Not surprisingly, the August editorial, "Kill the 8VSB Frankenstein," drew a lot of comment. Most respondents came from two camps: consumers and broadcast professionals. If we measure response on emotion, the consumer guys win hands down. The more measured, considered opinions came from those in the trenches. Here is a selection of the feedback from both camps. For an up-to-date presentation of the comments received on this topic, go to www.broadcastengineering.com and click "Reader Feedback." We'll continue this discussion next month. Brad Dick, Editor
Sir: Your article is one of the most irresponsible, slanted and obvious attempts at negative propaganda I have ever read. 8VSB works and works the way it is intended, to provide digital coverage similar to analog OTA coverage. I have been a digital viewer since early 2000 and can report excellent performance by my first generation RCA DTC 100 on all local DC-area stations. It outperforms my satellite dish even in heavy rainstorms. This is, once again, just another slanderous attempt by a "journalist" operating with a hidden agenda to help kill the HD/DTV movement.
Knowledgeable and informed readers of this article recognize your agenda is not concerned with facts but misinformation. It is wholly designed to spread untruths and operate with a hidden agenda set forth by a company that owns many TV stations who would like to provide services not intended for with the free bandwidth given to them by Congress. It would rather cheat the American people of the financial gains recognized by paying for bandwidth to provide for datacasting services. That, sir, is called propaganda in my book. Wayne Harrelson
Dear Editor: The only reason for implementing COFDM is for datacasting (especially for mobile receivers). Most consumers now receiving DTV are only interested in high-definition video. This is the original intention of DTV and the way it should remain. The continued debate between COFDM and 8VSB, the continued foot dragging by some broadcasters and the broadcasters not advertising their HDTV channels is holding back the progress of HDTV. 8VSB works and does its job very nicely, but only if you turn on the transmitter! Bob Lyons
Editor: Mark Simon's (Rohde & Schwarz) presentation of COFDM at the Pittsburgh regional SBE meeting made the point for me. Particularly interesting is the concept of hierarchical modulation. He presented a scenario that allows transmission of a highly fade-resistant datacasting signal for mobile applications at 4Mb/s and moderately multipath resistant signal for HDTV at 13Mb/s on the same 6MHz channel. This is certainly the way to go for mobile apps. Technically, I was sold, but I could see broadcasters were not.
I feel broadcasters would have a better chance of defending their turf if they develop related broadband applications for mobile use and thus fought for market share. I would like to see Broadcast Engineering address this issue. Tom Ammons WQED
Editor's note: For an excellent tutorial on the legalities of datacasting and other non-traditional applications, see the July 2000 issue of Broadcast Engineering, "Datacasting: Is it Legal?" by Mitchell Lazarus.
Brad: About a year ago you and I discussed 8VSB and COFDM. I took the position then that receiver technology would eventually solve the problems of 8VSB, and I referenced radar receivers as an example of technological solutions. That may still be a viable position for fixed-point reception, but the world is not standing still and neither are receivers. I think I have seen the light and am now a believer that we should move to COFDM immediately or see the opportunity for datacasting gobbled up by rapidly evolving LMDS and third-generation cellular technology, leaving broadcasters out in the cold.
At this point it is obvious that by insisting on the 8VSB standard, the FCC is pushing a rope. The more than 1300 broadcasters who are not in the top markets will never see a return on their investment in digital transmission equipment if they must rely only on the already established revenue streams, and they recognize this. Digital transmitter sales are down and show no signs of an immediate uptick. The FCC holds the key to the future of digital TV and datacasting, and they need to listen to the voices of industry soon. John Allan Vice President of Marketing CPI/Eimac
Mr. Editor: I question how much personal experience you've had at your home with DTV via 8VSB. I'm in the Detroit area (five DTV stations on the air) and I get absolutely perfect reception on every one of the stations (15 to 20 miles away). My antenna is a spool of solder plugged into the antenna input!
You can publish all the garbage you want about 8VSB. The fact is that it works. I have $6000 invested in HDTV equipment, and I intend on getting my money's worth out of it. Mike Mijal Canton, MI
Editor: I'm a member of the AVS Forum, and I know you have received several highly passionate responses from others that have reacted negatively to your column regarding the killing of 8VSB. I don't have time to be long-winded on this, but did want to say that while I don't think 8VSB is as dead a technology as you indicate, I also see the positives of COFDM and the circular argument that exists here.
When all is said and done it isn't going to matter at all which standard is superior if this argument continues, because it is killing HDTV. What matters is that a strong, decisive action is taken to decide ultimately which standard will provide the best overall service. Even though I am purchasing an 8VSB modulator (DishNetwork's add-on module), I will happily turn this over in favor of COFDM if it will settle the argument and get content on the air. Without content, forward thinking from broadcasters and active public awareness campaigning, the HDTV format will die ... and both arguments will end. Who cares about 8VSB vs. COFDM then? Jim A. Kosinsky Director of Media Services Concordia Media Productions River Forest, IL
Editor: Thanks for the editorial! You said it all. I trust you saw the COFDM over-the-air demo at NAB2000? I did and asked the question that many people did: "Where is the 8VSB over-the-air demo?" The answer was: "It (8VSB) can't be received in the convention hall." I hope everybody from the Hill down to the customers at the local Video Kingdom hear your message. Jerry L Fuehrer KHGI-TV Kearney, NE
Editor: As a user of DTV I completely reject the assertion that 8VSB does not work. In my experience, since the purchase of my system in January, I have very rarely had problems receiving 8VSB modulated signals. In fact the two most receivable signals in the Boston area are the two stations that represent ABC and NBC. The CBS affiliate is on the air, but not getting a signal to its allocated broadcast area.
There were two other stations that started broadcasting at full power and I have no problem receiving them. But the point is, when these stations come up to full power and their antennas are at their specified height, you can receive these stations with minimal outside antenna systems.
I don't believe that broadcasters/networks can do everything. It is a prescription for mediocrity, which they are pretty close to now. Do you really think that they can be any good at datacasting? The broadcasters and networks hit mediocrity some time ago and don't seem to want to use HDTV as a road back to superior programming.
The programs I have seen on HDTV, no matter what the source, have all been breathtaking. This is the single biggest improvement in media quality since the advent of the audio CD. To all that worked on this standard I say "bravo," "well done" and "keep up the good work." Anything as new as this standard will always be a work in progress. Nothing is perfect, but this standard comes pretty close. This standard is completely usable for what it was intended. To the people who strive to change it into something else, I say get lost and let us viewers enjoy the quality of the ATSC system. Patrick Joy Genuity.com
Editor: In my suburban location, 8VSB works perfectly. However, you should be aware that I can't get a decent NTSC signal here. In fact, none of my neighbors get a good NTSC signal around here either and we're only 30 miles from the World Trade Center.
In Manhattan today, most people cannot get NTSC without terrible multipath. So, they are not any worse off with the proposed 8VSB standard.
So if the goal is (I thought) to replace NTSC by 2006, 8VSB works fine. To delay this implementation on the grounds that some newer system might be better in two years time seems odd to me. In any technological field there will always be something better available if we just wait a little while. The investments already made would be lost and we'd be back to NTSC for an extra couple of years for no long-term gain.
However, we do know that CODFM is better for chargeable mobile services. The whole rationale behind giving broadcasters free spectrum was that they would operate on a free basis and in the public interest. Any debate, therefore, should revolve around the question of whether the bandwidth given by the American people to the broadcasters should be optimized to generate profits for the broadcasters or to provide service to Americans. If the broadcasters want to provide chargeable services, then they should participate in an auction of the bandwidth. This CODFM nonsense is just a cynical ploy on their part to enhance their revenues. And you have fallen for it. Ross Salinger