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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.

Issues are dated each Monday, although recently I've needed an extra day or two to complete each issue. Articles may be posted earlier if time permits or if there is a major, breaking story.

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January 10, 2000 - Issue 196Final Edition

FCC Actions Clear Way for New Services on 747-762 MHz and 777-792 MHz bands (Jan. 10)
On January 6, an FCC News Release (nrwl10001) announced the FCC had adopted rules for licensing and operations in the 30 of the 36 MHz of commercial spectrum located between TV channels 60 and 69. The details are in the FCC First Report and Order in the Matter of Service Rules for the 746-764 and 776-794 MHz Bands, available from the FCC web site as either a text file, fcc00005.txt, or a Microsoft Word document, fcc00005.doc.

The FCC found TV broadcasting, at conventional power levels, wouldn't work on these frequencies, stating as an example, "If... we applied standards for the protection of incumbent television licensees on this band to protect new television licensees operating at power levels authorized by Part 73, we would curtail to negligible levels the potential of this band for wireless service." It noted the contention by Motorola and Airtouch that the experience with sharing in the Channel 14-20 TV band demonstate that "renewed conventional television operations on these bands would create such a wide range of interference difficulties as to effectively preclude other, non-broadcast wireless applications." The Order stated, "The innovations expected from the transition to DTV have been and will continue to be accommodated on the bands dedicated for television broadcasting." The Order noted that, "Although we have determined to orient our technical and service rules primarily to enable the efficient and intensive use of these bands for wireless service, we will nonetheless allow any broadcast-type services consistent with the Table of Allocations that meet those rules." This could conceivably allow the construction of the Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting Service proposed by CEMA, now the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

The FCC divided the spectrum into two paired 10 MHz bands and two paired 5 MHz bands. The 10 MHz bands include 752-762 MHz and 782-792 MHz. The 5 MHz bands run from 747-752 MHz and 777-782 MHz. The provisions in Part 27 of the FCC Rules, in most cases, apply to stations operating in these bands. Maximum effective radiated power (ERP) allowed varies by band segment. Base and fixed stations operating between 747-762 MHz are allowed up to 1,000 watts at an antenna height above average terrain no greater than 305 meters. Mobile, fixed and control stations operating in the 777-792 MHz band are allowed an ERP no greater than 30 watts. Portable statiosn in the same band are allowed a maximum of 3 watts. In consideration of the potential for interference to GPS from the second harmonic of stations operating in the 747-792 MHz band, the FCC has adopted special out of band emission limits. Refer to the Order (see links above) for the details.

The Order also addressed protection of television broadcast services still operating on channels 60-69. The FCC said, "n reaching our decisions in that proceeding, we noted that land mobile and TV stations have successfully shared the 470-512 MHz band (TV Channels 14-20) in 11 major metropolitan areas of the United States. In the 470-512 MHz band, we relied on minimum separation distances based on the various heights and powers of the land mobile stations to prevent harmful interference." The FCC chose this method in the Public Safety Spectrum Report and Order in this band. It decided the same approach would work for the commercial portion of the Ch. 60-69 band, as specified in Section 27.60 of the FCC Rules. The FCC declined to allow, except in specific cases where a public interest benefit was demonstrated, negotiations between commercial users and broadcasters that would permit higher levels of interference to broadcast TV than allowed under current protection standard or encourage the TV station to convert to DTV-only transmission before the end of the statutory transition period.

In a possible indication of how long the FCC believes the DTV transition may take, the FCC considered the issue raised by one commenter concerning broadcast stations remaining on the channels after 2006. Part 27.14(a) of the FCC Rules requires licensees provide "substantial service" within 10 years of being licensed or face forfeiture of their license. For the new commercial services proposed on these 700 MHz frequencies, the FCC amended the performance requirment to require "substantial service" no later than January 1, 2014.

Six megahertz of the 36 Mhz spectrum allocated for commercial uses in this band will be reserved for use as a guard-band between other service allocations, such the public safety allocations, adjacent to this spectrum. The FCC released a Public Notice (da000031) seeking public comment "on issues related to guard bands in the 746-764 MHz and 776-794 MHz spectrum block". The Public Notice said " the Commission received a large number of ex parte filings addressing the technical and operational standards to be applied to the guard bands. Parties advanced conflicting arguments on these issues and the specific technical, operational and licensing regulations that are necessary to adequately protect adjacent public safety operations. Moreover, a number of these recent filings reflected new representations and analyses of these issues by both potential bidders and the public safety community.". The FCC invited comments on what out-of-band emission limits should be applied to licensees operating the guard bands, whether restrictions should be placed on the architecture of systems operating in these bands, and whether other limitations, such as frequency coordination, should be required. Comments are due January 18 and reply comments will not be accepted.

The FCC also issued a Public Notice (da000043) seeking comment on "reserve prices or minimum opening bids and other auction procedural issues".

DTV - Terrestial ATSC DTV Receivers in Abundance at CES, as part of DBS Set-top boxes (Jan 7)
If the products shown at CES 2000 in Las Vegas this week are any indication, consumers should have many choices for relatively inexpensive terrestrial DTV set-top boxes. The only catch is these set-top boxes will be primarily designed to receive digital satellite services, with the ATSC tuner being secondary. It could be a win-win situation for both broadcasters and DBS operators. Broadcasters have more people watching their DTV signals and the DBS operators, with digital, high quality local content are in a better position to compete with cable companies.

EchoStar said it would use Nxtwave's NXT2000 receiver chip in an 8-VSB DTV receiver module for its new Model 6000 DISH Network set-top box. According to EchoStar, both will be available this Spring. DBS competitor DIRECTV received wide support for its DIRECTV PLUS(tm) system, which is able to receive both standard and high definition DTV signals from satellite or off air. DIRECTV reported that the SIR-TS200 set-top box from Samsung will be available this Fall, Panasonic set-top boxes will be available this Spring. Zenith also showed a DIRECTV PLUS set-top box with terrestrial DTV reception at CES. Their box will be available this Fall. See the Other Items section below for links to press releases on these products.

Sarnoff used the CES show as an opportunity to voice its support for the 8-VSB modulation standard. Sarnoff noted that early adopters aren't complaining about problems with 8-VSB reception. While each transmission system has its strengths and weaknesses, Sarnoff said 8-VSB was best for broadcasting in the U.S. The Sarnoff report said COFDM requires higher transmitter power out than 8-VSB for similar coverage, and, "More disturbing, it is well known that COFDM is vulnerable to disruption by impulse noise from household appliances such as lamp dimmers, refrigerators, furnace motors, hair dryers, etc. Early reports from countries that use COFDM bear this out." SANYO and Sarnoff announced that that "they will create an affordable set-top box (STB) to convert digital and high-definition television (DTV/HDTV) broadcasts for display on a standard analog television." Mr. Yoshimasa Takahashi, Vice President of SANYO Manufacturing Corporation commented that, "Every station will be transmitting in digital in three years," said Mr. Yoshimasa Takahashi , Vice President of SANYO Manufacturing Corporation. "People will want to equip their existing televisions and home theaters to receive digital programming, and our set-top converter box will meet this demand with excellent video quality and outstanding digital sound at an affordable price." Sanyo and Sarnoff did not say what they considered an affordable price. Thomson's popular RCA DTC100 DIRECTV and ATSC set-top box carries a suggested retail price of $650.

All of the boxes mentioned here will take the various ATSC formats of high definition and standard definition signals and convert them to a standardard definition signal capable of being viewed on an existing television set. Many of the more advanced set-top boxes are also able to output high definition video to a monitor capable of displaying it.

FCC Chairman Kennard Introduces IPTV at CES 2000 (Jan. 7)
FCC Chairman William Kennard outlined his "Dream TV" scenario in an address at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The address, IPTV: From the Vast Wasteland to the Vast Wonderland, chastized the cable, consumer electronics and programming industries for slowing the rollout of what Kennard called "IPTV".

Kennard outlined his digital dream for IPTV: "The vision has been of two-way, interactive TV that has the digital agility of the computer, but the display quality of a movie theater that can be summoned on-demand. A single device would be a multimedia source of news, information, and entertainment. It would marry the various platforms, whether cable, broadcasting, satellite or the Internet, in a way that allows them to coordinate and compete at the same time. And it would offer the viewer program choices that take us from what one of my predecessors called the vast wasteland of television to a vast wonderland of limitless content. From our couch potato past to the interactive future. The viewer actively engages the programming. The viewer can replay portions of TV shows as they are being aired, summon sports scores and web sites instantly, or download movies in a snap."

IPTV, Kennard said, can be many things: an "Interactive Personal TV&qyot; that allows viewers to personalize programming, a smart "Intelligent Personal TV" and an "Internet Protocol TV" that connects to the Internet. There were examples of IPTV on the exhibit floor of the convention, but it has yet to become part of the American household. This, he said, is not because of a lack of consumer demand, nor is it because government has blocked the rollout of IPTV. He pointed out that more than 100 TV stations broadcasting DTV reach 50 percent of the American people, cable modems are in nearly 1.5 million households and an estimated 4.1 million households subscribe to digital cable. Almost 500,000 households have high-speed DSL Internet connections and 11 million households have digital satellite receivers.

So what is the problem? Kennard said those in the cable and consumer electronics and programming industries ":have not been able to agree on standards that allow the various delivery plaforms and enhancements to work together; and they have not been able to agree on copyright protection that will unleash the quality programming for the interactive future." The industry, by some estimates, has solved 90 percent of the compatibility standards. Kennard used history to highlight the current dilemma:
"This situation contrasts dramatically with the way color TV rolled out in the early 1950ís. Things were a lot simpler then. At that time, one firm, RCA, was involved in every aspect of the system, from start to finish. RCA manufactured TVs and transmitters, and it owned a leading TV network, NBC. It had the incentive and the ability to lead the conversion to color, and, whether measured by color television sets sold or color programming transmitted, RCA led the way.

"In the case of IPTV it is much more complicated. There are multiple players and competing incentives. Broadcasters, for example, want cable-ready television sets, because cable carriage will allow broadcasters to capture more market share for their advertisers.

"Cable operators, however, are hesitant to transfer too much of their network intelligence to the viewer's television. They worry about losing control of the viewer, because, for example, the viewer might use someone else's program guide.

"Manufacturers want to sell equipment that works and that consumers can afford."
Kennard explained that is the nature of an open market that when a bottleneck develops in one part of the market, the market will find a way around it in another part of the market. He warned the audience, "This may be happening already. While you have been negotiating standards, the marketplace is moving on." He citied recent moves to distribute TV programming on the Internet, then said, "I know many of you may be troubled by these developments, but the best way for you to respond is to resolve these compatibility problems that I have been talking about today. Break down the bottleneck that is preventing consumers from getting IPTV."

Finally, he said customers don't care if the problem is equipment compatibility or copy protection. They just want the problem solved. To that end, he announced, " I have directed the FCC staff to draft a set of proposed rules for digital TV compatibility standards. So, if cannot solve these problems by April of this year, we will. If industry is unable to reach an agreement on its own by April, I will urge the Commission to adopt compatibility rules to protect the public interest."

The FCC Chairman covered other issues in his address. See IPTV: From the Vast Wasteland to the Vast Wonderland for the complete text.

DTV - Decisionmark's TitanTV Helps Consumers Get Answers to DTV Questions (Jan. 6)
Decisionmark Corporation has put together an interesting web site to help consumers and retailers understand DTV. The main page is TitanTV.com. Through TitanTV.com, consumers obtain a list of local digital channels and subscribe to a service called DTV Notify, which alerts them when a new DTV station goes on the air in their area. Retailers can use the Antenna Selector Technology at TitanTV.com to select the appropriate digital-ready off-air antenna for customers.

Participants in TitanTV.com include Hauppage, Winegard, Amerilink, UPN, and PAX TV. More information on Decisionmark, this web site and others developed by Decisionmark, refer to the press release Decisionmark Launches TitanTV.Com.

DTV - Sinclair Tests Show Latest Consumer Receivers Fail Reception Tests (Jan. 5)
Sinclair Broadcast Group announced today that tests it conducted in the Baltimore Maryland and Washington DC area found only marginal improvement in the 8-VSB reception capabilty of the latest generation of DTV sets. Sinclair tested the Sony KW-34HD1 and the Thomson RCA DTC-100. In tests in Baltimore, Sinclair engineers found no improvement with the Sony receiver and only marginal improvement in reception quality with the DTC-100. Sinclair said the receivers were not tested in the harshest multipath environments, since "both receivers failed to operate in relatively simple urban environments where today's analog television signals can be received by existing TV sets." Nat Ostroff, Vice President of New Technology at Sinclair, commented, "The inability to receive over-the-air broadcasts without installing expensive and cumbersomexie outdoor antennas leaves the consumers with no choice but to subscribe to pay television services. In my opinion, it is probably no small coincidence that DirecTV is a strategic partner of Thomson-Multimedia and that RCA's DTV sales usually include offers of satellite service."

Sinclair also conducted tests in Washington, D.C. in front of the Federal Communications Commission Building, on Capitol Hill and at other prominent locations. They were never able to receive more than two of the five DTV stations broadcasting in the area at any given site and reception of one of the two stations was often intermittant. In comparison, Sinclair engineers were able to receive nine UHF analog TV stations on a two-inch Sony Watchman(tm) at all locations. Mark Hyman, Vice President, Corporate Relations, said Sinclair will conduct DTV tests and demonstrations for members of Congress and other government officials in Washington D.C. over the next 60 days. He also stated the failure of over-the-air DTV reception has heightened concerns in a number of Congressional offices.

FCC Office of Engineering and Technology Lists 4Q1999 Experimental Actions (Jan. 4)
The FCC released two public notices outlining Experimental Actions from 9/1/99 to 10/1/99 and Experimental Actions from 10/1/99 to 12/1/99.

Most of the applications are for conventional commercial or military applications. There are some exceptions. The Boeing Company was granted an experimental license to operate on 5850, 5860 and 5870 MHz for "demonstration of proof of concept to transmit microwave energy and convert it to electrical power." The location is specified as Simi Valley, CA. William T. Druhan, Jr. received a license to operate in the 24.25-24.45 GHz band to collect data for traffic patterns using speed radar. Ford was given permission to use 76.5 GHz to research an automotive radar system to sense vehicular closing speed. (These are 9/1/99 to 10/1/99 actions.)

Motorola was allowed to operate on 457.25 and in the 824-829, 869-894, 3650-3700, and 5854-5896 MHz bands to "develop a cellular system for export that uses aircraft as a 'bent pipe' to relay signals from base station to ground, instead of using terrestrial repeaters." In the area of new technology, the University of Southern California was granted a license to operate on 800, 1300 and 3000 MHz for "test, development, and demonstration of ultra wide-band technology" in mobile operation at the University Park Campus, California. A license granted to Gigabit Wireless, Inc. in Mountain View, California looks interesting. It was allowed to use 2402.25-2405.75 MHz and 2479.25-2480.75 MHz "for testing the use of multiple antenna space-time processing." More information on these may be found in the 10/1/99 to 12/1/99 Experimental Actions.

OTHER Items of Interest

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