Suppliers strive to smooth broadcasters' paths to ATSC mobile TV

In a business landscape where the only certainty is uncertainty, equipment suppliers are hoping that one-stop shopping for ATSC mobile TV deployment will give them an edge in thawing broadcasters' frozen budgets. Last April at NAB, Axcera, Grass Valley, Harris, LARCAN and Rohde and Schwarz all demonstrated end-to-end systems for ATSC mobile TV and have been building on those foundations since.

Axcera’s single system for fixed and mobile content

Flexibility and cost-efficiency are Axcera’s byline for its ATSC Mobile TV Transmission System. Unveiled at NAB, Axcera's mobile TV architecture is designed to put broadcasters' mobile operations on the fast track with a single system for both fixed and mobile content via its ATSC Mobile DTV Multiplexer, which combines both in a single transport stream.

The output feeds an ATSC broadcast transmitter that includes Axcera’s Axciter adaptive digital TV modulator. Existing transmitters, regardless of manufacturer, can be retrofitted with the Axciter to be ATSC-M/H-capable. The mobile TV service can be broadcast from a single transmitter or from multiple transmitters configured in a distributed transmission system.

In this podcast, Broadcast Engineering’s Phil Kurz speaks with Axcera CEO Dave Neff about what broadcasters should consider when deploying ATSC mobile TV and how they can prepare today for future rollouts.

Grass Valley’s one-stop shop from image to transmission

Grass Valley recently announced the full release of its ATSC mobile video system last week. Grass Valley is relying on the Walmart-like breadth of its product line for an edge.

Grass Valley's ATSC mobile TV package includes program encoders, a multiplexer, an electronic services guide server and a compatible DTV transmission exciter. Most Thomson-branded DTV transmitters already in use can broadcast the ATSC-M/H signal with minor upgrades, according to the company.

The one component that requires an upgrade is the exciter, and this additional functionality can be added to the ADAPT-IV exciter platform with a software upgrade. The system is backward-compatible with legacy ATSC transmission systems, so stations can use their existing DTV channels and the mandated ATSC 8-VSB modulation scheme.

In this video from NAB, Grass Valley' IPS division product manager Scott Matics demonstrates MediaFUSE, which automates content repurposing for distribution to mobile devices and the Internet.

Harris Broadcast’s first-mover advantage

Harris Broadcast has proved its ATSC mobile TV chops. The company developed the forerunner to the ATSC-M/H specification, MPH, and first demonstrated its ATSC mobile TV system at CES in January 2009. Since then, Harris systems have been used in several U.S. mobile TV demonstrations, and about two dozen U.S. TV stations are currently broadcasting mobile TV using the company's equipment.

The Harris ATSC mobile DTV platform includes the software-definable Harris Apex M2X exciter and the Harris NetVX networking platform, which includes a mobile video encoder, multiplexer and encapsulator. At IBC last month, Harris introduced its new Maxiva Series transmitters, incorporating the company's PowerSmart technology. This technology uses methods such as real-time adaptive correction and advanced LDMOS solid-state solutions to deliver cost- and energy-efficiency in a small footprint.

Harris VP of broadcast technology, Jay Adrick, discusses the company’s ATSC MPH mobile TV system in this video from NAB.

LARCAN uses the same spectrum for mobile TV and legacy streams

LARCAN is working with partners to serve up convergence solutions for broadcasters that include equipment, custom engineering services and what the company calls "a logical use of spectrum" using the same spectrum for mobile and legacy streams.

At NAB, with partner UDcast, LARCAN introduced a new version of its LARCAN Plus integrated broadcasting solution that will support the new ATSC DTV mobile standard: Mobile Plus. The new version lets broadcasters deliver mobile services in a way that complements, rather than duplicates, existing ATSC fixed services.

Scott Barella discusses the challenges of mobile TV, LARCAN's end-to-end solution and what's next for mobile TV in this podcast from NAB.

Rohde and Schwarz’s built-in mobile TV test systems

At NAB, Rohde and Schwarz unveiled an end-to-end ATSC mobile TV system with built-in test equipment. "We build the chicken and the egg," was how R&S director of sales and marketing for the broadcast division Eddy Vanderkerken described it.

Integrated with third-party headend products, R&S’ ATSC mobile TV system is suitable for new installations as well as retrofitting the existing transmission systems from any manufacturer. In addition to the headend, transmitter, audio/video encoders, IP encapsulator and multiplexer, the product suite includes the R&S SX800 software-definable exciter, AEM100 emission multiplexer, SFU TV signal generator and ETL TV test receiver.

The AEM100 exciter comes with the SFN function already integrated, allowing the multiplexer to supply the ATSC mobile transport stream to several transmitters. This allows simultaneous transmission on the same frequency in SFNs, and lets operators reach more viewers without applying for additional frequencies.

Broadcast Engineering’s Phil Kurz speaks with Rohde and Schwarz's broadcast division director of sales Eddy Vanderkerken about the role of single-frequency networks for ATSC mobile TV in this podcast from NAB.

Acrodyne: R.I.P.

One company that won’t be coming to the ATSC mobile TV party is Baltimore, MD-based Acrodyne, which introduced its ATSC mobile TV system at NAB last spring. On Sept. 30, the Sinclair Broadcasting-owned company shut down operations. “The current state of the TV transmission equipment market” was to blame, according to the company’s Web site. Reportedly, tight capital budgets combined with a saturated transmitter market squeezed out the 41-year-old company.

Acrodyne’s inventory, physical assets and intellectual property were acquired by an unnamed “new company,” which is doing business as Acrodyne Services, providing service and support for Acrodyne’s installed base. Acrodyne’s former VP of engineering Andy Whiteside is general manager of the new company.