Transmission Still Kicking It
One look around the floor at NAB2003 would lead even the most casual observer to conclude the broadcast industry is going nowhere fast. The crowds were smaller and it seems that everyone was waiting for something to break the status quo—either the economy to pick up or for ownership caps to be raised.
On the other hand, a scan of the RF side of NAB2003 would lead one to conclude that, while sales are slow, exciting developments are coming almost faster than they can be absorbed. Remote monitoring and control is pushing the envelope, new super-high-efficiency IOT tubes are dramatically lowering power bills, microwave innovations and GPS continue to bolster COFDM remotes, and even transmission lines are widening.
Harris offers many interesting products that are RF-related, but don’t generate RF. Alongside an array of transmitters, automation systems, and audio products at the show, the company displayed its NetVX one-box solution, packet-based architecture that can be configured to provide the level of functionality that previously required up to 14 separate components. This remote control system supports all standard telecommunications protocols and can fit anywhere in a network.
Harris also introduced ReCon, a next-generation remote control and facility management system for radio and TV transmitter sites. It’s powered by Statmon Technologies and features a highly scalable architecture. ReCon is also applicable to remote control applications or distributed management systems that link many sites to a central network manager, such as the Harris Broadcast Manager.
Harris also demonstrated the EDCi monitoring enhancement, which links Harris TV transmitters (and Z Series FM transmitters) to standard Web browsers, wireless PDAs, Web-enabled cell phones, and SNMP network managers.
A New Digital Product?
With an engineering team known for pioneering IOT integration in TV transmitters, Ai (formerly Acrodyne) unveiled its new Quantum MSDC IOT digital television transmitter. According to the company, field-proven, de-ionized water-cooling eliminates the hazards associated with circulating oil systems.
Use of the latest generation of plug-in style MSDC IOTs, both 3- and 5-stage, allows broadcasters “maximum flexibility” in determining optimum transmitter configurations to minimize operating costs.
At the booth, Ai associates also explained the Advanced Wrap Around Correction system and the expanded capability of the on-channel I-Q exciter family and showed off the company’s existing Quantum IOT lineup for analog and digital applications. Their designs are based on what Ai calls “simple, elegant” solutions and appropriate use of technologies. The Quantum analog rig converts to digital with a simple encoder card change in the exciter.
Also in the booth were the Rohde & Schwarz air- and liquid-cooled LDMOS transmitters and a tabletop DTV transmitter.
Unique Distribution Network
Axcera is the first manufacturer to implement an operational distributed transmitter (DX) network, a system that won a 2003 Editors’ Pick of Show award from DigitalTV-Television Broadcast magazine.
It demonstrated this advanced signal distribution method, which allows the use of multiple on-channel DTV transmitters in place of a single high-power transmitter.
According to Axcera, this approach allows the use of lower power transmitters to target population centers, improving coverage in weak signal or shadowed areas, while minimizing system power consumption.
Another new product was the Pioneer and Pioneer DT low- to medium-power transmitters. These compact, LDMOS-equipped rigs will be available in both analog and DTV. Power levels will range from 10W to 6kW analog and up to 3kW DTV.
The company’s flagship product, the Visionary DT, was also on display. It’s a full-featured IOT transmitter allowing for user-friendly operation and high reliability.
The company also showed its DTVision, which is available on all Visionary DT and Innovator DT transmitters. It’s Axcera’s exclusive digital signal analysis system.
Something Really New
Thales Broadcast & Multimedia formally introduced what it calls the “groundbreaking” Paragon MSDC IOT digital transmitter at NAB2003.
Paragon uses Multi Segment Depressed Collector (MSDC) IOT technology which, according to Thales, offers unprecedented leaps in transmission efficiency—up to 2X that of a conventional IOT, and 4X that of a solid state transmitter.
This translates to power bills of up to 50 and 75% less than conventional products sold for digital transmission today. Using the L3 Communications tube, the Paragon won a 2003 Editors’ Pick of Show award.
Also spotlighted was Thales’ Affinity low-power DTV solution. Affinity is available in both ATSC and DVB versions.
The company also featured its improved Optimum solid-state transmitter. Improvements include increasing its reliability and ease-of-use for VHF broadcasters.
At its booth, LARCAN displayed all its broadcast and service solutions, from the ultimate M series and award-winning Magnum transmitters, to the low-power transmitters, translators, and FM product lines. LARCAN is one of the few transmitter manufacturers offering new DTV solutions for translator service. Company representatives at the booth were detailing how its “customer-fit” engineering solutions work in the field.
Meanwhile, over at the ITELCO booth, there was hardly room to display the wide lineup of transmitters available for both analog and DTV service. And, the company announced that it can offer not only almost any power level, but also full-power transmitters with the latest high-efficiency tubes installed. This includes the L3 Communications Constant Efficiency Amplifier (CEA) tube.
The time has finally come when tube manufacturers are delivering on long-awaited, super-efficient designs. Over a relatively short period of years, stations investing in high-power UHF transmitters with the latest tubes will find that power bill savings will make the investment so cost-effective that the savings alone will pay for the transmitter.
Taking center stage in the e2v Technologies booth was its extended family of EEV energy saving collector IOTs (ESCIOTs), utilizing water or oil as the collector cooling fluid.
Attendees also saw e2v’s continued commitment to its extensive range of IOTs, both build-up and plug-in, as well as more traditional klystrons. The exhibit also spotlighted the company’s ESC klystrons.
L3’s CEA 130 tube is now shipping. The 130T and Trolley Assembly were on display, offering power reductions by about one half compared with other electron tube or solid-state technologies. The collector is oil-cooled, using Poly Alpha Olefin oil, which allows operation at high average powers.
“Our tubes have been through evaluation testing and qualification by leading transmitter OEMs, with the first installations slated for the first quarter of 2003,” said Buzz Miklos, L3’s director of sales and marketing. In fact, the award-winning Thales Paragon transmitter, based on CEA technology, has just been installed in Austin, TX.
Thales Electron Devices introduced a new depressed-collector IOT, the TH 790 CD. It’s the most powerful of Thales’ depressed-collector family, featuring 33kW DTV power and up to 55% beam efficiency.
Like the TH770 CD IOT, the 790 combines maximum simplicity and performance. It requires just two voltages for easier installation and optimum performance.
Several innovations from the current production K2 digital and NTSC series are incorporated into the cavity assembly, including CPI/Eimac’s advanced input filter circuit, and cyclonic air cooling of the output window ceramic.
CPI/Eimac has been testing a complete K3 IOT and cavity system that has demonstrated efficiencies up to 58% with 32kW average power in uncorrected 8-VSB service.
This design uses a three-stage depressed collector, is cooled with biodegradable oil pumped at 20psi, and operates from a 34kV beam supply.
Innovations In Microwave
COFDM lost the battle for full-power TV service, but over on the microwave side of the business, it is booming. That’s largely because it doesn’t suffer the effects of multi-path and can even deliver steady signals while an ENG van is in motion, even among tall buildings.
Small wonder the stir at BMS (Broadcast Microwave Services) was over its new Digital COFDM product line. In fact, its Carry-Coder wireless COFDM camera system was also selected as a 2003 Pick of Show winner.
MRC (Microwave Radio Communications), a pioneer in COFDM ENG remote technology, added to its lineup with a new Quad Sector sectionalized central receive antenna, the Eclipse DR II central receive antenna, and an innovative GPS auto pod airborne transmit and receive tracking system that keeps helicopter remotes always connected.
NSI introduced its next-generation CAMPAC remote camera control system. It’s a high quality remote system with a full feature set commonly found in broadcast camera systems.
It also spotlighted its 300 Series System Control Unit (SCU). It solves a problem common on ENG remotes, where the remote control system has to provide seamless integration of a mixture of existing legacy equipment, from existing antennas and radios from multiple vendors, to extended functions of new digital-ready products.
The SCU 300 Series advances NSI’s “open solutions” architecture, where the station’s choice isn’t limited today, or in the future, by closed-end single vendor systems.
NS Microwave demonstrated microwave camera systems, including positioners, remote DTMF, antennas, microwave transmitters, and receivers. Its Model KT-119 is a camera/transmitter combo.
RF Technology (now part of MRC) spotlighted an innovative ENG central receive system that has been designed to reduce the time and expense of installation and the need for maintenance.
Key to the company’s ability to introduce these innovations is the fact that all its major subsystems are manufactured and supported by one company. Of course, that would be RF Technology!
NUCOMM announced a significant upgrade to its Analog Coder STL solution. According to the company, the Analog Coder is the first DTV STL solution that enables transmission of the DTV signal plus a T1 Data Pack over existing analog radios, effectively converting an existing analog STL to digital.
Dielectric drew attention at NAB with the introduction of FLEXLine, its first air dielectric cable, which is available in 7/8 through six and 1/8-inch configurations. It features precision-fitted connectors, and as well as the same 10-year warranty when purchased with a Dielectric antenna.
Over in the Andrew booth, on its broadband satellite lineup, new products included the ACS3000 Antenna Tracking Control System, an Earth Monitor Station and control software, and the Subreflector Control System.
It also showed a hybrid patch panel, coaxial directional couplers, and the HELIAX air dielectric, now available in a new 1 1/4-inch cable.
Ron Merrell is the executive editor.
Ai (formerly Acrodyne)
BMS (Broadcast Microwave Services)
MRC (Microwave Radio Communications)
N Systems Inc. (NSI)
RF Technology (now part of MRC)
Rohde & Schwarz
Thales Broadcast & Multimedia
Thales Electron Devices