RF Shorts – May 25, 2012

PBS Show Highlights Tower Climber Risk

Broadcasters rely on tower crews to install and repair antennas and align microwave antennas. The rapid expansion of cell phone coverage and the new sites, tower and antennas required to roll out 3G and now 4G technology has led to an unusual situation where tower crews are in great demand but a complex network of contractors and subcontractors has brought less skilled workers into the industry and driven down the hourly rates paid tower climbers. The result is a higher rate of death and injury. PBS program "Frontline" this week asked Who's Responsible for Cell Tower Deaths?. “More workers are now employed by a vast network of subcontractors that affects not just industries like tower climbers and construction, but also the health care, logistics, retail and service industries.” Check TV listings for reruns on your local PBS station or view the video on the "Frontline" website.

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison

Much has been written about the careers of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, most recently in the comic "The Oatmeal." Alex Knapp rebutts Oatmeal's treatment of the two famous inventors in his Forbes.com article "Nikola Tesla Wasn't God and Thomas Edison Wasn't The Devil." He writes, “Alas, The Oatmeal has fallen prey to Tesla idolatry, confusing his genius for godhood and of course, setting up the now all-too-common ‘Edison as Tesla’sarch-villain’ narrative.” After an extensive examination of the comic's treatment of the inventors, he concludes, “They were both brilliant, strong-willed men who helped build our modern world. They both did great things and awful things. They were both brilliantly right about some things and just as brilliantly wrong about others. They had foibles, quirks, passions, misunderstandings and moments of wonder.” The Oatmeal has posted a response to Knapp's article.

FCC Experimental Actions

The FCC Office of Engineering and Technology's Experimental Licensing Branch released a list of experimental applications granted between 3/1/12 to 4/1/12. I didn't see any grants of particular interest to broadcasters in this list, although readers may be interested in license WG2XCT granted to Hugh P. Bunn, P.E., for experimental operations in the 495-510 kHz region “for research to develop class E transmitting equipment and propagation studies” in Spartansburg, S.C.

Group Formed to Help Consumer Devices and Radio Services Coexist

Advanced-television.com in the article Radio forum to promote future-proof EU spectrum policy reported “European consumer electronic producers, cable and satellite reception equipment industry, the live performance, content making manufacturers and cable operators are announcing the formation of a forum aimed at preserving the coexistence between devices and services when new radio services are introduced. The European Forum for Spectrum Coexistence (EFSC) calls for EU spectrum policy to ensure that radio and non-radio deployed equipments are taken into account when the introduction of new radio services threatens balance in the electromagnetic ecosystem.”

4G Predicted to Kill Off-Air TV for 2 Million U.K. Households

Computerworld UK reports 4G will knock out TV for 2 million U .K. homes. Antony Savvas writes, “Due to the close proximity of the spectrum that is being auctioned to the digital TVspectrum now being used, the government, after consulting with regulator Ofcom, says programmes for two million households will be blocked or interrupted.” As in the United States, the 700 MHz spectrum to be auctioned was previously used for broadcasting. “Culture minister Ed Vaizey said around 945,000 households that use signal amplifiers to boost their television reception could be affected. In addition, another 953,000 homes that rely on communal aerials could suffer.”

I haven't received any reports of 4G interference to UHF DTV since my RF Technology article "4G Interference to UHF DTV" was published, but that may be because the interference is intermittent and, like other interference to digital TV, difficult to determine identify. 

Deceptive Antenna Ads

It was bound to happen. Increased consumer interest in free off-air TV and a desire to cut cable bills has led to at least one company running confusing advertisements about a TV antenna. One of the many articles about ads for the Clear-Cast HDTV Antenna manufactured by Brilliant Built Technologies appeared in the Wichita Times Record News. See "Agency wary of antenna claims customers confused about advertisements for more information." "Monica Horton, president of the Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas, said the company is running large advertisements in newspapers and mailings across the United States offering to eliminate cable and satellite costs using the Clear-Cast HDTV Antennas."

Comments and RF related news items are welcome. Email me at dlung@transmitter.com.

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.