TV Transmitter Trends at the 2017 NAB Show

ATSC 3.0 and the FCC Spectrum Repack motivate substantial investment in new DTV transmitters and antennas at the Las Vegas 2017 NAB Show.

Every April, an NAB Show marks broadcast industry milestones and develops a unique theme as it unfolds. This year, all kinds of miraculous new digital technology behind video production, storage and distribution will excite many NAB Show visitors.

The real proactive solution many actual broadcast TV station engineers are shopping for this year is transmitters and antennas, where a station's product is coupled with thin air for free distribution. It’s reminiscent of last decade’s DTV transition, when a vague new capital expense request few local station personnel really understood turned into a multi-million-dollar station investment with a clear FCC transition mandate and plan.

Repack is different. Most stations involved in repack will be spending FCC Spectrum Repack reimbursement funds instead of the owner’s money. The clearest plans for repack are reimbursement and a 39-month deadline, and both of which are still cloudy. The only thing crystal clear is that the time for tire-kicking and debate was last year.

The Big 4

Four full-power DTV transmitter trends are expected to be the most prominent topics during transmitter presentations and visitor-vendor discussions in 2017 NAB Show DTV transmitter exhibits: Repack, Doherty efficiencies, ATSC 3.0 and SFNs. Coincidently, there also happens to be four major DTV transmitter exhibitors, each located in a different exhibit hall.

DTV broadcasters unaffected by repack, and those that are, must all consider the impact of ATSC 3.0 on their RF plant. Although ATSC 3.0 is coming to a station near you, its rumored blue-sky transition plan is murky as mud. What is known is that in many cases, ATSC 3.0 may bump into the ceiling of RF headroom designed into some original ATSC 1.0 on-air transmitter plants. In either case, RF will be a huge topic among visiting engineers with TV station call letters on their badges.

Virtual walk-through

You’ve just arrived at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) intending to learn the most you can about the newest over-the-air TV transmission technologies. A logical place to start would be the LVCC Grand Lobby near the restaurant. The NextGen TV Hub is there and you won’t even need a visitor badge to see it.

The NextGen TV Hub is the ATSC organization’s official exhibit. Inside it will be displays and live demonstrations of new capabilities for broadcasters and programmers such as over-the-air addressable advertising and audience measurement. The exhibit will explain how ATSC 3.0 will be delivered to today’s devices in tomorrow’s homes, and seamlessly mix over-the-top with over-the-air content in the world’s first Internet Protocol (IP) broadcast system.

Grab your virtual visitor’s badge, and let’s head inside the virtual exhibit halls to visit the full-power DTV transmitter manufacturer exhibits in alphabetical order.

GatesAir Maxiva UAXTE transmitter.

GatesAir Maxiva UAXTE transmitter.

GatesAir

Near the Grand Lobby restaurant is the GatesAir exhibit, located near the closest entrance to North Hall from the restaurant. GatesAir has been busy optimizing its Next-Generation transmitter portfolio for Spectrum Repack to help broadcasters leverage the new business opportunities promised through the Spectrum Repack and the ATSC 3.0 DTV standard.

Featured in the GatesAir exhibit will be new ULXTE and UAXTE DTV transmitters optimized for channel changes driven by Spectrum Repack. They use next-generation power amplifiers that increase peak power capacity for all ATSC and OFDM waveforms. This design strategy is based on GatesAir’s PowerSmart Plus architecture with broadband amplification. It accelerates manufacturing and delivery by simplifying channel tuning, and increases power density for all modulations.

The two transmiters’ high-efficiency power amplifiers and market-leading power density provide equal power levels for ATSC 1.0 and 3.0, and reduce costs, energy consumption and internal parts count to streamline maintenance. The slimmed-down architecture reduces footprint and weight, and low PA voltages make safe, single-engineer TV transmitter maintenance a reality.

Both transmitters integrate GatesAir’s state-of-the-art XTE exciter to ensure a clear path to ATSC 3.0. Featuring a software-defined modulator, the XTE includes native IP inputs and eliminates the need to retrofit transmitters with additional gear to enable network connectivity, giving broadcasters an out-of-the-box solution to simplify the input and output of multimedia services via a local- or wide-area IP network.

The design provides a direct gateway to the enhanced multichannel DTV, mobile broadcast and the streaming opportunities of ATSC 3.0, and centralizes advanced IP-based monitoring and control to a single user interface. Both transmitters are also easily adaptable to single-frequency network (SFN) architectures that are expected to become common in ATSC 3.0 deployments.

The ULXTE is available in power levels from 1.2kW to 150kW on all modulations. The UAXTE is available in power levels from 20W to 20kW on all modulations. Both models offer system power efficiency levels up to 45%. Both transmitters and the XTE exciter are made in the USA at GatesAir’s Quincy, IL manufacturing center.

The Hitachi-Comark PARALLAX DTV transmitter.

The Hitachi-Comark PARALLAX DTV transmitter.

Hitachi-Comark

Across the LVCC Grand Lobby is Hitachi Kokusai Electric Comark at the corner of the main Central Hall steps and central Grand Lobby entrances. Comark says 2017 will be the “Year of RF” at the 2017 NAB show thanks to the FCC concluding stage 4 of the Spectrum Incentive Auction and upcoming repack.

Featured in the Hitachi-Comark exhibit will be PARALLAX, the company’s flagship liquid cooled solid state Doherty DTV transmitter, designed specifically for repack. This year, the company will introduce a VHF Band 3 version of the PARALLAX transmitter featuring up to 50% efficiency.

The VHF Band 3 PARALLAX shares all the mechanical architecture, user interface, and performance with the UHF version of PARALLAX.The PARALLAX family provides the highest reliability and efficiency, for the lowest overall cost of ownership. PA power is rated equally for ATSC 1.0 8VSB and ATSC 3.0 OFDM.

E-Compact air cooled DTV transmitters will also be on display and have been optimized for the US repack market.E-Compact incorporates the latest broadband Doherty amplifiers using the same LDMOS device as PARALLAX.E-Compact utilizes 950W high efficiency PA blocks and is available in TPO of more than 10kW in both ATSC 1.0 or 3.0.

Hitachi-Comark's Exact-V2 DTV

Hitachi-Comark's Exact-V2 DTV "IP Optimized" exciter.

The 2017 NAB Show will mark the debut of the Hitachi-Comark EXACT-V2 DTV exciter. This “IP Optimized” exciter platform is ready for both ATSC 1.0 and 3.0.It has the highest RF performance; even in sharp tuned filters / adjacent channel combiner systems that will likely be seen post-repack scenarios.“DualCast” technology migrates from ATSC 1.0 to 3.0 with a simple license upgrade.

The company will also show its ATSC 3.0 Starter. It is an integrated solution to help broadcasters easily and quickly migrate their DTV station from MPEG-2 ATSC 1.0 workflow to ATSC 3.0. ATSC 3.0 Starter includes HEVC encoding SD, HD, and UHD programs, the Broadcast Gateway, and a simple user interface for system configuration.

The company will also show its QoS-1000 RF testing and monitoring solution with the latest ATSC 3.0 software.

Hitachi-Comark operates out of a 54,000 square foot facility in Western MA. They have been preparing product lines and retooling their facility to meet the demands of equipment manufacturing for the repack market.

Rohde & Schwarz

Over at the South Hall exhibits, Rohde & Schwarz is on the main floor, in the aisle along the wall between the main indoor entrance and the Outdoor Mobile/OB exhibit entrance.

The THU9 is one of Rohde & Schwarz flagship DTV transmitters.

The THU9 is one of Rohde & Schwarz flagship DTV transmitters.

The company recently announced that Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), a privately owned broadcasting company in South Korea, ordered an SFN-based transmitter network from Rohde & Schwarz featuring a 1+1 passive reserve configuration with ATSC 3.0. SBS plans to set up a terrestrial TV network across Seoul and broadcast the upcoming Winter Olympics, which will be hosted in Pyeonchang in 2018, in 4K UHD.

Rohde & Schwarz also announced becoming the turn-key contractor for new DVB-T2 transmitters at 69 sites in the Sultanate of Oman. The contract includes the supply and installation of the complete DVB-T2 signal processing and transmitter infrastructure.

In the exhibit, Rohde & Schwarz will showcase its latest Repack and ATSC 3.0 equipment. R&S flagship transmitter families include the liquid-cooled THU9 and THV9, and the air-cooled TMU9 and TVM9. The H indicates high-power and the M indicates medium power. All use Doherty technology. A major focus during product development is crest factor reduction. The crest factor is the relationship between average and peak power, represented by a ratio called the “crest factor” (CF). It also known as peak-to-average power ratio (PAPR).

Algorithmic signal analysis has the potential of reducing the CF by about 2%. An algorithm created by Rohde & Schwarz analyzes the signal and reduces the peak values without affecting signal quality. The company is also working on several other transmitter efficiency improvement approaches that could be exhibited in the Rohde & Schwarz booth. Further information is unavailable at press time.

Thomson

Thomson is part of the French Pavilion, about halfway between the main Upper Hall entrance and the escalators. “Thomson Broadcast is welcoming you on its booth 4618, South Upper Hall, for a new ATSC 3.0 viewer experience. Visit us to share our experience of complete transmission systems deployments.”

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