TV RF At 2023 NAB Show - New Technology For NextGen TV Transmission

Ned Soseman presents his highlights of the transmission technology that will be at the 2023 NAB Show.

In 1973, a 27” CRT walnut console was a giant screen, and TV news ENG photographers carried about 75 lbs of gear, batteries and accessories on their backs, shoulders, and hips to gather TV news. The sensation of the 1973 NAB Show was the digital time base corrector (TBC), which brought on-air playback of U-Matic ENG VCRs into compliance with FCC legal standards. TBCs killed news film, the ubiquitous CP-16 news film camera, local 16mm film developing labs nationwide, and made news photogs carry more gear.

Fifty years later in 2023, the “big iron” on NAB Show 23 floor is broadcast transmitters, towers, transmission line, and antennas. Nearly everything else of interest to most NAB visitors is micro-weight digital imaging, displays or software. However, private control of high-power transmitters and tall towers is what makes broadcaster TV stations unique.

Who would have thought that the United States Senate would allow the FCC’s spectrum auction authority to expire one month before NAB Show 23? That’s huge news for broadcasters and 5G network operators, and the end of three decades of FCC spectrum auctions. The auctions raised more than $233 billion which helped pay for many broadcasters’ multi-million-dollar channel change infrastructure changes during the TV spectrum repack. Between 2018 and 2020 the FCC repacked more than 1000 US TV stations to new channels, and most of them were reimbursed by the FCC for millions of US dollars to cover the costs of changing channels. Many of the hundreds of US TV stations that weren’t required to participate in repack continue transmitting on their original DTV UHF channels with 20-year-old DTV transmitters.

The Comark E-Compact EC700HP-BB3 series high-efficiency, air-cooled, solid-state, UHF DTV transmitters will be on display.  The “BB3” series supports US post-repack channels 14-36.

The Comark E-Compact EC700HP-BB3 series high-efficiency, air-cooled, solid-state, UHF DTV transmitters will be on display. The “BB3” series supports US post-repack channels 14-36.

Hitachi Comark (C6177). One of the most critical issues among broadcasters in the TV transmitter market today is the number of older DTV transmitters that were not replaced during repack. According to Joe Turbolski with Comark, “Many of the original UHF systems installed during the transition from NTSC to DTV were IOT-based and support for these rigs is best effort with a lot of parts and subassemblies no longer available due to component obsolescence. We take steps to stock necessary inventory to help these customers quickly and cost effectively replace / upgrade with new high-efficiency liquid cooled transmitters.” Turbolski said “The Comark exhibit theme is ‘NextGen TV’ and all our products at the show are fully ATSC 3.0 ready-to-go. We have end-to-end solutions for customers looking to migrate from ATSC 1.0 to ATSC 3.0. Our solutions span the full workflow from ATSC 3.0 encoder input all the way through the ATSC 3.0 transmitter system. We also have several unique solutions for ATSC 3.0 SFN deployments.”

He continued, “COMARK will show our ATSC 3.0 ready E-Compact air-cooled and PARALLAX liquid-cooled DTV transmitters. The PARALLAX system on display will show our latest “Nevera” control system. COMARK is also focused on the LPTV market with a unique ATSC 3.0 translator solution that provides edit capabilities for BSID and major/minor channel number where stations need to re-brand the signal.” Investigate the “Nevera” control system in the COMARK exhibit at NAB Show 23.

Dielectric (W3601) will showcase several new solutions including Apollo, a service-based analytics platform for RF system’s performance trends. Dielectric Vice President of Sales, Jay Martin said, “Apollo allows us to create a detailed performance record using the real-time data collected through RFHawkeye. With this information, we work with the customer to evaluate any degradation that has taken place over time and in some cases, recommend preventive maintenance to eliminate catastrophic failures and improve service.”

Dielectric will introduce the first reconfigurable manifold combiners for multi-station RF facilities, adaptable for FM radio and UHF TV.

Dielectric will introduce the first reconfigurable manifold combiners for multi-station RF facilities, adaptable for FM radio and UHF TV.

Martin continued “Products are continually evolving with new introductions coming at NAB 23. A trend in the industry has evolved to conserve cash and avoid investment that is not deemed necessary. Our portfolio addresses this nicely with our monitoring and service offerings.” Broadcasters are concerned about the economy, with no election or Olympics driving incremental revenue in 2023, he said. Martin also told The Broadcast Bridge the biggest RF issue among TV broadcasters is “the lack of qualified staff to service ongoing transmissions as well as system monitoring, maintenance, failures and upgrades.”

The NAB Show 23 Dielectric exhibit theme is “Innovation and services for a changing industry.” Martin explained, “We are providing a platform for centralized monitoring through RFHawkeye and Apollo. With this, Dielectric will keep eyes on your system remotely and addressing the issue of qualified personnel. Our goal is to provide the broadcaster with a roadmap to the future through recommendations on maintenance and upgrades to ultimately prevent catastrophic failures and save the broadcasters money.”

GatesAir (W2833). Last October, Thomson Broadcast acquired GatesAir. The Broadcast Bridge asked Raymond Miklius, GatesAir VP EMEA Sales and Channel Programs what changes and new solutions to anticipate in the GatesAir exhibit at the NAB Show 23. He replied, “We are still focused on delivering the world’s most efficient transmitters, and GatesAir continues to develop new solutions that are more compact, serve a higher density of channels, and serve a broad palette of use cases. For TV, that is again largely focused on our PMTX-1 outdoor weatherproof series and our multi-tenant IMTX-70 Intramast system. Brand new for NAB Show 23 is our latest MultiD DAB transmitter system, which provides a similar compact, multi-transmitter solution but for DAB Radio broadcasters. It can serve four separate DAB channels within the same band or adjacent frequencies from a 1RU chassis, and serve different power levels for each feed.”

The GatesAir Maxiva PMTX-1 is a completely self-contained, outdoor UHF/VHF transmitter system in an environmentally sealed enclosure. Waste heat is efficiently dissipated via the metal housing and heatsink; there is no active cooling and no fans.

The GatesAir Maxiva PMTX-1 is a completely self-contained, outdoor UHF/VHF transmitter system in an environmentally sealed enclosure. Waste heat is efficiently dissipated via the metal housing and heatsink; there is no active cooling and no fans.

“Our theme for NAB Show 23 is ‘Even stronger together,’ as we move forward with our supporting new owners at Thomson Broadcast. The booth will combine the best of both companies, showcasing tech from studio to transmission, and visitors will have access to both teams acting as one. A subtheme running through our booth will be about how GatesAir is now bringing innovative solutions to TV and radio broadcasters for more than a century.”

Miklius continued, “It is important for us, Thomson Broadcast and GatesAir, to communicate with the broadcaster community that our combination will bring additional capabilities and expanded products and offerings. The combination of two strong companies will bring an unprecedented level of capabilities to customers that are responsible for building out complicated broadcast networks. This is the primary reason that Thomson Broadcast and GatesAir will be in the same booth at NAB. We can better demonstrate the breadth of products and services that we can provide.”

DekTec (W1429). Stephane Billat, General Manager at DekTec America told The Broadcast Bridge, “We have actually quite a bit of new RF equipment for NAB.” He continued, “We are also releasing the DTU-331 which is a SDR universal portable USB-3 receiver.” It should ship by NAB. It allows to receive ATSC 3.0, analyze the RF using the ATSC3Xpert and analyze the ATSC 3.0 content using StreamXpert on a single laptop with USB-3. Also, with the DTU-331 you can record the I/Q sample for reproducing real life conditions in the lab.

Billat continued, “We see ATSC 3.0 getting real and more mainstream. It is clear that more customers need equipment to test, develop and deploy solutions around this new RF format. This includes broadcasters but also TV and hardware receiver, software and application developers that are working to create the ATSC3.0 ecosystem. We also see a lot of interest for SMPTE 2110 in the studio but of course SDI is not dead as most of the older installations run on SDI and can’t be updated overnight. We offer a common SDK/software for SDI or SMPTE 2110 making the transition as easy as can be.”

The new DTA-2116 supports ATSC 3.0 and can be synchronized to a 10 MHz and a 1 PPS signal to sync multiple cards and simulate SFN and could soon be important for ATSC 3.0 progress.

The new DTA-2116 supports ATSC 3.0 and can be synchronized to a 10 MHz and a 1 PPS signal to sync multiple cards and simulate SFN and could soon be important for ATSC 3.0 progress.

The DTU-331 USB-3 universal RF probe and the DTA-2110 SMPTE 2110 PCIe card are the most relevant to broadcasters. Both products offers some powerful, yet affordable solutions to the future of the broadcast industry. “Our biggest challenge is to accelerate the development of our new products. Between the shortage of components and longer lead time for everything related to design, it takes a long time to create new products, and customers want to deploy solutions now. We are working hard to release as many products as we can in 2023.”

“Cost effective and well-designed innovative product is our theme!” Billat said.

Rohde & Schwarz (N1949) will be showing 5G Broadcasting, a one-to-many technology where every device receives a live event through a 5G network. Receiving devices are effectively passive and adding more devices does not affect the network. The company will be demonstrating its 5G Broadcast Service & Control Centers, BSCC1.0 and BSCC2.0 in their exhibit. R&S will also be showing its high-efficiency TH1 liquid-cooled transmitter, PRISMON Multiviewer and PRISMON software-based monitoring solutions.

More Than Entertainment

More than a few broadcast groups are experimenting with the ‘Broadcast Internet.’ Any TV station group that covers more than about 80% of the US market is a serious influencer. The ‘Broadcast Internet’ can be broadcast on ATSC 3.0 stations in different markets to allow consumers to stay updated with everything from traffic situations to their latest favorite TV shows with a ‘Broadcast Internet’ connection. It also allows users at home to easily and securely access their internet payment and account activities. As the ATSC 3.0 receiver chip becomes more ubiquitous in vehicles and homes, the ‘broadcast internet’ will become more important.

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