The delays will be in the areas of equipment design-in and delivery. Broadcasters should be phasing out analog studio and control equipment while updating routing, synchronizing, and test and measurement systems with digital equipment (or making "slide-in" provisions for digital equipment). Making various vendors' products (hardware and software) compatible with the equipment of other vendors and the total plant requires careful planning and engineering - especially when the goal is zero downtime. As equipment becomes more complicated, maintenance and operating staff training should be a part of the digital changeover. Broadcasters should have vendors conduct this on-site training as part of an equipment purchase package.
After the gradual change in studio and terminal equipment to DTV, changing over transmitters and transmission equipment (lines, antennas, etc.) will be the biggest (often uncontrollable) time consumer. If the broadcaster owns/shares a tower which is certified for the additional load, equipment should be installed side-by-side and tested for an "event-free" changeover. If there is no additional room in the transmitter building or existing tower or the tower can not be certified, an alternate transmitter site should be acquired as a first priority on the road to digital transmission. The broadcast market has a lot to do with over-the-air planning. The bulk of many broadcasters' audiences (especially in the top 20 markets) rely on cable systems or satellite distribution rather than off-the-air reception for the station's signal, and this trend will increase until the need for inefficient and expensive over-the-air transmission ceases in the not-too-distant future. The broadcaster should make certain that the hardware and software "link" to the cable distributor, satellite distribution, Internet, etc. is of the highest quality.
Broadcasters should begin engineering budgeting and planning now. If you plan to upgrade your plant, plan on at least a year for studio work and two or more for transmitter work. Using a reputable consultant who has no ties with any equipment vendor to help you budget, design and certify the completed installation, whether it is a studio system or whole new plant, will save money and time. Two of the biggest deciding factors for rapid digital TV growth in the U.S. are, in many ways, out of the direct hands of the broadcasters. They include the speed of acceptance and sale of consumer digital receivers and the impact of high-speed (DSL) Internet service to all customers (permitting broadcasters to provide their streaming signal on the Internet). A well-designed, engineered and documented plant will always be an asset for the broadcaster.
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