RF Shorts for Nov. 3, 2014

Junko Yoshida asks “Terrestrial Broadcast TV Down, But Is It Out?”
EETimes.com writer Junko Yoshida provides her take on the future of broadcast TV in his recent article Terrestrial Broadcast TV Down, But Is It Out?. She asked a question I'm sure many readers have asked, “So, tell me, why are we so down on terrestrial TV broadcast? There seems to be a growing consensus that broadcasting isn't just irrelevant but obsolete.” She continues, “Part of me agrees. But another – perhaps nostalgic but maybe just skeptical of the conventional wisdom -- wonders if it's all true.”

After seeing Futurecast field trials in Madison, Wisc., she offers, “If the upcoming ATSC 3.0 standard was all about broadcasting Ultra High Definition TV (and 3D TV), I'm pretty sure I would have walked away unimpressed. If that's all there was, it's the same old pitch, pigeonholing broadcast TV as just a medium for prettier pictures. But if the future of TV broadcast – IP-based – can deliver programming to the home, and mobile content to LTE devices, as some suggested, broadcasters might yet change the broadband landscape.”

In the article she has comments from Sinclair's Mark Aitken and discusses the potential for combining ATSC 3.0 with LTE Broadcast, concluding, “it's high time for broadcasters to think about 'what broadcasting could be,' as Aiken said.”

“Spectrum Wars” Haunt Satellite Industry
Jeff Foust writing in Satellite Industry Warns of Long-Term “Spectrum Wars” on SpaceNews.com says, “As the satellite communications industry prepares to defend key spectrum bands next year, some observers believe that regardless of the outcome of that effort, the industry is facing long-term spectrum battles against terrestrial wireless companies it may ultimately lose.”

I've reported on the threat to C-band spectrum before, but Foust, reporting on comments made by attorney Bruce Olcott, adds, “The C-band spectrum is not the only area of concern for the industry. Olcott said he is seeing terrestrial threats to several spectrum bands, including a proposal under consideration by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to allow air-to-ground mobile broadband services at Ku-band frequencies currently allocated for satellite services.”

Foust ends with this quote from David Howgill, president of technology consultancy Huckworthy, “The wireless industry will want more and more of our spectrum as time goes on. History shows that we can fight it all we like, but they’re going to win. They’ve never lost to anybody in the long term. They’re a lot bigger than us.”

London Science Museum Celebrates 200 Years of Electronic Communications
If you happen to be in London soon, don't miss the exhibit “Information Age” at London's Science Museum. Telegraph.co.uk describes the exhibit in the article Science Museum: 200 years of progress in a single room by Matthew Sparkes.

The exhibit covers communications from the telegraph to Internet, focusing on what the museum curators call the “six networks that changed our world”: the telegraph, the telephone, radio and TV, satellites, computer networks, and mobiles.

After describing the interesting exhibits and the history behind them, Sparkes leaves us with these comments:

“It’s a vital lesson: not only must we encourage a passion in science and technology among the young, which the unique exhibits do wonderfully, but they should know how the ability to instantly communicate has shaped the world they live in today.

“Just as I’m part of the last generation that will ever know life before mobile phones, wireless internet and on-demand television, it’s important to remember that at one point not so very long ago it would have taken weeks to get even written messages across the Atlantic.

“Today I can video-chat with a friend in New York from my mobile phone while sitting on a bus. But just 10 years ago that would have required enough electronics to fill that same bus. A hundred years ago the suggestion alone would have been ludicrous. Already, the devices I used to use every day are museum exhibits here: the Palm Pilot, the early Nokia mobile phones, the obsolete desktop computers. Such is the pace of change.

“So this exhibition is of vital importance: as technology races along at a dizzying pace, there’s still time for us to step back and reassess - not to rest on our laurels, but to inspire a new generation of engineers. What will they be able to achieve during their lifetimes?”

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.