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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April 10, 2000 - Issue 209 Final Edition

DTV - Consumer Electronics Association Calls on Broadcasters to Step up DTV Programming Efforts (Apr. 10)
Todd Thibodeaux, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) vice president of Market Research, said, "Product sales demonstrate consumer enthusiasm for DTV's high-quality picture and sound. Consumers are opting to purchase high-resolution monitors even when programming is not widely available - to use with DVD players and pre-recorded, digital content, We can expect receivers to remain a small percentage of overall DTV sales until consumers have access to regular, high-quality DTV programming." This comment was based on revised data released by the CEA showing that 17 percent, or 24,631 of the 143,218 total DTV products sold in 1999 (including monitors, integrated sets and digital set-top receiver/decoders) were capable of receiving digital broadcasts.

CEA also revised its DTV sales projects based on three programming rollout scenarios. If broadcasters demonstrate 100 percent compliance with the FCC DTV transition deadlines while providing a high percentage of digitally-originated content to consumers, DTV product penetration could reach 50 percent by 2006. If broadcasters experience continued station conversion delays while providing consumers with a high-percentage of up-converted analog content, DTV product penetration will be no more than 30 percent by 2006. If broadcasters take an approach characterized by non-HDTV business models and delays related to reopening the DTV standard, DTV product penetration will only be 15 percent by 2006.

CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro commented, "We've seen very clearly the link between available content and consumer electronics product sales. If you look at color TV or DVD, the numbers demonstrate that product sales take off when content becomes widely available to consumers, DTV has done extraordinarily well so far, despite limited programming. Moving forward, broadcasters' willingness to step up and deliver on DTV could have a significant impact on the pace of the DTV transition - and the future of free, over-the-air TV. We urge the broadcast community to accelerate their programming efforts and deliver on DTV."

This information was obtained from the CEA News Release Revised DTV Sales Projections and 1999 DTV Sales Figures Demonstrate Link Between Sales and Available Content.

DTV - TeraLogic Partners With Industry Leaders to Bring Broadband Data Services and HDTV to the PC (Apr. 10)
TeraLogic, Inc. said it was working closely with interactive content aggregator WaveXpress, PC card manufacturers (Creative Labs, Hauppauge, Panasonic and Pinnacle), and networking companies 3Com and 2netFX.com to bring DTV/datacasting products to market this year. The PC products will use TeraLogic Janus-based DTVPC tuner cards. The company said it is also working with Intel to enable Advanced Television Enhancement Forum (ATVEF) compliant data reception on the Creative Janus DTV card. The technology will be exhibited at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas at the Panasonic booth, the Creative Labs booth and the Hauppauge booth. TeraLogic worked with 3Com and 2netFX.com to develop a technology that enables HDTV content to flow over standard corporate data networks and the Internet. This technology is displayed in the 2netFX.com booth at NAB 2000.

The TeraLogic Janus IC is capable of decoding and displaying on a PC all 18 ATSC DTV formats, including 1080i and 720p. The chip also allows reception of NTSC broadcast and cable, DVB playback and data services and handling IP-based data over an MPEG stream. More information on the chip can be found at the TeraLogic web site. This information was obtained from a TeraLogic Press Release TeraLogic Makes Data Broadcasting and HDTV on PC a Reality for Millions of Consumers.

FCC OET Chief Dale Hatfield Very Bullish on Datacasting and HDTV at NAB Keynote Address (Apr. 9)
Dale Hatfield, Chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, was the keynote speaker at this year's NAB Broadcast Engineering session. The FCC has placed a copy of his address The Increased Importance of the Digital Revolution on its web site.

Hatfield started by saying there was no need for him to dwell on the advantages of using a digital format for "representing, storing, processing and transmitting signals". He outlined how other communications industries, such as the traditional telephone network, cable TV, MMDS and cellular providers are moving from analog to digital transmission. He then reminded the audience that many of these industries or either "(a) direct competitors with over-the-air broadcasting -- for example, DARS -- or (b) indirect competitors in the sense that they represent alternative means of delivering entertainment and other content to end users." Internet radio was sited as an obvious example. He warned broadcasters that "other people getting into your business. Over-the-air broadcasting must make the conversion from analog to digital transmission in order to remain competitive in the long run. And, as we all recognize, in Internet time the long run is not necessarily all that long. In short, it is my belief that the broadcast industry must make the conversion to digital for both 'offensive' and these 'defensive' reasons."

Hatfield outlined three issues which touch on the broadcast industry's transition to digital: 1) compatibility between digital television receivers and digital cable television services; 2) the transmission standard; 3) the magnitude of opportunity to broadcasters. On the first issue, Hatfield said the FCC had placed a proposed rule making concerning "the lack of an agreement on the appropriate labeling of television sets to indicate their capability to operate with cable television systems. and of licensing terms for copy protection technology": on the its "Sunshine Agenda" last Thursday and, unless there was some last minute industry consensus, would consider the proposed rule making at its regular meeting this week.

Regarding the transmission standard issue, Dale Hatfield said the FCC was using the resources in its own laboratory to undertake field tests to assure itself that receiver manufacturers and others were making progress in improving indoor DTV reception using the existing 8-VSB standard. He also commented, "We are also encouraged that the ATSC DTV Task Force has recently committed to look at the issues related to transmission and reception of DTV and to make any appropriate recommendations. Hopefully, taken together, these governmental and industry actions will continue to reduce any concerns regarding the choice of the modulation technique and will allow the conversion to move forward with confidence."

Dale Hatfield took time to look at the opportunities that DTV offered broadcasters. He began, "Let me say at the outset that I remain very bullish on the long-term future of HDTV. Since the first demonstrations I saw many years ago, I have been convinced that HDTV fundamentally changes the nature of the viewing experience and that it will ultimately be very successful in the marketplace." However, he continued by saying:
"I am also very bullish on the future of datacasting. I base this on the advantages of the traditional broadcast architecture coupled with the advantages produced by the conversion from analog to digital transmission. Broadcast's strength, from an architectural standpoint, lies in the ability of television stations, both individually and collectively, to distribute popular content that large numbers of people want to receive simultaneously (for example, the Super Bowl) or have available simultaneously for viewing at will (for example, stock quotes). High power broadcast stations providing coverage over thousands of square miles represents an extremely efficient way of delivering such content. Said another way, it is a very efficient architecture for one-to-many communications."

He cautioned that this broadcast architecture is not as efficient for delivering large volumes of unique content to individual receivers. For that, he said a cellular architecture that allows the use of the same bandwidth in different cells to transmit different information is more efficient. However, he pointed to the recent trend to use satellite systems and other techniques to move popular content to the "edge" of the Internet near the end-user as a positive trend for broadcasters. He explained:
" If my view of Internet space is accurate, then television broadcasters are in an extremely good position not only to transmit traditional entertainment video services in digital format, but also to use the powerful multiplexing capabilities of digital transmission to deliver frequently accessed Internet content as well. That is, broadcasters are in a good position to carry locally stored information the final distance to be cached in a storage device owned by the end user. Properly designed, this can be virtually seamless to the end user, with content automatically delivered in the most efficient way and with extremely high performance. It is my understanding that Geocast and others are designing and deploying such systems with the cooperation of local television broadcasters. I think that is an exciting development."

He outlined how broadcasters would participate not only in the one-to-many data distribution model, but also in one-to-one distribution by bidding for spectrum in the Channel 60-69 spectrum or entering into some type of joint venture with potential bidders. "I am confident that the combination of the digital broadcast spectrum, coupled with the growth of the Internet and the availability of additional spectrum in the Channel 60-69 range and later the Channel 52-59 range, present an enormous opportunity. It is not only an enormous business opportunity but also an opportunity to deliver new and improved services to the American public, to increase competition in the last mile, and to make more efficient use of the precious radio spectrum resource.",

Hatfield's closing comment to the broadcasters at the conference was, "If I have convinced you of nothing else, I hope you walk away with renewed appreciation that to stand pat here is to fall behind. You must recognize and aggressively seize the increased importance of the Digital Revolution."

DATACASTING - Geocast Selects SkyStream Networks' technology for DTV datacasting to the PC (Apr. 6)
Geocast Network Systems and SkyStream Networks announced they intend to work together to deliver TV-quality Internet content over digital broadcast networks. Geocast intends to use SkyStream's source and edge media routers to connect the Internet with broadcast DTV networks. Geocast will use Skystream's DVB-based source media routers at its network operations center in Mountain View, California to send multimedia Internet content via satellite to SkyStream edge media routers located at affiliates around the country. The content will then be routed to SkyStream's ATSC-based source media routers located at the broadcast stations where it will be encapsulated into the ATSC datastream and transmitted as part of the broadcasters DTV signal. More information is available in the SkyStream Press Release.

TECHNOLOGY - 'Opto-chips' May Revolutionize Telecommunications Technologies (Apr. 6)
This story doesn't involve RF transmission or reception, but if this technology can make it from the lab to the real world, it could have a major impact on communications systems. The device at the heart of the technology is a polymeric electro-optic modulator, or "opto-chip". Electro-optic modulators are not new. The current technology uses lithium niobate crystals that are hard-wired rather than integrated into silicon chips. The crystals have far less bandwidth, require substantially more electrical power, have greater signal loss because of electronic interference and generate substantially more heat than the polymers.

The polymers used in the opto-chips were developed by chemists and engineers at the University of Washington and the Univeresity of Southern California. The new opto chips can convert electrical signals into optical signals at data rates up to 100 gigabits per second. This speed is achievable using a fraction of a volt of electricity. Applications for these electro-optic modulators include ultra-fast analog-to-digital conversion, optical switching elements in flat panel displays, signal transduction for cable television, directional couplers or routing switches in optical communications networks, and modulators in phased-array radar systems. Tests at Tacan Corp. in Carlsbad, California using the devices to translate cable television signals into optical signals required less than 1 volt of electricity. Researchers at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s research laboratory in Palo Alto, California were able to replicate the results in tests involving other applications. Larry Dalton, a chemistry professor at both UW and USC and overall leader of the research said, "It's a critical decision-determining technology because bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth - like location, location, location in real estate - is critical in making decisions in communications technology. This technology has bandwidth to burn."

Tests have found that a single modulator measuring one micron can provide more than 300 GHz of bandwidth. Dalton said the technology could enable futuristic applications such as "the capability of full three-dimensional holographic projection with little or no image flicker." " That makes possible a device such as the science-fictional holodeck, where characters in the 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' television series and movies create elaborate holographic worlds in which they live their fantasies."

Research was paid for by grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research. The design and molecular synthesis are done at UW. The materials are then sent to production facilities at USC, where the modulators are fabricated and integrated with both silica fibers and VLSI silicon chips. The research is described in the April 7, issue of Science. Information for this story was obtained from the University of Washington News Release 'Opto-chips' are high-speed communications breakthrough.

INDUSTRY - ADC to Acquire Continental Electronics Corporation's Television Transmitter Operations (Apr. 6)
ADC has signed an agreement to acquire the television broadcast assets of Continental Electronics Corporation (CEC), including all designs and rights to CEC's solid state television transmitters, digital television exciters and other intellectual properties relaing to the television broadcast portion of the business. The deal is exepcted to close by April 30, 2000. ADC was showing CEC products at its booth at the NAB Convention. (See the link under NAB Product Announcements, below.). Dave Neff, vice president of ADC's Broadcast Systems Division, said, "ADC has become a respected leader in the television transmitter industry with product offerings ranging from five watts to 420 kilowatts. By integrating the advanced adaptive digital correction capability of the CEC ATSC/NTSC modulator into our current product line and adding CEC's high-power solid-state transmitters to our lineup, ADC is poised to meet the steadily growing demand for television transmitter products."

More information is available on the ADC Telecommunications web site.

TECHNOLOGY - Motorola Demonstrates Silicon Germanium Carbon Technology for Wireless (Apr. 4)
Motorola Semiconductor Products announced it has successfully integrated a 0.35 micron silicon germanium carbon (SiGe:C) process module into its BiCMOS process technology platform. Horacio Mendez, director of RF/IF device development for Motorola, explained, "In the future as wireless operating frequencies increase and we begin to integrate more of the passive components, the industry will require a more aggressive analog technology. That is why we have developed this unique SiGe:C technology which not only allows a much simpler integration, but is easily portable to our next-generation high performance CMOS technologies." Using this technology, Motorola demonstrated integrated heterojunction bipolar transistors in their RF BiCMOS flow with ft performance at 50 GHz and an fmax 90 GHz at half the current of traditional SiGe transistors. The carbon is used to provide more manufacturing latitude and a reduced noise figure. Samples of RF circuits with the new technology will be available for evaluation by August 2000 and complete qualification of the SiGe:C technology is scheduled for the end of 2000.

The technology was developed in a joint effort between Motorola's DigitalDNA Laboratories technology team and the Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics, formerly known as the Institude for Semiconductor Physics. More information is available in the Motorola Press Release.

FCC - Emission Designator for Adaptive Broadband MRC "Twinstream" Radios Changed (Apr. 3)
Adaptive Broadband Corporation sent an email saying the FCC indicated that the emission designator 25M0F9W should be used for its "Twinstream" microwave radios instead of 25M0F9F. 25M0F9W stands for a combination of video, audio and data. The previously used 25M0F9F was for video only. The same emission designator should also apply to other microwave systems transmitting both analog video and audio and a carrier with digital data.

NAB Product Annoucements

Additional NAB Items will be listed in the April 17 RF Current.

OTHER Items of Interest

>>>>Next April 17 - Issue 210

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