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RF Shorts: Other Items of Interest – Oct. 8, 2009

  • • As noted last week, FCC rules require that basic programming be transmitted over cable systems unencrypted, even though at least one cable operator would like to change that. Rob Pegoraro's Fast Forward – Personal Tech, Gadgets and Reviews column from last Friday ignores the ClearQAM capability present in most new DTV sets in his response to a question from a reader: “You will need a cable box whenever the channels you watch migrate from analog to digital service, yes.” In fairness to Pegoraro, the reader asked about premium channels as well, which of course are encrypted. Last Friday's Fast Forward column had several comments from readers about the difficulty in getting support for CableCards, which are supposed to allow premium content to be viewed on the few DTV sets that support them and on recording devices such as TiVo with CableCard capability.
  • • Look for improved Internet service from Ka-band satellite broadband provider WildBlue. Satellite communications provider ViaSat is acquiring WildBlue Communications. The major improvement will occur after ViaSat-1 is launched and commissioned in 2011. The satellite will provide higher bandwidth and will expand WildBlue coverage to Alaska and Hawaii. Mark Danberg, CEO of ViaSat, said, “Our new satellite, will have nearly all of its capacity aimed at those areas where WildBlue growth is constrained by lack of cost-effective bandwidth. The planned launch of ViaSat-1 in early 2011 is expected to multiply WildBlue total network capacity by more than tenfold, and by a factor of over 20 in those areas with the highest demand at a fraction of its current bandwidth costs. The increased bandwidth coupled with next generation ViaSat network technology is expected to enable WildBlue to increase upstream and downstream user speeds by factors of three to five times in those high-demand areas at current subscription prices, substantially raising the value to consumers.”
  • • Livestream is bundling 3G access cards to provide live video. The article Livestream's Livepack: A Satellite Truck in a Backback notes that the Livepack includes six 3G/EVDO modems. The package is available for rent.
  • • reports on research at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden and Fraunhofer Heinrich Institute in Berlin to improve 60 GHz wireless communications in the article MIMO Technology Boost Usability of 60 GHz Band for Wireless Transmission. MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) technology is widely used in consumer 2.4 and 5 GHz wireless networks. The main advantage of using it in 60 GHz is to make the signals more robust and eliminate problems with shadowing, interference, and blocking.
  • • MaxLinear introduced its new MxL301 RF tuner this week. The highlighted feature is support for analog as well as digital TV.

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.