If you work at a US TV station, chances are that your station is about to replace its transmitter, again.
Twenty years ago at the 1998 NAB Show, transmitters were the big thing. The DTV transition was building momentum. Transmitter and RF manufacturers were showing new DTV transmission hardware and their NAB exhibits were swamped with station transmitter engineers. At the 2018 NAB Show, transmitter and RF exhibits will be swamped again, because every TV station in the US is anticipating the ATSC 3.0 transition, and nearly 1000 have FCC repack deadlines.
Once again, over the air TV transmission is transitioning. In 1998, broadcasters were given more than 10 years to switch to the ATSC DTV standard. Today, broadcasters facing spectrum repack have at best, only 39 months to move to their new channel. Those in Phase 1 face a November 30, 2018 FCC deadline. The next six phases must complete their channel moves in 2019. The last three repack phase deadlines are in the first half of 2020.
With the FCC’s approval of ATSC 3.0 last November and the official approval of the full suite of ATSC 3.0 standards at the 2018 CES, Next Gen TV is on its way. The broadcast industry is looking towards beginning the transition from its broadcast-specific transport backbone to an IP-based transmission stream that can carry multiple 4K video programs, mobile and interactive services.
For ATSC 3.0, every station will at least have to upgrade their exciter and STL, and many will need to upgrade their RF systems to handle the higher power. TV transmitter and RF hardware exhibits promise to be very popular destinations at the 2018 NAB Show. A following virtual booth tour explains much of what will be new in the transmitter and RF exhibits, but there will always be a few last-minute surprises.
GatesAir will show new Maxiva transmitter features and intelligent networking applications to secure RF systems in the IP-native ATSC 3.0 ecosystem.
The company claims a market-leading share of more than 10,000,000 watts of RF for confirmed repack projects, and is now taking the lead in helping broadcast engineers prepare for an ATSC 3.0 future. GatesAir will demonstrate its high-efficiency over-the-air content delivery solution for next-generation media delivery networks, including its IP-native Maxiva transmitters and exciters used in all experimental and commercial ATSC 3.0 broadcasts to date in the US and South Korea.
The Maxiva UAXTE joins ULXTE UHF liquid-cooled and VAXTE VHF air-cooled transmitters — all outfitted with GatesAir’s Maxiva XTE software-defined exciter — to form the industry’s youngest and broadest range of high-efficiency, solid-state TV transmitters. Equipped with PowerSmart Plus technology for market-leading power density and energy efficiency, the Maxiva transmitter range covers all power levels and spectrum needs for new channel assignments — including the underserved low-band VHF market.
GatesAir has already installed transmitters in nearly 50 repack sites, and the company has announced repack deals with Cordillera, Heartland, Hearst and Raycom among other leading broadcasters. GatesAir’s unique power-parity attributes also protects repack investments, ensuring that broadcasters can transmit at the same power levels in ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0.
Preparing for an IP-Based RF Future
New innovations for NAB address reliability and security concerns that come with a transition to native IP content delivery, a core element of the ATSC 3.0 standard. GatesAir will unveil a new HTML5-based graphical user interface for Maxiva transmitters, with rock-solid security from outside intrusions. The company will also demonstrate how its new Intraplex IPConnect solution can establish reliable and secure network connections to the control elements of TV transmitters and exciters, allowing broadcasters to allow transport of Web, SNMP and other remote-control traffic.
The fully redundant solution replaces generic network appliances at the studio and transmitter site with robust, reliable Intraplex IPConnect devices that ensure high service availability and SNMP compatibility.
QoS, QoE Monitoring
In addition to enhanced security, GatesAir will additionally highlight how broadcasters can prepare for the control and monitoring challenges that come with a transition to ATSC 3.0. GatesAir will demonstrate its StreamAssure QoS and QoE solution, helping engineers oversee and troubleshoot overall transmitter and network performance in ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 environments; and broader IP-based facilities management through an ongoing partnership with Burk Technology featuring a single-cable connectivity solution to simplify transmitter installation. The company will demonstrate all control, monitoring and security platforms alongside its full Maxiva product range.
Hitachi Comark will showcase its “Future-Proof” product line’s capabilities in their 2018 NAB Show exhibit. The PARALLAX solid-state, liquid cooled DTV transmitter, is Hitachi-Comark’s flagship product. PARALLAX is available for VHF/UHF; offering the highest power density on the market. Each TX is designed for stations using "N" number of 2kW power amplifiers combined based on the total desired RF output power; PA's accommodate high peak-to-average power in both ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0.
At the 2018 NAB Show, the company will debut its VHF Band 1 (54-88MHz) PARALLAX frequency range version. This new model is available to support RF power levels from 4.0 up to 41kW. The new Band 1 version shares the common architecture (cabinet, distributed control system, user interface, etc.) with the UHF and VHF Band 3 models. It provides the highest reliability and efficiency, while keeping the cost of ownership low. PARRALAX is manufactured, serviced, and supported out of the company’s Massachusetts facility.
PARALLAX is the only transmitter with the latest Asymmetric Broadband Doherty Technology, with a SNR >40dB (standard >27dB, shoulders >55 to 57dB (standard 47dB), and harmonic performance exceeding FCC specs.
Hitachi-Comark’s E-Compact series of transmitters have been optimized for the US repack market in ATSC 1.0, and are also upgradeable to be 3.0 compatible. The series now incorporates the latest air cooled broadband asymmetric Doherty amplifiers, which features the 888E LDMOS devices, utilizes the 950W high efficiency PA blocks, and is available in TPO for more than 10kW.
The EXACT-V2 DTV exciter is fully optimized for ATSC1.0 and 3.0, has the highest RF performance, and includes 7 GigE ports. The “DualCast” technology featured with the EXACT exciter allows simple migration from ATSC 1.0 to 3.0 with a simple license upgrade.
Not to be limited to only hardware solutions, the Comark Digital Solutions (CDS) powered by Titan Live ATSC software based encoding solutions are also future proof; supporting any resolution (standard definition to 4K), any codec (MPEG2, H264, HEVC), HDR, for ATSC1.0, ATSC3.0, and OTT output. CDS is a perfect replacement for aging ATSC1.0 encoder systems, including channel share requirements, while supporting future 3.0 requirements.
Hitachi Comark and Ateme have announced a partnership agreement for ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 encoding solutions. The agreement appoints COMARK as an authorized reseller and service provider of the Ateme hardware and software products. COMARK will be focusing on the North American broadcast DTV market for ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 solutions. COMARK will also be providing integration and system design services for stations to ensure a smooth installation process.
“After careful evaluation of the encoding market and extensive product testing in our encoding systems lab at the Southwick, MA facility, we decided to work with Ateme.” “The ATEME Titan encoding solution offers best-of-breed encoding, flexibility of implementation, and a future-proof upgrade path for Next Gen Broadcast Television deployments,” said Dick Fiore, President and CEO of Hitachi Kokusai Electric Comark, LLC.
Walid Hamri, VP Business Development at ATEME, said: “We’re thrilled to extend our partnership with Comark to our TITAN software encoding. It’s enabling Comark to provide an end to end flexible solution for the DTV market, ready for Next Gen TV Broadcast”
Rohde & Schwarz will debut its new R&S TLU9 GapFiller, a rebroadcasting product that makes it possible to extend the coverage of main transmitters (high-power and medium-power stations) in specific topologies that cause shadowing effects, such as steep hills and valleys without the need for an additional fully equipped transmitter site.
Many current gap fillers are complex to configure. They only work well for specific reception scenarios and cannot handle changing echo characteristics. The R&S TLU9 GapFiller addresses all these limitations. It offers gap filler operators the optimum combination of top signal quality, best reliability and minimal operational costs. Furthermore, it is the first gap filler to feature R&S smartEC, a built-in intelligent echo cancellation mechanism for self-configuration and automatic adaptation to changing echo characteristics.
R&S smartEC takes the R&S TLU9 GapFiller to the level of performance and reputation of a low-power transmitter. It handles complex echo scenarios, significantly minimizes MER degradation, provides self-configuration capabilities and self-adapts to changing echo characteristics. Finally, it saves costs since an engineer does not have to regularly, manually reconfigure the echo cancellation parameters in the field.
Gigativy is the latest innovation from Thomson Broadcast. Gigativy can reach up to 18kW through 12 power amplifiers in a single cabinet, or higher power in multiple cabinets. Designed specifically for the repack ATSC 1.0 and 3.0, Gigativy provides a continuous and homogenous stream in UHF band (470 to 600MHz), guaranteeing a smooth transition.
Gigativy boasts the latest Doherty technology integrated into its liquid cooled range, furthering Thomson’s commitment to GreenPower transmission solutions. Gigativy is designed to maximize savings up to 15% on energy, and reduce equally vibration noise, improve motor-fan life, all while ensuring lower operating costs.
Gigativy allows for easy access to all modules, hot plugs amplifiers and a unique all in one sliding cabinet system. Gigativy joins the ATSC 1.0 - 3.0 product line of transmitters, specifically designed for the spectrum repack, including Megativy and Dreamline products.
Dielectric will display a broad array of spectrum repack antennas engineered to deliver the enhanced performance required by ATSC 3.0. High power repack antennas are ready to deliver advanced, over-the-air, ATSC 3.0 broadcast services without re-tuning on transition from ATSC 1.0.
“Since ATSC 3.0 uses OFDM modulation rather than ATSC 1.0’s 8-VSB, the PAPR is 2-to-3db higher. Not only do our ATSC 3.0-compatible repack antennas and filters meet these higher peak power demands, but our band-tunable filters are also being tuned to ATSC 3.0 before they ship from our facility,” said Jay Martin, vice president of sales, Dielectric.
Dielectric is also preparing broadcasters for ATSC 3.0 with its FutureFill feature, which is included as standard in every center-fed, high-power repack antenna it manufactures. FutureFill increases power density by 7- to 9-dB close to the tower, and reduces the main lobe gain by 1.2-to 1.4-dB. The broadcaster can, if additional transmitter power is available, increase the TPO to overcome the main lobe gain reduction, or use Single Frequency Network (SFN) technology to enhance reception at the periphery of the service area.
Ready for Repack
Dielectric has issued initial technical proposals to 917 of the 987 repack-affected stations, with many of those stations receiving auxiliary as well as main antenna proposals.
Dielectric’s products on display at the 2018 NAB Show include the company’s most recent repack innovations, including the TFU-WB, a low-cost, side-mount, UHF full band pylon antenna designed for higher voltage handling capabilities that also offers 75% less windload and lower overall weight. The company will also show a new lightweight aluminum, top-mount version of its TFU-GTH Series UHF slot antenna. It offers an “electrically center-fed” design that provides superior frequency response across a single or dual-channels with a VSWR rating of 1.08: 1 across the channel for exceptional RF performance. It is also available as end-fed.
Dielectric’s latest tunable RF filters and custom-tailored transmission line and components will also be on display.
The company expects to manufacture and ship more than 1,300 UHF antennas and 80 miles of rigid transmission line over the course of the repack period. The company also hired 55 new employees, and it renegotiated with its key suppliers to ensure that there will be ample supplies of steel and aluminum poles, Invar, Teflon and the 80,000 flanges needed to ensure smooth, high-volume production.
Norwood, NJ-based MYAT will introduce its new DT Star UHF Gysel power combiner. It is a simple, compact, integrated system that offers substantial advantages over hybrid power combiners by eliminating expensive phased lines and complex switching schemes needed to maintain output during faults. The result is substantially better fault tolerance than hybrid systems, so users maintain greater signal strength and can often perform on air maintenance if a transmission component fails.
The DT Star combiner is available in 3 to 5-way UHF models that afford the same advantages the company's popular E Star series offers VHF transmitter users: a compact footprint, greater fault tolerance, easy installation, lower insertion loss, no moving parts to fail or maintain, no adjustments needed and much more.
The 2018 NAB Show promises to be one of the most important. If you can't attend, stay tuned to The Broadcast Bridge for complete coverage. Otherwise, maybe we'll see you there.
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