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.

<<< Back to January 31 - Issue 199

February 7, 2000 - Issue 200 Final Edition

FCC Denies Sinclair Petition for Rule Making on Adding COFDM to DTV Standard, Industry Responds (Feb. 7)
Friday, February 4, the FCC announced it was denying Sinclair Broadcast Group's Petition for Expedited Rulemaking requesting the Commission modify its DTV rules to allow broadcasters to use COFDM modulation in addition to the 8-VSB modulation standard. In a New Release (nret0002) the FCC said its Office of Engineering and Technology " recently analyzed the relative merits of the two standards, and concluded that the benefits of changing the DTV transmission standard to COFDM would not outweigh the costs of making such a revision." The News Release also said "numerous studies conducted to date support the conclusion that NTSC replication is attainable under the 8-VSB standard." "...the concerns raised in the Sinclair petition had done no more than to demonstrate a shortcoming of early DTV receiver implementation, " and "manufacturers are aware of problems cited by Sinclair and are aggressively taking steps to resolve multipath problems exhibited in some first-generation TV receivers."

The FCC Letter to Sinclair (fcc00035) said, "Sinclair has presented no persuasive evidence in its petition and related filings to convince us that the interests of broadcasters, equipment manufacturers and consumers would not be harmed under its alternative standards approach or that conditions have changed to make such an alternative standards approach appropriate at this time. We are concerned that allowing the use of an alternative DTV modulation method as Sinclair proposes would lead to the adverse situations identified by the Commission in the Fourth Report and Order. Further, contrary to Sinclair's claims, we believe that granting its request would lead to significant delay in the implementation and provision of DTV services to the public."

The FCC Letter noted, "While we dismiss this petition, we recognize the importance of the issues raised therein. We believe, however, that the issue of the adequacy of the standard is more appropriately addressed in the context of our review of the entire DTV transition. In adopting the DTV standard in 1997, we stated that 'regular reviews of the progress of DTV are highly desirable' and that we would conduct a biennial review of the digital transition to ensure that the introduction of DTV and the recovery of spectrum at the end of the transition 'fully serves the public interest. ' In that proceeding, we will be able to consider together all of the issues related to the digital transition, including the progress being made to improve indoor DTV reception under the existing DTV transmission standard and manufacturers' efforts to implement DTV receiver design improvements. Therefore, within 30 days, we will commence our biennial review of the digital transition and, as a part of that proceeding, will encourage parties to comment on the DTV standard."

NxtWave Communications, Inc. issued a Press Release February 7 commending the FCC on its decision to deny the Sinclair petition. Matt Miller, president and CEO of NxtWave commented, "The FCC did a great job in leading the charge to digital TV technology by selecting the right standard. At NxtWave we look ahead to the development of next generation ICs that deliver robust, high speed and error-free reception and further accelerate digital broadband broadcast growth."

A Zenith Electronics Corporation Press Release also applauded the FCC decision denying Sinclair's request to reopen the DTV standard. Zenith President and CEO Ian Woods said, "By properly rejecting Sinclair's petition to turn the clock back on the FCC-mandated DTV transition, the Commission has put customers first. Zenith welcomes the biennial review and looks forward to working with broadcasters and manufacturers to continue rapid improvements in VSB-based products."

Even Sinclair Broadcast Group found something to praise in the FCC decision. David D. Smith, President of Sinclair, commented, "We are grateful the FCC has reached a decision on what was a very controversial issue. Although the Commission dismissed our petition, we welcome their larger interest and intent to investigate all aspects of DTV and its fundamental failure to date. Further, we are hopeful that our continuing efforts to shed light on the relevant DTV issues affecting our industry can now be supported by the industry as a whole. We look forward to participating in this review which the Commission committed to begin within 30 days."

In a Letter posted on the Sinclair Group DTV web page, Nat Ostroff, Sinclair's Vice President, New Technology, assured broadcasters, "The FCC action last Friday (February 4, 2000) that dismissed our petition did not end the debate over the performance of the DTV transmission system. While dismissing the petition the FCC also acknowledged that indoor reception with simple antennas is now a requirement. Prior to our efforts, the FCC and our industry were unaware of the problem with 8VSB and had not made simple antenna reception a priority." Ostroff added, "Today, the FCC and MSTV have acknowledged the correctness of our observations. Sinclair also became convinced that the technology to fix the problem was not within the grasp of the receiver manufacturers today or anytime soon. That conclusion has not yet been reached by a majority of our industry. We believe that it is only a matter of time before the industry and the consumer come to Sinclair's position. In the meantime the FCC has committed to hold a review of the entire DTV rollout process starting in 30 days. That commitment and the acknowledgment of the need for simple indoor antenna reception are major victories for Sinclair."

Sinclair may gain support for its proposal from one of the major broadcast networks. As noted in the Television Broadcast article by Craig Birkmaier linked to in the Other Items section below, NBC conducted its own tests comparing reception of 8-VSB signals and COFDM signals in Philadelphia. According to the article, the results mirrored those found by Sinclair in its Baltimore tests last summer. NBC reportedly used an RCA DCT-100 set-top box for the testing.

FCC Satellite Policy Branch Applications (Feb. 7)
In its February 7 Report of Satellite Applications Accepted for Filing, the FCC Satellite Policy Branch listed several applications from Loral CyberStar seeking authorization "to incorporate inter-satellite links to provide inter-operative capabilty between and among Loral CyberStar's Ka-band satellites as well as with the CyberStar Licensee LLC satellites." Loral CyberStar also sought a deferral of the construction and completion milestones for its Orion F7, Orion F8, Orion F9 and Orion F2 satellites until ISL frequencies are assigned.

XM radio filed an application for modification of its two Digital Audio Radio Service satellite authorizations. It seeks (1) to increase the maximum EIRP of each satellite to 68.5 dBW, (2) to increase the number of downlink channels from five to six, including four carrier frequencies (two per satellite) of 1.84 MHz each and two frequencies for terrestrial repeaters of 2.53 MHz each, and (3) to increase the transmission rate of each of its satellite carriers to 3.28 Mbit/s.

GE Americom filed a request for Special Temporary Authority to operate Satcom SN-4 at 81.1 degrees west longitude on an interim basis for up to six months pending relocation to its assigned location of 72 degrees west longitude.

The February 7 Report also lists applications from Empresa Brasileira de Telecomunica regarding Brasilsat A2 and from Orbital Communications Corporation regarding its mobile satellite system.

DTV - Sinclair Broadcast Group to Demonstrate Lack of DTV Reception to Congress (Feb. 1)
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. announced today that it will demonstrate live, over the air DTV reception on Capitol Hill. The demonstration will compare DTV reception with analog TV reception and will point out the flaw in the current DTV standard. Sinclair said the demonstrations are in response to numerous Congressional inquiries. Mark Hyman, Sinclair's Vice President of Corporate Relations, said, ""The failure of the current DTV modulation system has created significant concern in Congressional offices, and we are taking a `seeing is believing' approach. Members of Congress have made it clear they expect over-the-air digital television to be received without reliance on cable, satellite or expensive, outdoor directional antennas." Hyman continued, "We know from similar tests conducted at prominent sites throughout Washington, DC in December 1999 that inexpensive, portable analog TV sets outperform very expensive DTV receivers time and time again. It is doubtful that American consumers will purchase an expensive system that performs worse than the device it is intended to replace. The solution is for the FCC to permit broadcasters the free-market option of using the widely-adopted COFDM modulation system as requested in our Petition for Expedited Rulemaking filed months ago."

Sinclair's web site includes a link to the press release on PR Newswire. Other stories can also be found on Yahoo's Company News on Sinclair.

OTHER Items of Interest

>>>>Next February 14 - Issue 201

RF Current Index

Return to The RF Page @ www.transmitter.com

Last modified February 21, 2000 by Doug Lung dlung@xmtr.com
Copyright ©2000 H. Douglas Lung