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 February 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.

February 23 - Issue 106 Final Edition

FCC Releases Memorandum Opinion and Orders On DTV Reconsideration (Feb. 23)
Today the FCC released the full text of its Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration of the Sixth Report and Order and its Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration of the Fifth Report and Order.

See the February 18th article below for a summary of these Orders, as released in the FCC's Reports. Look for a full report and analysis on the technical aspects of these Orders in Doug Lung's RF Technology column in the April 1998 TV Technology magazine.

The Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration of the Sixth Report is over 380 pages in length, but the FCC's reasoning behind the decisions makes interesting reading. While is is available as a text file, I recommend downloading the WordPerfect version, which includes footnotes and other information not present in the text version. FCC98-24 Text File | FCC98-24 WordPerfect File

The Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration of the Fifth Report and Order is much shorter - about 40 pages, One reason it is shorter is the FCC declined reconsideration of almost all of the requests for changes to the rules released in the Fifth R&O. Text and WordPerfect versions are available. FCC98-23 Text File | FCC98-23 WordPerfect File

FCC Adopts Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Implement Universal Licensing System (Feb. 19)
The FCC took another step toward electronic licensing with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to facilitate its implementation of the Universal Licensing System (ULS). Wireless Bureau Report WT 98-3 said that
"When fully operational, ULS will replace eleven separate licensing systems and databases now being used for various wireless services. It will support full electronic filing of all licensing-related applications and other filings associated with such applications. ULS will also provide the public with on-line access to public licensing information, which will be obtainable by dialing into the Commission's wide area network and using any World Wide Web browser."
Additional details are available on the FCC's ULS beta site at http://www.fcc.gov/wtb/uls. Unlike the tower registration software, which required installation of a special TCP/IP stack and would not work on Windows 95 or Windows NT, the new ULS software will work with Windows 95 and Windows NT built in Dial-Up Networking. A dialer is available for Windows 3.x platforms.

FCC Announces New DTV Table and Affirms Service Rules for DTV Conversion (Feb. 18)
After considering 231 Petitions for Reconsideration filed in response to the FCC's 6th Report and Order on Advanced Television, the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology released its final DTV Table of Allotments Wednesday. According to FCC Report ET 98-2, the Commission made only 71 revisions to the DTV allotments. The report said 42 allotments were changed "to eliminate specific DTV to DTV adjacent channel situations" and 29 allotments were changed to "address specific requests." The FCC also "tightened the technical rules that limit out-of-band emissions from DTV operation and provided flexibility in its administrative processes to encourage adjacent channel co-locations." Details on the changes wasn't released with the report.

Many UHF stations moving to UHF DTV channels saw a slight increase in their DTV power allotment. The major benefit to existing UHF station's DTV facilities, however, is the Commission's decision to permit DTV stations "to operate with increased power or take other measures to improve their coverage." The Report stated that
"DTV stations will be permitted to increase power, or modify their antenna height or transmitter location, where the requested change would not result in more than a 2% increase in interference to the population served by another station, unless the affected station already experiences interference to 10% or more of its population, or the change would result in the affected station receiving interference in excess of 10% of its population. In addition, UHF stations will be allowed to increase radiated power up to 200 kW and, within their service area, up to 1000 kW, by using antenna beam-tilting techniques, provided they meet the above standard for permissible interference."
The precise implications of this decision won't be known until the full text of the Memorandum Opinion and Order is released. [Feb. 23 Update - the full text of FCC 98-24 is now available in either plain text or WordPerfect formats.]

The report also said that by using software developed by the Community Broadcasters Association it was able to change 66 allotments in the DTV Table to avoid using a channel now used by LPTV station(s). It wasn't clear if these 66 changes are included in the 71 revisions mentioned earlier in the Report. The Report also said it "modified its technical rules to improve sharing between low power and full power stations."

Other changes are outlined in the FCC Report ET 98-2. The Report also contains links to the new DTV Table of Allotments in various formats. The Table in text format is file et8002a1.txt and the Station Coordinates, in text format, are in file et8002a2.txt. The new table can be browsed in a state-by-state format at http://www.transmitter.com/FCC9824/chanplan.html. An Excel 4.0 Workbook version of the table is also available - download fcc9824.xls.

The FCC's Mass Media Bureau released Report MM 98-1, affirming its service rules "providing for rapid conversion of over-the-air broadcasting to digital television (DTV)." The Report said the FCC no reason to modify its DTV build-out schedule, including the "planned cessation of NTSC broadcasting in 2006." It noted, however, that the Rules did provide for a review of these requirements every two years and noted that this could be modified "under certain circumstances specified in the statute" [Balanced Budget Act of 1997].

Report MM 98-1 also stated that "NTSC TV station applicants with permits granted after April 3, 1997, and who therefore were not initially eligible for DTV licenses, would be permitted to initiate service as a DTV station or convert to DTV on their NTSC channels at any time prior to the end of the transition period."

DTV - General Instrument Develops ATSC-Compliant DTV System for Broadcasters (Feb. 17)
General Instrument Corporation announced it had developed an MPEG-2 ATSC encoder system for delivering DTV signals. The system includes digital video compression encoders and multiplexers for both SDTV and HDTV signals. The product is based on and backward compatible with General Instruments current MPEG-2 digital video systems. The new encoding system is fully ATSC compliant and "supports the standard interfaces approved by broadcast industry groups such as the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). John Glass, vice president/business manager of advanced video networks for GI's Satellite Data Network Systems business, said, "The evolution of our MPEG2 system to include HDTV and full ATSC compliance shows General Instrument's continuing commitment to the success of digital television."

For more information see the GI Press Release.

Scientific Atlanta has posted more information on the PowerVu® HD ATSC encoder system (see the February 9th Issue, below) on its new PowerVu HD web site.

SOFTWARE - MapInfo Announces Release of Windows Based RF Propagation Tool (Feb. 17)
MapInfo Corporation announced the availability of deciBel Planner, an RF propagation and modeling tool developed by Northwood Geoscience, Ltd. of Ottawa, Canada. The deciBel Planner is integrated with MapInfo, allowing integration of engineering with other business processes. It supports industry-standard propagation models, including CRC-Predict. The software can be used on a laptop in conjunction with GPS referenced data to collect and compare real-world propagation with predicted signal levels.

The product is scheduled to ship in mid-March, 1998 and carries a suggested retail price of $18,995. For more info see the MapInfo Press Release.

CHIPS - TeraLogic Architecture to Enable Sub $400 DTV Set Top Boxes (Feb. 17)
TeraLogic, Inc. announced it will introduce a family of low-cost solutions for the DTV market. A TeraLogic Press Release said the company "develops integrated circuit (IC) and software solutions that allow consumer electronics manufacturers to quickly bring to market advanced, yet affordable, \digital television receivers and set-top boxes with a retail cost of under $400." The Release said its IC's are compatible with "all of the key DTV transmission standards." The first member of the product family is scheduled for introduction in March.

More information on Teralogic's DTV plans are available on Teralogic's Digital TV Page.

FCC Authorizes LEO One Mobile Satellite System (Feb. 17)
Today's FCC Daily Digest carried a notice that the FCC's International Bureau had authorized LEO One USA Corporation to construct, launch and operate a 48 satellite non-voice, non-geosynchronous mobile satellite service system. This system, unlike some of the more publicized MSS systems that offer voice and high speed data services, operates with subscriber uplink data rates in the 2,400 to 9,600 bps range and a subscriber downlink rate of 24,000 bps and uses the VHF spectrum at 148 and 137 MHz. More technical information on the system is available on LEO One's web site.

OTHER Items of Interest

February 16 - Issue 105 Final Edition

FCC Releases Agenda for February 19 Open Meeting - DTV is NOT Included (Feb. 12)
The FCC has released its Agenda for the February 19 Open Commission Meeting. The FCC will consider amendment of the Commission's Rules to "facilitate the Development and Use of the Universal Licensing System in the Wireless Telecommunications Services" and the Biennial Review of Commission Regulations Pursuant to Section 11 of the Communications Act of 1934. As part of the 1998 Biennial Regulatory Review it will also review the Broadcast Ownership Rules and other rules adopted pursuant to Section 202 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Commission will also consider action concerning rules for the Direct Broadcast Satellite Service.

Action on Petitions for Reconsideration in the FCC's Advanced Television rule making were not included in the agenda. Broadcasters have been waiting for final action on the FCC's DTV Table of Allotments before pursuing DTV build-out plans, since any change in the table could impact their DTV channel assignments. At last month's Open Meeting, action on the Table was promised in "days, not weeks or months." Almost a month later, there has been no news on Commission action. Broadcasters shouldn't be surprised by the delay, since several contradictory issues have to be resolved, including decisions on the DTV to DTV interference in the current table, UHF DTV power disparity, determination of which channels will constitute the "core channels", and protection of LPTV stations as well as several market specific requests for changes. Last month's agenda was modified the day before the meeting. The same may happen this month. Information on any FCC actions regarding channel changes will be posted here as soon as they are available.

FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Sponsors Seminar on Universal Licensing System (Feb. 12)
The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) will host a half day seminar on the Universal Licensing System (ULS) on Thursday, March 19, 1998 in the Commission Meeting Room, Room 854, 1919 M Street N.W., beginning at 10 AM. The ULS is being developed to replace ten existing wireless license processing systems. It will be Internet accessible and provide electronic filing, registration and search capabilities.

For more details see the Public Notice.

TECHNOLOGY - Bell Labs Scientists Use Micro-Mirrors to Route and Switch Lightwave Signals (Feb. 16)
Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs have demonstrated an experimental device that can route and switch individual wavelengths of light transmitted simultaneously on an optical fiber. The device uses free-space optics and micro-mirrors (so small that about 100 of them would fit on the head of a pin) to add or drop specific wavelengths in the transmission fiber without disturbing other wavelengths. Cherry Murray, director of Bell Labs Physical Research Lab, said "This is a substantial achievement. With this MEMS technology, one can integrate optical switching into a WDM system, allowing for needed components like wavelength-channel add-drops and cross-connects based on standard silicon technology and free-space or integrated waveguide optics."

The Lucent Technologies Press Release said "The system uses a WDM switch in which multi-wavelength light from an optical fiber is imaged through a diffraction grating onto a column of micro-mechanical tilt-mirrors. The mirrors are positioned so that each is illuminated by a single wavelength, and they are tilted so that individual wavelength signals are either passed into the output fiber or reflected directly back into the input fiber.

More information on this interesting development can be found in the Lucent Technologies Press Release. A photo of the micro-mirrors is also available.

TOWERS - OmniAmerica Acquires TowerCom and Miller Tower (Feb. 10)
OmniAmerica continues its relentless acquistion of tower properties. The company announced it had completed two transactions involving broadcast towers and wireless communications facilties in Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Florida and in Dallas Texas and Milwaukee Wisconsin.

In Florida, OmniAmerica acquired TowerCom, which owns the "Gannett" tower on Countyline Road north of Miami and a 1605 foot tower in Orlando. The Miami tower holds antennas for TV stations WYHS, WBFS and WSCV as well as eleven FM stations. The Orlando tower serves two TV stations and four FM stations. Both towers have numerous non-broadcast tenants. The transaction also includes a 1221 foot tower under construction in Milwaukee Wisconsin by Kline Towers, an OmniAmerica affiliate. OmniAmerica will also acquire two proposed developmental sites for a 1684 foot tower in Orlando and a 1589 foot tower in Tampa.

In the second transaction, OmniAmerica acquired Miller Transmission Tower Company of New York. It owns the 1529-foot Milton Tower in the Cedar Hill antenna farm and the 457-foot Evelyn Tower. The Milton tower holds five TV stations, eight FM radio stations and other wireless service tenants. The Evelyn tower holds one FM radio station and numerous non-broadcast tenants. OmniAmerica will also acquire the 1575-foot Cowboy Tower, currently under construction at Cedar Hill by Kline Towers. This tower can hold up to five TV broadcast antennas and ten FM radio stations.

OTHER Items of Interest

February 9 - Issue 104 Final Edition

DTV - Scientific-Atlanta Expands PowerVu® Line to Include HDTV Encoder (Feb. 6)
Scientific-Atlanta announced in a Press Release today that it was expanding its PowerVu® line of digital video compression equipment to include HDTV products for broadcasters. The new products include the PowerVu HD High Definition Encoder and the PowerVu HD High Definition Decoder. The HD products will be developed by Digital Vision AB of Sweden to Scientific-Atlanta's specifications. The products will be previewed at NAB convention in Las Vegas in April.

Competitor General Instruments (formerly NextLevel) is also planning to show a line of HDTV and SDTV ATSC compatible encoders and decoders based on its DigiCipher® II digital video compression system. No information on this product was available on the web when this was written, but keep checking the General Instruments Satellite Data Networks page.

FCC to Consider Ultra-Wideband Radar Systems in "Permit-But-Disclose" Proceeding (Feb. 6)
US Radar, Inc. filed a petition requesting a waiver of several sections of Part 15 of the FCC Rules to allow the authorization, importation and operation of an ultra-wideband, ground-penetrating impulse radar. The bandwidth of the system can "occupy several gigahertz of spectrum", according to the FCC. The antennas used with the system are centered on 250 MHz, 500 MHz, 1 GHz or 2 GHz. The bands the system would operate in, which include TV broadcast spectrum, are prohibited under Section 15.205 and Section 15.209(a). US Radar claimed it would comply with the emission limits in Section 15.209 because the signals are directed into the ground and protective circuit would cause it to cease operation if the equipment is not contact with the ground.

Time Domain Corporation is also requesting waiver of several sections of Part 15 of the FCC Rules to allow for authorization, importation and operation of "an ultra-wideband system that could be used by public safety personnel for communications purposes and for through-wall imaging radar systems. Like the US Radar system, this one would also occupy several gigahertz of spectrum. Emissions would be centered in the 2-4 GHz. band.

The FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) is reviewing these waiver requests and seeks comments from interested parties concerning them. OET said that "in order to permit a fuller exchange on the complex issues under consideration in this proceeding, it should be treated, for ex parte purposes, as a 'permit-but-disclose' proceeding, in accordance with Section 1.1200(a) of the Commission's rules, and is subject to the requirements under Section 1.1206(b) of the rules."

Comments are due March 9, 1998. Reply comments are due March 24, 1998. More details are available in the US Radar Public Notice and Time Domain Corporation Public Notice.

TV - PCTV Tested By WETA and Metered by Nielsen (Feb. 4)
Last week WETA in Washington D.C. announced the successful transmission of digital television programming to a PC. Intel joined WETA in the test to study the delivery of DTV and data to PCs. WETA said digitized images were transmitted through its DTV transmitter in Arlington, Virginia to the station's headquarters over 4 miles away. The images were received with a protoype 8VSB ATSC-compliant receiver PCI card and displayed on a Pentium® II processor-based system.

Intel's Tom Galvin, director, digital TV and broadband, said "The combination of data plus video offers great opportunities for broadcasters and consumers. We are delighted that the WETA experiments have been successful, demonstrating the potential of digital broadcasting to deliver data-enriched programming and data services, as well as traditional television." This information was from a WETA news release.

News that people may be watching TV on PCs has not gone unnoticed at Nielsen Media Research. It announced Wednesday that it has "developed the first metering system for new media measurement that will track television viewing within Windows 98." David Harkness, senior vice president, Nielsen Media Research, said "Digital TV is upon us, and this dramatic new world necessitates new research solutions for the variety of platforms on which audiences will view television. We are working in tandem with Microsoft to meet the challenges of the future. Such 'software metering approaches' will be absolutely necessary to measure the digital age and meet customers' future reporting needs."

More information is available in the Nielsen Media Research Press Release.

SATELLITE - NAB Conditionally Backs Satellite Local TV Carriage (Feb. 4)
In a Press Release issued today, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) reported that Board Member Bill Sullivan told a House subcommittee that the NAB would support local-to-local satellite delivery of broadcast signals if must-carry and retransmission consent requirements are applied to the satellite carriers. Sullivan said "local-to-local satellite carriage of broadcast signals could enhance some satellite carriers ability to compete with cable, and provide some competition for broadcasters' retransmission consent among multi-channel service providers in local markets." Sullivan said the NAB board endorsed the concept, "so long as satellite carriers carry all local signals in a market and are required to negotiate carriage arrangements with local broadcasters. Program exclusivity protection for broadcasters must also be ensured."

Sullivan noted that while current law permits the sale of distant network signals only to viewers in the "white area" that are unable to receive a grade B signal from local broadcasters or who have not been cable subscribers within 90 days of signing up for the satellite service, "these limitations on the sale of distant network signals have often been completely ignored by the satellite carriers."

OTHER Items of Interest

February 2 - Issue 103 Final Edition

FCC Experimental Actions for December 1997 (Jan. 30)
Friday the FCC posted its monthly list of Experimental Actions. Actions of note include the grant of WA2XOC to Southern California Microwave, Inc., to operate in the 1990-2110, 2450-2483.5, 5935.32-6414.67, 6535-6865. 6875-7125, 10705-11695, 12700-13250, 17710-19690, 21825/23025/21875/23075, 31012.5-31287.5, and 38600-40000 MHz. for test, development, and demonstrations of microwave equipment in the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. Bellsouth Telecommunications was granted experimental license WA2XOA to operate in the 2305-2320 and 2345-2360 MHz. bands to "determine the feasibility of using Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS) microcells in the Wireless Communications Service (WCS) bands." This operation will be in the Atlanta, GA area.

Information on other grants, including Motorola's WA2XPK for 5 GHz. U-NII testing, is available in the FCC Public Notice PNET8002

The FCC dropped agenda items 1 and 4, regarding Petitions for Reconsideration filed in the FCC's 5th and 6th Report and Orders on Advanced Television. See the FCC Agenda, and the Deletion of Agenda Items.

At the start of the meeting, the Chairman announced that "We are working very hard to tie up a couple of loose ends on the digital allotment plan. I am confident that we will be able to resolve those issues very soon - we are talking about days, not weeks or months. We recognize as a Commission the importance of resolving the issues so crucial to the roll-out of digital television. We are fully committed to making sure this happens very very soon."

SCIENCE - Univ. of Colorado at Boulder offers Do-It Yourself Physics on the Web (Jan. 26)
If you want to learn about a given topic, chances are you can find the information on the Internet. With few exceptions, the information is non-interactive, although this is starting to change. One site that offers an excellent example of how Java based interactive experiments can enhance the learning process is the University of Colorado at Boulder's Physics 2000 Project. Professor Martin Goldman, director of the Physics 2000 Project, said "The general public has long regarded the subject of physics as incomprehensible, inaccessible, stuffy, fearsome or all of these. The Physics 2000 Project is designed to show that it can be fun and exciting."

Some of the topics included are x-rays, microwave ovens, CAT scans and even a new form of matter called Bose-Einstein condensation. The experiments run on Java applets and while Netscape 3.0 or later is specified, at least one experiment appears to work with Internet Explorer 4.01 as well. The applets take a while to download, so a fast Internet connection is desirable. A 28.8k connection will work if you are patient.

More details on the Physics 2000 Project web site are available in the Do-It Yourself Physics Fun Offered At Colorado Website news release.

ANTENNAS - Unique Contrawound Toroidal Helical Antenna Close to Production (Jan. 27)
IAS Communications, Inc. announced Monday it had received confirmation from Circuit Systems, Inc. for production of its Contrawound Toroidal Helical Antenna (CTHA), "pursuant to IAS Communications submitting purchase orders."

The CTH antenna consists of two windings wrapped in opposite directions on a donut-shaped device. IAS Communications' web site says "the CTHAntenna is so effetive that it can transmit VHF signals over three times as far as conventional antenna operating at the same input power level." It also said the antenna requires only 1/60th the height of a normal antenna. Little detailed technical information is provided on the web site, but it does state the antenna is circularly polarized, omni-directional, and notes "Evidence points to the ability of the CTHAntenna's signal to actually ride the Earth's magnetic field near or just below the surface, allowing broadcasts to reach the far side of obstacles (such as mountains) that have traditionally hampered conventional antenna." Unfortunately, the web site doesn't describe how this propagation mode works.

You can find out more about this interesting technology on the IAS Communications Web Site. Don't try accessing this site at less than 28kb - it is slow and includes a large amount of graphics. Be patient!

OTHER Items of Interest

Other Issues Available:

Other Issues Available:



1995 and 1996

Return to The RF Page @ www.transmitter.com

Last modified February 23, 1998 by Doug Lung dlung@transmitter.com
Copyright © 1998 H. Douglas Lung