RF Shorts for Aug. 21, 2014

Website Shows UK Transmitter Status
Over-the-air TV viewers in the United Kingdom now have a website where they can see a map of all UK television transmitters that are marked with fault or engineering information. The website www.ukfree.tv also includes a tool that allows viewers to enter their postal code, a national grid reference, or a UK latitude and longitude pair and get an enhanced Freeview reception prediction for their location. Other tabs provide a listing of the 2,023 TV, radio and DAB transmitter sites in the UK. The “Olden days” tab provides a map of VHF bands I and III transmitters in the black and white TV days.

This is an interesting website! I doubt we'll ever see a map showing which transmitters are having trouble throughout U.S., but I wouldn't be surprised if some state public TV networks aren't providing a similar service to their viewers.

Tablo ‘Aereo Replacement’ Tested
Back in July when a Supreme Court decision shut down Aereo, I described how to Build Your Own Personal Aereo. One of the suggestions was to purchase a system called Tablo that allows browsing, recording and streaming free over-the-air TV programs on any device, anywhere. I came across an interesting review from a reporter who actually tried Tablo.

In his review on NetworkWorld.com, Keith Shaw asks Can Tablo help you cut the cable TV cord?. Shaw noted that the Tablo alone is not enough: “In order to receive optimal satisfaction from Tablo, you need to buy a bunch of other devices. First, I needed an HDTV antenna to pick up the free, over-the-air local channels. Second, I needed to attach a USB storage drive (which the system re-formats, so you can’t have other items stored on it) for the DVR functionality. Third, I needed a Roku TV or Apple TV in order to get the content streamed to the TV. Fourth, I needed a tablet (iPad or Android) to watch on those mobile devices. You could even argue that the fifth requirement is a wireless router, but I’m assuming that you already have those.” He added that for the most part, people will have most of these items.

Location is critical. Shaw reports, “In my tests, I was able to receive about five or six different local channels (the big four networks, a PBS station and the local CW network), plus a few other random ones (a couple of Spanish-language stations and some odd offshoots that didn’t show compelling content).”

His conclusion? “The big question to ask yourself is how badly do you dislike your cable TV or satellite provider in order to get rid of their TV programming package, and whether you want to put in the work to get a quality over-the-air signal.” He gave it 3.5 out of 5 starts in his review.

Simple.TV Allows Sharing TV Shows
One of the other “Aereo alternatives”, Simple.TV, debuted an ability to share recorded TV shows, as Ty Pendlebury reports on cnet.com.

Pendlebury writes, “Simple.TV is one of several new DVRs that allow cordcutters to record TV shows off broadcast TV and watch them on a variety of mobile devices and digital set-top boxes like Roku. But now Simple is upping the ante on its competition with a new feature that allows users to share their recordings with others. The new option will allow Simple.TV owners to send up to five invites to non-users via its website, who—after creating a free account—will be able to view recorded programs, though not watch live TV. The invited users will be able to access the programs via the Simple.TV website or via an Android, iOS, or Windows 8 app.”

Regarding concerns about this feature after the Supreme Court ruling on Aereo, Simple.TV CEO Mark Ely told CNET, “Simple.TV is well-versed in copyright law, and even more so in the wake of the Aereo decision, The latest sharing feature grants access to the viewer while they are logged in and does not allow for posting video content to the Internet or social media sites, nor can they download the content on their own device. As such, that still falls well within private performance, so we don't anticipate any legal repercussions or issues with permission from content holders.”

Doug Lung

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.