Closing CES 2012 Observations

One thing I discovered while helping set up the Dyle demonstrations in the grand ballroom at the MGM Grand for PEPCOM and at the Mobile DTV TechZone in the LVCC Central Hall, is that wireless microphones pose a real threat to portable DTV reception at public events. LG and Harris were using a spectrum analyzer to track down interference at CES and I was surprised to see a signal 20 dB stronger than the KBLR signal on Channel 40, which would have been perfectly receivable, at least on Mobile DTV, without such interference.

Apparently crews are able to live with the high noise floor, since in a field situation they are likely to be within 10 feet or so of the receiver. While I didn't demodulate the signal to confirm it was from a wireless microphone, it's unlikely there would have been other narrowband devices close by operating within broadcast TV spectrum. The CES broadcast booth was line-of-sight to the Mobile DTV TechZone. I doubt any of the visiting crews with wireless devices on local TV channels even knew they were operating on a frequency that was already in use.

Wireless microphones typically aren't a problem for fixed TV or in-home portable reception, but after the broadcast spectrum got squeezed to Channels 2 through 51, it appears this could be an issue for portable DTV viewers at some events.

Perhaps due to my limited time to explore, I found this year's CES to be less exciting than shows in previous years. There simply didn't seem to be a much "new stuff." Most of the technology was based on products introduced in previous years--connected TV, 3D, tablets, and smartphones. One thing that did surprise me was how good 4K TV looked. It had been shown before, but the technology seems to be getting closer to the point where it will be available to the average consumer. I'm still not convinced 3D will catch on with viewers, but given the number of companies showing it in a year or two, you may find it incorporated in your next TV whether you want it or not.

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.