Random Observations from the 2012 NAB Show

As of Friday, I have not seen any attendance numbers for this years' NAB Show. The areas I was visiting did not seem especially crowded, although I was surprised at the number of people still looking at South Hall Upper exhibit Thursday morning.

Talking with other engineers, I found there was still a lot of confusion about the FCC spectrum auction. While this is definitely affecting stations' decisions on new antennas or transmitters, many of the engineers I talked to weren't worrying about it. The most common question I received was "When will the repacking happen?" Unfortunately, I couldn't give them a clear answer, only describe the things that have to happen first. Most manufacturers wanted to get it over as soon as possible, while others still aren't sure if it will happen at all. The companies that seemed to be doing the best were those with an international presence. ATSC was highlighted less than in previous years and there was more focus on DVB-T2. Technology developments are being rolled out in other standards before ATSC versions appear here.

I had a chance to discuss ATSC 3.0 and some of my visions of the future of broadcasting with a wide range of engineers. The lack of backwards compatibility was a concern that was somewhat allayed after I explained that the RJ-45 Ethernet interface, not the F-connector, was likely to be the connection for the receiver box. The receiver box would be similar to the Roku or Google TV boxes and it could be located anywhere on a home's LAN, either wired or wireless. .

By the time the 2013 NAB Show rolls around, we should have a good indication of what the FCC plans for the spectrum auction and perhaps a realistic timeline. We should know if the efforts of the MCV's Dyle TV brand and the Mobile500 Alliance have been successful in making Mobile DTV a widely available consumer product. Perhaps some of the high-efficiency solid state transmitter designs using Doherty or envelope modulation will have been installed in the field and we'll hear how they are performing. I hope we will have made progress in defining a flexible transmission standard for ATSC 3.0 and perhaps have tested some of the options in the field.

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.