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Fox/Philips report DTV reception breakthrough

News Corporation's Fox Group and Philips Research have reached a breakthrough that allows vastly improved over-the-air DTV reception to homes with indoor antennas, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

The new receiver/decoder chip set is described in a study published in the most recent issue of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers' IEEE Transactions on Broadcasting journal. According to the study, the research team involved reported successful indoor reception (e.g., a sustained, robust signal) 85 percent of the time.

If the findings prove true in the real world, it could resolve the existing reception problems that have hindered the deployment of the 8-VSB digital transmission system in the U.S. However, other companies have made similar claims of improved indoor reception results--such as recent tests performed in Chicago, Ill., by LINX Electronics. So far none have delivered significant results to viewers in practical TV receiver products.

It’s interesting to note that the Times did not report actually witnessing improved reception in a demonstration of the new technology.

The newspaper said a combined research team created new software capable of improving DTV reception. This came after three years of research into digital TV reception, using data from more than 1,000 test sites in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Of particular note, the companies' study found no fundamental problems with the way stations broadcast digital TV; instead, the shortcomings were in the digital TV receivers inside people's homes.

The Times reported that the study by Fox, the Australian National University and Philips Research, an arm of Royal Philips Electronics, found that the biggest difficulty for digital receivers is distinguishing between the original broadcast and the echoes bouncing off buildings and hills. On a conventional analog TV, such echoes cause ghosts or multiple images. But on a digital TV, those reflections can wipe out the entire picture.

Andrew G. Setos, president of engineering for Fox, was quoted as saying the team studied the reflections in hundreds of locations around the four cities, using newly developed tools to capture and analyze the echoing signals.

“It turns out everyone had made bad assumptions about the reflections and their effect," Setos reportedly told the Times. Using computer models of the most severe conditions, the researchers developed software that microchips in digital receivers could use to filter out the reflections far more effectively, he said.

The Fox-Philips team claims an 85 percent success rate overall in areas that receive a strong enough signal, though the Times did not report how strong that signal must be. The newspaper claims the new technology could be incorporated into digital receivers this year. No cost was estimated.

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