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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July 31, 2000 - Issue 225 Final Edition

DTV - Motorola Honors G.I. DTV Pioneers (July 31)
Motorola's Broadband Communications Sector the company recently honored the technology and business team that developed the all-digital model for terrestrial TV. Team members recognized with an award include Dr. Jerry Heller, former Executive VP and co-founder of the VideoCipher(tm) Division, Dr. Woo Paik, Dr. Paul Moroney, Bob Rast, Marc Tayer, Larry Dunham, and Ed Krause.

The event was held ten years to the day after General Instruments (as the company was known before it was acquired by Motorola) submitted its new digital television transmission standard proposal to the FCC. Dick Wiley, Chairman of the FCC Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Systems (ACATS) was present at the ceremony. Wiley considers the digital TV system "perhaps the greatest advance ever in the history of video media."

This information was obtained from the Motorola Press Release Motorola Honors Pioneers Who Revolutionized Digital Television.

DTV - TDK Introduces COFDM Demodulator/FEC IC For Terrestrial DTV (July 31)
TDK has introduced a single chip, low power COFDM demodulator for DVB-T COFDM terrestrial DTV. The TDK 5610 include analog-to-digital conversion at IF, frequency and time acquisition circuitry, pilot processing and channel equalization, OFDM demodulation and Viterbi and Reed Solomon forward error correction. The FFT can handle both 2k and 8k carrier modes. Status monitoring and external tuner control are available via an I2C or 3-wire pass-through.

Tim Jackson, vice president of TDK Semiconductor's Multimedia business unit said, "The applications for the 5610 include DVB-T set-top box and mobile DVB-T receivers. The device was designed primarily for the European market, with a future version planned for Japan ISDB-T applications."

Samples of the 5610 will be available in October and production is planned for November 2000. According to the TDK Press Release, pricing for the 5610 is $17 in 10,000 unit quantities.

SATELLITE - PAS-9 Successfully Orbited From Sea Launch Platform (July 28)
PanAmSat announced it had successfully launched its PAS-9 Atlantic Ocean Region satellite on a Zenit-3SL rocket from the Sea Launch Odyssey platform in the Pacific Ocean. The satellite footprint will cover an area from Napa Valley to the Falkland Islands and across the Pacific to Berlin from an orbital location at 58 degrees West Longitude.

PAS-9 is a Hughes 601 HP satellite with 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders. Sky Mexico will use 12 of the Ku-band transponders for its direct-to-home platform. Other users include the United Kingdom's BBC, China's CCTV, Germany's Deutsche Welle, Japan's NHK, Venezuela's Cisneros Television Group, and Portugal's RTP. Users from the United States include Eternal Word Television Network, ESPN, and HBO Ole' Partners.

This information is from PanAmSat Press Release PanAmSat's PAS-9 Spacecraft Successfully Orbits Earth Following Perfect Liftoff from Sea Launch Ocean Platform.

DTV - ATSC Approves Data Broadcast Standard & Announces Seminar on PSIP and Data Broadcasting (July 28)
The Advanced Television Systems Committee announced it has approved a new standard for data broadcasting using DTV signals. The standard defines protocols for transmission of data, delivery of datagrams and stream data in a form compatible with MPEG-2 digital multiplex bit streams. Both TV program related< and ancilliary data services are supported.

Mark Richer, ATSC Executive Director, said, "The ATSC Data Broadcast Standard provides the flexibility necessary for implementation of a variety of consumer data and multimedia applications. This will enable broadcasters and other providers with the ability to offer rich new data services to the public." Possible applications include enhanced television, webcasting, and streaming video services received on PCs, televisions, set-top boxes, or other devices. (See press release ATSC Approves Data Broadcast Standards (PDF).)

Support for PSIP and data broadcasting in DTV sets and PC cards is increasing. Recognizing the need for both technical and non-technical training on these topics, the ATSC has scheduled the first of a series of technical seminars on PSIP (Program and System Information Protocol) and the new ATSC Data Broadcast Standard. ATSC's Mark Richer commented, "This seminar will be a wonderful opportunity for both technical and non-technical personnel involved in the planning and implementation of strategies for digital television."

In the Press Release announcing the seminar (PDF), ATSC outlined topics for the seminar:

The seminar will be held at the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, in Arlington, Virginia on November 1-2, 2000. Registration information will be posted at www.atsc.org. The email contact is seminars@atsc.org.

FCC Satellite Applications Accepted (July 26)
In Satellite Policy Branch Information Report No. SAT-00052, the FCC listed applications found, on initial review, to be acceptable for filing.

PanAmSat requested Special Temporary Authority (STA) to conduct in-orbit testing of its PAS-23 satellite at 61.5 degrees West Longitude (W.L.) for up to 180 days. Once tested, the application says it will be moved to 58 degreess W.L.

PanAmSat also asked for an STA to relocate its Galaxy VII satellite to 125 degrees W.L. Galaxy VII would use Galaxy VII in conjunction with Galaxy V, already at that location, to provide Ku-band and TT&C services at that location.

Refer to Report No. SAT-00052 for additional information.

DTV - 8VSB and HDTV Persevere At House Hearing (July 25)
Testimony at the U.S. House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Telecommunications hearing on the U.S. DTV transition supported the existing 8-VSB transmission standard and urged broadcasters to focus on HDTV.

House Commerce Committe Tom Bliley criticized some broadcasters' plans to use their DTV spectrum for data service, stating "Some broadcasters would rather use the spectrum which Congress gave to them for free, to offer datacasting and other wireless-type services. Indeed, it has been proposed that one reason we are having this debate over which standard to use is because one standard permits greater ancillary services. I think that these broadcasters have been watching too many episodes of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'."

Congress had earlier agreed on a 5 percent tax on broadcasters' income on ancilliary services using DTV spectrum. Bliley had a different approach. He said, "I recommend that the value be pegged to the price paid for 3G licenses in Britain. This is a highly valuable spectrum and its price should match its value. If some broadcasters are willing to pay this as if they are traditional wireless companies, so be it. If the FCC sets the value too low, then the FCC should expect to see a request to appear before this Committee for a discussion."

Concerned that broadcasters might try to "leverage the timing of their exit from the old analog portion of their licenses for some financial benefit," Bliley warned, "If we learn that some broadcasters are withholding digital programming and thus falsely extending the digital transition, then the Committee should revisit the standard in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 or prepare additional penalties for broadcasters that would not harm consumers." The standard in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 said analog spectrum would not have to be returned until 85 percent of the population had access to digital programming by DTV receiver, set-top box, cable TV or similiar device.

Consumer Electronics Association President of CEO Gary Shapiro put the blame on broadcasters for problems with the DTV transition. He said, "There is no doubt that, after ten years of research and development, the consumer electronics industry has upheld its end of the bargain by making a wide selection of digital television products available at retail." However, a CEA Press release (available at http://www.ce.org/) said, "while consumers have little access to quality HDTV programming from broadcast sources, content from other media is increasing. Consumers have access to HDTV programming nationally from satellite providers like DirecTV and Echostar."

Ignoring statements on problems with the 8-VSB standard from ABC, NBC, Paxson, Sinclair and others, Shapiro stated, "The standard has been reaffirmed by recent tests, such as those conducted by CBS, as well as the 'real world' usage by consumers." Matt Miller, Chairman and CEO of 8-VSB chip manufacturer NxtWave, echoed Shapiro's comments, saying, "Some may conclude that I am biased in favor of the current standard. I am, because I understand its superior capabilities and what they can mean for bringing new and better services to the American public in both urban and rural areas. Pausing now for years while we debate the intricacies of this or that standard is the equivalent to 'fiddling while Rome burns.' Our DTV standard is fine, it does the job and will accommodate future requirements. Let's get on with it."

A representative of Zenith Electronics demonstrated indoor TV reception in the committee chambers. The CEA release said the representative "'surfed' local DTV channels and showed the marked superiority of DTV picture quality over analog picture quality as received within the hearing room." Reception was also demonstrated on a NxtWave PC card.

Sinclair also had an indoor DTV reception demonstration. However, instead of comparing the COFDM signal's superiority over analog TV, it demonstrated COFDM's superiority over the 8-VSB signals used by Zenith and NxtWave. A Sinclair Press Release titled Sinclair Demonstration Proves Superiority of COFDM-Based DVB-T Digital Television Standard, available at http://www.sbgi.net/press_releases.html, noted the indoor antenna used for the COFDM demonstration was placed on the witness table, while the antennas used for the 8-VSB demonstration were hidden. The Sinclair release said, "The two ATSC demonstrations relied on a pair of carefully aimed, directional antennas hidden from view behind large curtains on two separate windowsills. After repeated questioning from Chairman Tauzin on why the antennas were placed in the windows and not on the witness table, as the DVB-T demonstration had done, Nxtwave CEO Matt Miller admitted that if the directional antennas were removed from the windowsills the ATSC reception 'potentially' might fail."

Nat Ostroff, Sinclair's VP of New Technology, commented, "The hearing demonstrated how robust and consumer friendly the DVB-T COFDM standard is regardless of antenna type inside a building. We received higher data rate transmissions in arbitrary locations in the room using a simple five dollar antenna. The ATSC demonstration required the use of a carefully positioned, directional antenna that was hidden behind a curtain and taped to a windowsill. It was as close to being placed outside of the building as possible."

Sinclair noted that two of the five countries that had previously adopted the ATSC 8-VSB standard have announced their intentions to formally rescind adoption of 8-VSB, citing poor indoor reception performance. Sinclair's release said, "Many countries adopted DVB-T after head-to-head field testing comparisons with ATSC. As of May 1st, over 800,000 DVB-T digital television receivers reached a total of 68 million consumers in Sweden and the United Kingdom in less time than it has taken the U.S.'s 273 million consumers to purchase less than 34,000 ATSC standard digital TV receivers."

Gary Chapman, CEO and President of LIN Television Corporation, spoke for his company and, in his position of Chairman of the Board of the Association of Maximum Service Television, Inc. (MSTV), for broadcasters as a group. Chapman is currently Chairman of the Steering Committee for MSTV's DTV transmission testing project. He pointed out that LIN Television owns or operates 16 TV stations, has three DTV stations on the air, three under construction and four scheduled to be on the air next year and the rest by May 2002. He pointed out that LIN spent over 22 million dollars in capital costs for DTV transmission equipment alone and estimates it will take an additional 30 million dollars to complete the conversion. These costs are for transmission only and do not include converting studios to digital operation and upgrades to full high definition capability.

Chapman said datacasting "will be a vital, indeed, indispensable component of our digital signals. Datacast revenue will be crucial to help fund the transition and essential to providing interactive programming, without which we cannot remain competitive in the digital world."

Many of his comments in his prepared statement mirrored those presented in the FCC Review of the DTV Transition. (See RF Current Special Report - FCC DTV Transition Review 2000.) These covered the steps the FCC needs to take to move the transition forward, including mandating DTV/cable interoperability standards, DTV must-carry on cable, DTV receiver performance standards, and DTV reception capability in every TV receiver. The FCC must also help overcome the delays in local and federal goverment approvals "nearly four out of ten" TV stations are experiencing in their DTV buildout.

Gary Chapman's prepared statement also touched on the DTV 8-VSB vs. COFDM modulation standard debate. "Given the questions that have been raised about 8VSB performance, it is our obligation, as it would be any other industry's, to do our due diligence quickly and effectively to make sure we're on the right track or correct it early. The broadcast industry is now acting swiftly, rationally, and with unity to ensure the DTV service we roll out is the best one available." He explained that when an MSTV task force looked at the performance of 8-VSB receivers last summer (1999), their report concluded that, "although first generation receivers (those on the market as of the summer of 1999) do not work well, the problem is with the receiver design and not with the transmission standard. Second and third generation receivers (those on the market in the fall of 1999 and 2000-1) show more promise and, depending on the intensity of effort that is brought to bear, the reception problems can be solved."

At its April 2000 meeting, "the MSTV Board concluded that, given the questions that remained and the continued uneasiness about the poor performance of 8VSB receivers, it was incumbent on the broadcast industry to resolve early and definitively the DTV transmission issue." To help resolve this issue, MSTV formed the VSB/COFDM project to bring together 8-VSB proponents, COFDM proponents and "broadcasters who had no position in a non-partisan, private industry effort, outside of the regulatory arena." The project was given a six month time frame to "to quickly and fairly conduct parallel scientific and impartial investigations of (1) improvements to VSB implementation and (2) COFDM technologies for existing and new services."

Chapman concluded his discussion of the project by saying, "Broadcasters have every incentive to move to a digital service quickly and to take all steps in their power to bring the public along with them. Implementing the best technology quickly and well is critical if we are to dispel consumer doubts about DTV performance and speed the transition of broadcast television from analog to digital."

More information on testimony at the July 25 House Telecommunciations Subcomittee hearing on HDTV is available on the web:
House Committee on Commerce Web Page
Oversight Hearing - HDTV and Related Matters - Subcommittee on Telecommunications - July 25, 2000
Bliley Delivers Statement on High Definition Television
Consumer Electronics Association Press Releases
Sinclair Press Releases

SCIENCE - Biotransistors! (July)
It's common to refer to "bugs" in software and sometimes the term is extended to include hardware as well. After all, the use of the term is reported to have started with an actual bug in the circuitry of an early computer. Now, researchers at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Biosurfaces at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo are working on chips that have organisms built into them! The researchers discovered organisms that form a protective armor of nearly perfect crystals from atoms on the surface of a silicon or germanimum semiconductor. Researcher Robert Bailer sexplained, "Instead of putting cells 'on' a chip, this research indicates they can be put 'in' a chip, potentially reducing the steps needed to manufacture and operate bio-based electronic components."

Some of the applications of this discovery include "biochip" optical switches. Embedded cells in the biochip would convert the optical signals to electrical signals. The electrical signal could then be used to change the optical response of another material to modulate a second beam of light. Another application would combine "bio-doped" and conventional crystalline lattices that with either mesh imperfectly and create atomic-scale defects or elongate toward one another to create elastic strain. Either the defects or the strain could be used to produce biophotonic electrical side effects to drive circuitry.

A very detailed report on this technology, including photos, is available in the NSF Media Tip Armored Microbes Could Lead to New Biochips. Also see the EE Times article link listed below in Other Items.

OTHER Items of Interest

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