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Power efficiency, cost of ownership, redundancy to take center stage at NAB, says Redmond

Editor's Note: Over the next several editions of RF Update, Broadcast Engineering will present the perspective of various RF vendors on the issues likely to be making news at the 2011 NAB Show. We begin the series with Rich Redmond, VP of Business Development and Product Line Management for Transmission Systems at Harris.

Power efficiency, cost of ownership and transmitter redundancy will be at the top of the list for broadcasters interested in RF and transmission at the 2011 NAB Show, says Rich Redmond, VP of Business Development and Product Line Management for Transmission Systems at Harris.

To illustrate how important power efficiency and its impact on cost of ownership are to broadcasters, Redmond points to network operator Broadcast Australia, which ranks in the top 25 of power consumers in Australia. "As an operator of radio and TV networks with hundreds of transmitters, this is a big deal," says Redmond.

Completion of the analog-to-digital transition in the United States is one reason power consumption has become a primary focus. "Digital television and radio transmitters are generally lower in efficiency than anything analog had before. They are very big consumers of power," he says. Redmond applauds proposals from NAB FASTROAD for an industrywide energy-efficiency certification program for transmitters. Calling the idea "an interesting concept," Redmond says the success of such an effort would depend on transmitter vendors agreeing on an objective approach to measuring transmitter efficiency.

Transmission redundancy and reliability of service also will be front and center for broadcasters interested in RF at the NAB Show, largely due to growing interest in mobile DTV service. "As people start to look at mobile, they begin considering what their redundancy scenario is," says Redmond. During the transition, when broadcasters had two analog transmitters — a primary and a backup — one digital transmitter to broadcast on their temporary DTV channel and cable carriage, they typically felt secure about coverage, he says. "But now that I no longer have analog and I still have a percentage of my customers receiving over the air, I might want some backup," he says.

Among the scenarios likely to be discussed will be redundancy at transmitter farms, where on-air signals of multiple competitive or commonly owned channels originate. Having a frequency-agile transmitter or transmitters available for automatic failover to remain on-air can add confidence, he says. Additionally, this approach reduces the need for a one-to-one relationship between backup and primary transmitters, thus allowing broadcasters to balance risk with capital expenditure.