FCC Plans Examination of DTV Reception in Wilmington Test

Remarks made by FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps at a town hall meeting on DTV in Wilmington, N.C. Wednesday provided some insight on the information the FCC hoped to gain from the early shutdown of analog TV in that city.

“As hard as it is to believe this late in the process, there are still a lot of technical things we don’t know,” Copps said. “Engineers can run the numbers until the cows come home, but until you actually get out into the real world, you don’t really know how things are going to work.”

Copps had a number of questions he hoped the Wilmington test would answer, including signal robustness, how many viewers would need new antennas and whether indoors antennas would be satisfactory.

As RF Report has previously discussed, newspaper articles have appeared recently showing that consumers switching to DTV may not receive all the stations they currently receive on analog tuners. In some of the cases, the stations lost are out-of-market stations that were somewhat noisy, but still watchable on analog TV. The analog stations in some cases were on VHF, while the DTV service was on UHF.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, speaking at the meeting, noted that the switch will take place at the height of storm season and that viewers should be prepared for the digital change.

“They’re going to have to go out to buy a new digital battery-operated TV. And those are on the market right now,” he said.

An article on the WECT (News 6 in Wilmington N.C.) Web site, The FCC answers big switch questions in Wilmington, quoted RadioShack executives as saying they were trying to obtain a stock of battery-operated digital TV receivers for their stores. I hope the performance is significantly better than the first battery-operated DTV set from Insignia, which performed far worse than several ATSC USB tuners using only a whip antenna on the back of a laptop.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack.
A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.