After struggling through the last two years of a recession, the television industry could use some good news. And, thankfully, there is some good news...really good news!
--California television stations got a taste of what 2004 will be like during the brief advertising campaigns run by the leading candidates for governor in the recall election. The way some Californians described it, they had to live through a blizzard of political advertisements.
Some, including Gray Davis, wanted to "terminate" The Terminator.
Already we're getting a preview of what we can look forward to next year. The Democratic presidential debates are heating up, even though their ratings are lackluster. A few months from now, that will all change.
A national election and a presidential election are just what this industry needs. As viewers, we're sure to grow weary of it, but as the ad dollars start flowing into the coffers we broadcasters will be laughing all the way to the bank.
As an extra bump for 2004, NBC stations will also reap the economic benefits of the Olympics. Historically, when these events coincide, television industry profits rise dramatically.
For all the RF equipment manufacturers, 2004 can't get here too soon. The low-power transmitter buying binge is over, and they're back to selling full-power rigs with big price tags. But, here again, there's good news.
While many station owners are still in HDTV denial, they understand how important it is to keep that NTSC signal on the air. In fact, many stations are limping along with aging transmitters because they don't want the high dollar investment of a DTV transmitter, and they don't know how wise it would be to invest in a new NTSC transmitter. The FCC's infamous (and still legally binding) 2006 decree is not that far away, especially when you consider the expected lifetime of a transmitter.
The good news is that all television transmitter manufacturers can deliver a new NTSC transmitter that can later be modified for DTV. The question is, how much modification is required and how much it will cost.
This is where buying gets tricky. Ask each manufacturer those two questions, and you'll get a wide variety of answers. You can search for what meets your particular needs, but the point is that design engineers were careful to create products that make the changeover not only possible, but also economically feasible.
My 2004 forecast: an advertising blizzard!
Throughout e2v's history in the broadcast market, improvements in the efficiency and user-friendliness of high-power UHF TV tubes have been key drivers in the design and development process for their new products.
During the 1990s, two major energy consumption-reducing products were introduced by e2v technologies. The first was the water-cooled Energy Saving Collector (ESC) klystron, increasing klystron efficiency to the maximum possible for the technology. Its multiple collectors greatly reduce the amount of energy wasted. In parallel with this work, the Inductive Output Tube (IOT) was also developed, providing the benefits of high-efficiency, compact design, and the ability to amplify both visual and aural services in the same tube. This enabled the production of the smallest transmitters ever, power for power. Both of these products have surpassed the initial tube life expectations of their users, in some instances exceeding 80,000 hours.
The EEV IOT range, designed and manufactured by e2v, expanded significantly in 1999 to include a series of plug-in tubes. The plug-in feature simplifies tube installation, a benefit for both the transmitter maker and the user.
Continuing its tradition of working with broadcasters to develop better products, e2v has recently introduced a new series of UHF TV tubes that combine the best aspects of both the IOT and ESC Klystron--the ESCIOT. The marriage of these field-proven technologies results in significant beam power savings. Efficiency of a 5-collector ESCIOT is typically 57% (32kW digital signal) compared to 38% for a traditional single-collector IOT. This increase in efficiency yields typical annual savings per socket of $24,000 at 10¢/kWh. A similar improvement is achieved using analog (NTSC) signals: Figure of Merit = 140% versus 100% in common amplification, where compared to a 64kW visual klystron, the savings amount to $75,000 annually. A 3-collector version of the ESCIOT is also available. Visit http://comms.e2vtechnologies.com for more details.
When water-cooled ESC klystrons were first introduced, concerns were voiced that collector corrosion would be a major life-determining factor. In practice, this proved not to be the case, primarily because transmitter manufacturers were able to provide reliable filtering and control systems. Long average lives of these tubes attest to the dependability of multi-stage depressed collectors (MSDC) and of de-ionized water systems for collector cooling.
Incorporating these well-proven technologies in a next-generation UHF amplifier tube has enabled e2v technologies to offer broadcasters significant savings in the operation of analog and digital television transmitters.
LARCAN broadcast innovations are the product of communication at its best, combining our expertise, experience, and your unique needs. Driven by purpose and fueled by you, our solid design, superior performance, and service excellence is reflected in everything we do.
LARCAN delivers "start-to-service" performance and reliability--custom fit to your unique broadcast requirements. From factory to field, we believe that listening to you makes communication work. Our broadcast and service solutions thrive on our commitment to working with you to develop an optimized design and seamless integration. Our skills and our focus on ingenuity become your solution, one that's built on the pure performance you need to fuel your signal today and power your broadcast into the future. LARCAN's renowned commitment and capability to fit the solution to the possibilities of the project mark the difference between working in the communication business and being in the communication business. The result of this ? A "loud-and-clear" signal designed and delivered by our best.
Experience the ultimate in power and custom-fit innovation with our award-winning Magnum series of digital solid-state UHF transmitters, built on pure performance and delivering the definitive choice in digital power. Choose 2.5kW, 5kW, 10kW, 15kW or beyond. The product of engineering at its best, Magnum delivers like no other transmitter.
The MAGNUM features a state-of-the-art digital modulator for optimum performance; a patent-pending RF amplifier design featuring LDMOS technology; multiple regulated power supplies; a modular, hot-pluggable, fully redundant design; intuitive advanced diagnostics; an extensive monitoring system designed to simplify maintenance; a versatile cooling system; and "pull-thru" design for ease of installation. It fits 10kW of power in 25 square feet of space. LARCAN can provide custom solutions and configurations to fit your needs.
Magnum was designed with solid simplicity in mind, incorporating new amplifier technologies while adhering to the principles of superior modularity, versatile air-cooling, "hot-pluggable" PAs and power supplies, reliability, ease-of-access, and serviceability. It delivers new technology at its best, with unique LARCAN innovations in RF amplifier design (for which a patent is pending).
The goal was to create a "bullet-proof" design. The result is Magnum--an elegant, yet no-nonsense transmitter that fits your digital broadcast needs now and into the future. LARCAN, your best digital fit--every time!
Thales Broadcast & Multimedia
Over the past 30 years, Thales has brought forth a variety of RF innovations to the broadcasting community. From its early days as a passive RF component manufacturer, to the first high-power common amplification transmitters and the introduction of IOTs, the use of Digital Adaptive Precorrection (DAP), to the new MSDC-IOT technology, Thales has been a driving technology innovator to U.S. broadcasters.
Beginning with Thales' Klystrode tube and transmitter, which received an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1989 for technical achievement, Thales provided the RF community with an innovative new transmitter that revolutionized the way people viewed high-power UHF broadcasts. These new transmitters saved money by allowing a massive increase in energy efficiency compared to Klystron-equipped transmitters. They simplified systems and provided greater redundancy by allowing these transmitters to operate in common amplification. This was made possible through the use of the more linear Klystrode (now IOT) tubes coupled with Thales' correction technology, including the patented Aural Carrier Corrector.
Another technological innovation that influenced the RF community was Digital Adaptive Pre-Correction (DAP). DAP allows Thales to provide an exciter system that yields optimum performance from DTV amplifier technologies. DAP saves the RF community countless man-hours by minimizing the set-up and maintenance times required of traditional manual correction systems. Most recently, Thales was honored by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for its pioneering development of DAP. Thales received its third Emmy (its second specifically for transmitter technology) this year.
And most recently, Thales introduced the DCX Paragon MSDC-IOT transmitter to the broadcast market. Thales' DCX Paragon, coupled with MSDC-IOT technology, lowers the cost of ownership by offering broadcasters increased transmission efficiency, translating into power bills of up to 75% less than conventional products sold for digital transmission today. The transmitter utilizes Soft Arc Technology, which has eliminated the need for a crowbar in the HPA cabinet and substantially increases product reliability. To date, Thales has sold nine DCX Paragon transmitters. Of these, eight are installed and five are on-air. These systems are the only MSDC-IOT transmitters in operation throughout the world.
Thales is committed to bringing new, technologically innovative products to the RF community. This commitment is something we stand by and will continue to carry out as long as the RF community remains and continues to evolve.
Today, approximately 1,060 stations are transmitting digital television (DTV) signals to 202 markets serving some 99% of American households. Analysis shows that the majority of these stations are operating at reduced power on an STA (Special Temporary Authority). Both the commercial and non-commercial deadlines have passed and a second biennial review is in process, with the details of this ruling currently being finalized by the FCC.
The NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) issued in January of 2003 initiated the second biennial review. This ruling was focused on addressing maximization dates, a date for the selection of the final channel of operation, and to suggest that interim power levels be adopted to cover more than the "community of license." All of these issues had previously been "temporarily deferred" in the first biennial review of 2001. To confuse things more, media ownership has once again taken center stage. The June 2, 2003 ruling by the FCC raising ownership caps from 35 to 45% of American households, changing duopoly rulings, and allowing cross-ownership of media channels has met stiff resistance at all levels. Unfortunately, until both the biennial review is completed and ownership issues are resolved, broadcasters are having to make capital investment decisions without necessarily knowing the long-term plan.
Although no one knows what the ultimate resolution to these issues will be, it is in the broadcasters' best interest to have a system design in place that will allow them to act quickly. Whether currently operating on an STA, or still in anticipation of that first antenna purchase, site-specific plans should be in place to allow for the futures' maximized signal. The channel of operation, ERP, mounting location, pattern requirements, polarization, elevation, and transmitter budget are all issues that must be factored into any system design. Dielectric has delivered solutions to some 870 DTV broadcasters to date and we would appreciate the opportunity to work with you on your successful DTV implementation.
Almost half of all American households have access to a cable system that carries DTV signals--not just digital cable but HD cable. Premium high definition service is available from the satellite providers as well. Terrestrial broadcasters should invest in their future to ensure that they maintain a leadership role in the media puzzle. To do this, system design and implementation are critical. Dielectric can help you with this design and implementation to ensure that you are not just making an investment, you are making the right investment. Whether it is a simple side-mounted antenna or complex candelabra configuration, Dielectric has the solution and experience to handle the task.
As part of its periodic review, the FCC is considering the date upon which broadcasters must elect the primary channel for their DTV broadcast. While a substantial number of broadcasters will choose to keep their existing DTV channel, it is likely that many others will elect their current NTSC, or legacy, channel.
A station electing to continue operation on its current DTV channel will likely use its existing DTV transmitter. However, a station choosing its current NTSC, or legacy, channel for future digital operation could have several choices, including 1) purchasing a new DTV transmitter, 2) changing the channel of its current digital transmitter, or 3) converting its analog transmitter to DTV operation.
The first option, purchasing a new transmitter, is a relatively straightforward process; the others are less clear-cut. If the transmitter is in poor condition, contains many obsolete components, is inefficient, or is generally unreliable, you probably want to give serious consideration to option one. However, if you have a fairly recent analog IOT or solid-state transmitter, an upgrade might be your best option.
Rechanneling requires the replacement of frequency-dependent portions of the transmitter, which vary by transmitter type. Some items that could require replacement or rework are channelized oscillators, circulators and RF system components, including output filters and combiners.
Modern transmitters, like Axcera's Visionary, Innovator, and Innovator LX, use broadband amplifiers that operate on any channel in the frequency band. However, transmitters with narrow-band amplifiers may require significant rework to retune. Your transmitter manufacturer should be able to quickly and easily provide an estimate of the cost associated with rechanneling this type of transmitter.
Finally, how can an analog transmitter be converted to DTV? Nearly all Axcera transmitters are designed to operate in either digital or analog service primarily with the replacement of two components--the exciter and the output filter.
In a digital transmitter, SNR is controlled by the quality of the digital modulator and its ability to pre-correct for system distortions. Axcera's DT2B modulator was the first in the industry to offer continuously adaptive linear and nonlinear digital pre-correction for the best possible SNR.
So converting your transmitter from analog to digital could be as easy as replacing the analog exciter with the digital exciter, replacing the analog output filter with a digital mask filter, and optimizing the system performance for digital operation.
It is recommended that the transmitter manufacturer implement either of these upgrades. If executed properly, they can help a broadcaster to minimize the cost of DTV operation, while still offering a high-quality, reliable DTV signal.
Acrodyne (Ai) has been manufacturing products for the broadcaster for more than 35 years and specializes in the manufacturing and support of a full range of UHF and VHF transmitters. The business of broadcasting relies on the generation of revenue from the transmitted signa--regardless of signal format. Our current product line of analog and digital transmitters is geared to "the business of broadcasting."
The future of broadcast TV is digital--but the future is not yet here. Presently, U.S. broadcasters rely almost exclusively on their analog signal for revenue. Even though there are a considerable number of operational digital TV stations, very few, if any, have managed to convert their significant investment into a source of any revenue. Most of the development effort in the transmitter field in the past 10 years has been geared toward digital transmission products. This has resulted in significant advances in transmitter technology in the areas of pre-correction, control, and monitoring, solid-state amplification and high-power linear amplification, to name a few. There is no fundamental reason that these advances cannot be applied to analog transmission--offering immediate benefits to the U.S. broadcaster in terms of reduced power cost, improved reliability, reduced maintenance costs, increased building space and enhanced safety. In some cases the payback on the investment in a new plant can be less than five years--just from the power savings alone.
The Quantum line of IOT transmitters is designed for the U.S. broadcasters' needs. It features exclusive use of the industry-standard, plug-in style IOT and offers optimum efficiency in both analog and digital modes with the recently introduced water-cooled depressed collector line of tubes. These transmitters operate in either mode with minimal configuration changes, affording the broadcaster maximum flexibility for today and the future. The exciter utilizes a modular platform common to both analog and digital service.
To complement the high-power Quantum IOT transmitters, Ai offers a complete line of Rohde & Schwarz solid-state high- and low-power transmitters for both VHF and UHF service. These transmitters use the same exciter as the Quantum and are also readily adaptable to both analog and digital service.
When one considers that the NTSC signal will probably remain a TV station's main source of revenue for years to come, there is definite reason to consider replacing aging high-power UHF transmitters now. Recent changes in the tax law, favoring capital investment, may indeed add to the power cost savings in providing bottom-line benefits for the station and its owners.
Harris Broadcast Communications Division, the world's leading supplier of radio, television, and automation products, systems, and support, is setting the pace in the digital television transition.
As the U.S. television industry completes the DTV on-air phase, the majority of stations have selected a Harris ATSC transmitter: the PlatinumCD series for VHF operations and the Ranger, DiamondCD, or SigmaCD transmitters for UHF broadcasts. With Cool-Fuel sharp-tuned filters and the industry-leading Apex exciter, Harris ATSC transmitters provide the industry's highest level of performance.
For broadcasters planning NTSC transmitter investments, the new Atlas Analog solid-state UHF transmitter offers solutions from 2.5 to 30kW. With outstanding analog performance, the Atlas Analog also converts readily to ATSC operations through a common amplification architecture that allows the cabinet power divider and combiner to be used for analog or digital operations. The Atlas Analog exciter is also field-upgradeable from analog to ATSC operations.
Harris offers a comprehensive line of remote control systems, including the eCDi system for network monitoring and control of Harris transmitters. eCDi uses a Web-based interface to allow engineers and operators oversight of transmitter operations through the station's computer network. For DTV transmitters, eCDi can provide enhanced performance monitoring in the same networked environment. eCDi provides pager and e-mail fault notification through the SMTP interface and also interfaces with Harris ReCon and HBM management systems.
ReCon, a next-generation remote control and facility management system, communicates with a diverse list of broadcast, network, and facility control equipment (HVAC, tower lights, security, etc.). ReCon is Web-enabled, monitors SNMP, is capable of remote operation, and handles EAS logging.
Harris' FlexiCoder and UniCoder MPEG-2 ATSC encoder systems are the most flexible, upgradeable, and cost-effective encoding solutions available. Modular encoders, decoders and processors and I/O boards plug into a five-slot and 21-slot frame, providing myriad SD and HD video combinations. Harris' MASTERplus Digital Master Control Processor is a drop-in card for the FlexiCoder that combines several functions such as an HD upconverter and frame synchronizers to free up rack space.
NetVX, a simple, one-box networking solution, allows broadcasters to provide uni- or bi-directional realtime or non-realtime transfer of video, audio, and other data over cost-effective telco networks and satellite systems. NetVX provides SD encoding and decoding, ASI multiplexing, interfaces to ATM, DS3 and Ethernet, in a 1 or 5RU space. www.broadcast.harris.com
Andrew Sells Broadcast Division
Andrew Corp. is selling its broadcast products division to Electronics Research Inc. (ERI). The company will retain its HELIAX air-cable manufacturing business, and will be the main supplier of air cable to ERI. At press time, the sale was still pending.
N Systems Inc.
N Systems Inc. (NSI) manufactures state-of-the-art Airborne, ENG, and Central Receive Antenna Systems for live news applications. NSI's MC5 PC-based remote control system simplifies the most complex multisite microwave installations with a powerful touchscreen user interface. NSI systems are in use by networks, groups, O&Os, and independent stations around the world.