Skip to main content

Big RF Stories for 2010

By the time 2010 NAB Show takes place in April we should have a good idea as to how two major items affecting the future of free off-air broadcast TV will play out. Television broadcasters should have a better idea of what spectrum they will have left for broadcast purposes after seeing the National Broadband Plan the FCC plans to send to Congress in February, and also the reaction to that plan. Assuming that broadcasters aren't relegated to the equivalent of a community cable channel and are able to retain enough spectrum to offer new services based on the ATSC mobile DTV standard, look out for new applications beyond the variety that will be shown at the 2010 International CES Show. ATSC mobile DTV can free up bandwidth by taking live streams away from the Internet and providing that content to millions of viewers with the same amount of bandwidth that would be required to reach just one person via broadband. ATSC mobile DTV is IP-based and can be used to transmit files as well as video and audio streams. Could it also free up bandwidth by giving consumers an easier way to receive the ever-growing-in-size updates to common software and hardware?

If I have the time, I'll be looking for improved VHF antenna designs at CES next week. These might make it easier for VHF broadcasters to reach the increasing number of TV receivers without outdoor antennas.

For more years than I can remember, I've expected to see an inexpensive Ka-band uplink that is extremely portable and could provide Internet access for newsgathering in extremely remote locations. With new Ka-band satellites being launched in 2010, perhaps we'll finally see such an inexpensive end-user-installable Ka-band uplink.

Silicon is challenging copper in filters and tuners. Look for even better performance from “chip” tuners next year. Modulation Sciences is using diversity in its IFB receiver. With the decreasing cost of tuners, I don't see any reason that diversity reception techniques (multiple receivers and isolated antennas) couldn't be used to make indoor fixed DTV reception easier and increase outdoor mobile DTV coverage.

I'm hoping there will be some technology innovations I haven't thought of and also some new FCC policies that benefit consumers without wasting spectrum

I hope that I won't be talking about another mass reallocation of broadcast spectrum and increased sharing of broadcast auxiliary bands.

In any event, while we won't have the drama of converting a nation from analog to digital TV reception, I am expecting there will be enough interesting news to keep RF Report going another year.

Thank you very much for all your support, comments and story leads. While I'm not always able to answer every email, I do read them all. Your comments and story leads are always appreciated. Drop me a note at

Best wishes for a successful and happy 2010!

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.