Motorola ensures that Windows CE-based products will have a rich set of wireless connectivity solutions available to them."

The first set of modules allowing paging and data broadcasting should be available from Motorola this year. See the Motorola Press Release or Microsoft Press Release for more information.

The Wireless Access Group of Glenayre Technologies, Inc. is also working on wireless devices for Windows C computers. Wireless Access announced that " it is working with JP Systems Inc. to provide email and two-way messaging capabilities to the new Palm PC platform running Windows CE." A Glenayre Press Release said that "By coupling the AccessLink two-way pager with a connectivity kit from JP Systems, users of devices based on the Palm PC platform will be able to increase the functionality of their devices by adding affordable email and two-way messaging. The connectivity kit, which includes software and a cable, is designed to connect the AccessLink to a device based on the Palm PC platform, allowing the user to send and receive messages wirelessly to Internet email addresses, and one-way and two-way pagers." A similar device is available for the popular Palm Pilot, which is not based on Microsoft's operating system.

DTV - Public Station KLVX Broadcasts HDTV for the 1998 CES (Jan. 8)
PBS member station KLVX, using equipment suppled by COMARK Communications, provided HDTV over-the-air signals for reception at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. COMARK provided a solid state transmitter using their "All Digital" 8-VSB ATSC modulator. Comark Digital Services (CDS) provided digital integration support. This equipment will stay in place through the NAB 1998 convention. The ATSC program is is received from the GE-3 satellite and transmitted on channel 55. See COMARK's Press Release for more information.

Zenith took pride in this demonstration of the 8-VSB digital TV transmission system. Zenith supported the broadcasts with digital equipment and technical expertise. See the Press Release - Zenith Digital Technology To Deliver HDTV Signals To Exhibitors At History-Making CES. Zenith also used the opportunity to announce it was working with Intel Corporation to develop demodulator cards that will allow PCs to receive DTV broadcasts. See Zenith, Intel Collaborate On Digital TV Technology for PCs} from Zenith for more information.

CHIPS - Manufacturers Announce New DTV Receiver Chips at CES (Jan. 8)
Mitsubishi Electric America and Lucent Technologies used the Consumer Electronics Show to announce a five chip "end-to-end, receiver-to-display digital television chip set" that meets the ATSC standard for both HDTV and SDTV applications. The five chips include the AV8100, a single chip VSB demodulator, the AV6220A MPEG-2 system layer demultiplexer, the M65682WG MPEG-2 main profile at high level video decoder, the M65863FP Dolby® Digital AC-3 5.1 channel audio decoder and the M65680WG DTV display processor. The M65680WG display processor supports all 18 ATSC input formats and converts them to either 1080I or 720P for HDTV or 480I format for SDTV and outputs an RGB analog signal. The companies said commercial samples of the chip set are scheduled for release in the first quarter of 1998. Application boards for front-end tuning and demodulation will be available in February 1998. The audio-video decoder boards will be available in the second quarter of 1998. Volume production of the chips is targeted for the third quarter of 1998. More information is available in the Lucent Press Release.

Philips Semiconductors TriMediaTM Product Group and Samsung Information Systems America announced they were working together to develop DTV software for Philip's TriMedia processor. The software will be used for converson of ATSC HDTV signals to SDTV signals for viewing on existing NTSC TV sets. The software algorithm will be used in Samsung DTV sets expected in the market in the fourth quarter of 1998. More information on this product is available on the Philips TriMedia web site.

FCC Commissioner Ness Addresses CES - Promises Re-Con Answers "this month" (Jan. 8)
FCC Commissioner Susan Ness tackled several of the issues facing both broadcasters and equipment manufacturers in her speech at the 1998 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Speaking about the heated battle between progressive and interlaced formats that was the hot topic this time last year, she said "That uncertainty was removed with Intel's recent demonstration that all formats can be affordably incorporated in its multimedia computer chip sets." "As a result, later this year, consumers in many key markets will be able to watch digital television over their TV's, their PC's, or their PC/TV's. And consumers will have access to a wide variety of data services, delivered over these same devices. We will be able to watch video programming from the Internet, read our e-mail, or obtain more information about an advertised product. Convergence is here."

While she said it was her view the "once people see high definition, they will be captivated," she also also saw value in the ancilliary services DTV can offer. "...even during a high definition broadcast of a live sporting event -- a pro football game, for example -- there is sufficient "opportunistic" capacity to transmit the entire Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times within a matter of minutes. The excess capacity, while varying each instant, is many megabytes each minute. And the amount of data that could be downloaded while you are sleeping is simply mindboggling -- almost as many as the grains of sand in the Nevada desert." "What will broadcasters do with all this capacity? Fortunes will be earned or lost in coming up with the answers to that question."

What about the issues that remain unanswered at the FCC? Ness said "We at the FCC are working hard to complete our remaining tasks. Most immediately, there are channel allotment issues that must be put to rest. Who gets which channels? At what power levels? How much interference is acceptable? How much variance in NTSC and DTV service areas can be tolerated? We dealt with these issues once, but -- naturally enough -- a number of broadcasters have asked for changes in our order. We need to provide answers, we need to provide them ASAP -- by which I mean by the end of this month -- and we are on track to do just that -- so that everyone can get on with the rollout."

Read the the full text of her remarks at http://www.fcc.gov/Speeches/Ness/spsn801.html.

FCC Issues Report And Order Reallocating TV Channels 60-69 (Jan. 7)
The FCC has released its Report And Order in ET Docket 97-157, Reallocation of Television Channels 60-69, the 746-806 MHz. Band. The FCC, agreeing with comments from Motorola, rejected MSTV's proposal to allocate channels 66-69 for public safety instead of channels 63, 64, 68 and 69. The reason given was that this frequency separation was needed to reduce the cost and weight of two-way radios and that "properly crafted technical rules will minimize adjacent channel interference." Aeronautical Radio Inc.(ARINC) commented that because the Global Positioning System (GPS) operates at the second harmonic of TV channels 65-67, "allocating the 63, 64, 68 and 69 to public
safety ensures that public safety transmitters will not interfere with the GPS."

The FCC rejected arguments that broadcasting should not retain an allocation in this spectrum after the DTV transition, although it reiterated that "DTV operations not licensed by competitive bidding as provided in the Budget Act will still be required to vacate this spectrum in accordance with the DTV transition plan." In spite of the power disparities between broadcast and communications services, the FCC was not "persuaded that such sharing is not fesible."

With regards to interference to and from TV stations, the Commission commented that the Budget Act required it to allocate this spectrum for public safety and commercial use. "Thus we do not have the latitude to delay reallocation of this spectrum." However, the Commission said "We also find no merit in the argument we should remove immediately all TV broadcasting operations from TV channels 60-69. The operation of some TV and DTV stations in this spectrum is clearly required to facilitate the DTV transition, and the Budget Act provides for this..." "We remain committed to full interference protection for TV licensees during the DTV transition."

LPTV operators retain their secondary status on these channels and like full power TV stations, will have to vacate channels 60-69 after the DTV transition. LPTV and TV translators will be able to continue to operate on these channels "as long as they do not cause harmful interference to primary services." LPTV stations will have the opportunity to secure their channels at auctions, and thus secure primary status. The FCC will not provide interference protection for LPTV and TV translators on channel 60-69, however, it encourages "wherever possible, private negotiations between LPTV stations and new services providers in the commercial portions of the 756-806 MHz. band to resolve problems, including interference, in a manner acceptable and/or beneficial to both parties." Sucn negotiations will not be permitted in the public safety portion of the band.

The FCC will not authorize additional new analog full-service television stations on channels 60-69, however, pending applications and petitions will not be summarily dismissed.

Full details are available in the Report and Order. A short summary, News Release NRET8001, is also available from the FCC web site.

SCIENCE - Total Eclipse of the Sun February 26 (Jan. 10)
NASA has provided information on the next total eclipse of the sun, occuring Thursday, February 26 on a web site at http://planets.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/TSE1998/TSE1998.html. The total eclipse will be visible in parts of northern South America, the Caribbean Sea, and off the northern coast of Africa. A partial eclipse may be seen in Puerto Rico (80 percent) and south Florida (40 percent) as well as the southeastern part of Texas and northeastern part of Mexico. See the NASA web site for coverage maps and times. Don't forget the usual warnings about looking directly at the sun!

OTHER Items of Interest

January 5 - Issue 100 Final Edition

DTV - Zenith Selects Microware OS-9 for HDTV Receiver Operating System (Dec. 29)
Many, many years ago I used Microwave's OS-9 operating system on a modified Radio Shack Color Computer. It allowed me to do things with that computer Radio Shack never dreamed of. OS-9 didn't go away with the Color Computer and TRS-80. Microwave, instead, honed the software to work as an operating system for cable set-top boxes and other consumer electronics.

Looking at all the options possible under the ATSC standard, it isn't surprising Zenith would decide to put a computer operating system inside the TV. Zenith plans to use the OS-9-based DAVIDLiteTM package. ("DAVID" stands for "Digital Audio/Video Interactive Decoder.) Denis Connaghan, C.O.O. of Microwave, said "Zenith's licensing of DAVID for the HDTV solutions marks the first time that OS-9 will be in the television receiver itself. This is a very exciting evolution for Microwave, and we're pleased to make this monumental step with Zenith."

More information is available on the Microwave Web Site and in the Zenith Press Release.

SCIENCE - NASA Lunar Prospector Information On the Net (Jan.5)
NASA's Lunar Prospector's launch was delayed until January 6 at 2128 EST. You can find more information on the Lunar Prospector Mission at http://lunar.arc.nasa.gov/ See http://lunar.arc.nasa.gov/project/index.html for details on the project, including a link to a QuickTime Virtual Reality view of the spacecraft. NASA has added real-time video and audio for the launch Tuesday night. See http://lunar.arc.nasa.gov/.

OTHER Items of Interest

Other Issues Available:



1995 and 1996

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Last modified January 28, 1998 by Doug Lung dlung@transmitter.com
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