RF Technology: 2023 Recap and 2024 Projections

As we begin a brand new 12 months, I assumed it will be fascinating to look again at 2023 and supply some feedback on what I anticipate lies forward for 2024 and past.  A Quiet 2023After the exercise surrounding the FCC incentive public sale channel repack and the post-repack antenna and transmitter upgrades, the previous 12 months was quiet when it got here to spectrum points. The RF spectrum scene, nonetheless, is altering.  When the FCC lifted its freeze on channel adjustments, many TV stations, (31 ultimately depend), filed channel change petitions to maneuver from VHF channels to UHF TV channels. While VHF channels can work nicely to cowl massive areas if viewers are utilizing out of doors antennas, reception of VHF with indoor antennas has been problematic for causes I’ve mentioned earlier than. As of Nov. 24, 2023, 481 stations had been nonetheless transmitting on VHF channels, 51 of them on low-VHF Channels 2–6. After dashing to get crimson and blue C-band interference filters put in on satellite tv for pc dishes, wi-fi operators began utilizing the three.7 GHz to three.98 GHz band that was dedicated to C-band satellite tv for pc down-links. From what I’ve seen, there have solely been a couple of issues with interference­—which can be as a result of program distribution transferring from satellite tv for pc to terrestrial distribution by way of fiber and even the web. As the 12 months ended, broadcasters confronted a Nov. 29 deadline to certify that their microwave hyperlinks within the 12.7 GHz band had been working as licensed; file an utility to switch the license to appropriate any errors or omissions; or cancel the license. The FCC is trying to allocate this spectrum for wi-fi broadband use, but it surely isn’t clear precisely how this shall be used. One risk is mounted wi-fi web.Transition to NextGen TVThe sluggish rollout of ATSC 3.0 continued in 2023. Available spectrum to permit simultaneous transmission of main programming in each 3.0 and 1.0 continues to be an issue, though stations proceed to discover ways to commerce capability to make it work. One potential answer is to maneuver from MPEG-2 to AVC (MPEG-4) encoding, however incompatibility with older TV units has pissed off that effort (viewers hear the audio however get a black display from MPEG-4 on older TVs). More stations switched on content material safety in 2023. While this prompted few issues for large-screen ATSC 3.0 TV units, viewers with early set-top bins like SiliconDust’s HDHomerun misplaced reception of protected channels. I’m usually requested, “When will broadcasters full the transition to ATSC 3.0?” My normal reply is I don’t see it taking place for at the very least 5-7 years.Fortunately, because the 12 months ended, set-top bins that assist content material safety grew to become out there—the ZapperBox and the ADTH field, for instance. Except for ATSC 1.0, nearly all video supply right now is content material protected, whether or not streamed or over fiber or cable TV. The problem for the ATSC 3.0 roll out shall be making that content material safety as simple for viewers and machine producers as it’s for cable and streaming providers.  Unfortunately, LG, a serious provider of ATSC 3.0 TV units, has stopped promoting units with ATSC 3.0 tuners after shedding a patent battle with Constellation Designs over non-uniform constellations. Fig. 1 exhibits a non-uniform 64-QAM constellation generated by my software-defined ATSC 3.0 transmitter. Non-uniform constellations are extra environment friendly than the uniform (rectangular) constellations utilized in different digital TV COFDM programs. Fig. 1: 64QAM non-uniform constellation (Image credit score: ATSC)Constellation’s patent would seem to use to gear that generates ATSC 3.0 RF alerts in addition to receivers. Readers could do not forget that related patent battles erupted throughout the rollout of the unique ATSC (1.0) DTV and affected each receiver and transmitter producers. In the top it had little or no affect on the rollout of DTV within the United States. I don’t anticipate it to be a serious concern for ATSC 3.0. For extra data on non-uniform constellations, see the grievance filed by Constellation Designs LLC at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1I5-nhg3MMcR8peqIEei8XVM5kNpwVHOc/view Non-TV makes use of of ATSC 3.0 obtained extra consideration. The Broadcast Position Standard (BPS) that would offer a backup for GPS, which many providers depend upon for correct timing was examined, in addition to radio over ATSC 3.0. I coated each matters intimately in my 2023 NAB Show protection in TV Tech. I’m usually requested, “When will broadcasters full the transition to ATSC 3.0?” My normal reply is I don’t see it taking place for at the very least 5-7 years. The key issue would be the widespread availability of ATSC 3.0 tuners in TV units, set-top bins or different gadgets.It’s often adopted up by “What can broadcasters do to hurry the adoption of ATSC 3.0?” Almost all 3.0 programming is a reproduction of what stations are airing in ATSC 1.0. Better encoding and the addition of HDR present a greater image, however is that sufficient? Broadcast purposes and “digital channels” delivered over the web are engaging, however assist varies amongst gadgets.  While the main target has been on the advantages that ATSC 3.0 supplies customers, don’t ignore the profit it supplies broadcasters. More bandwidth (about 20% extra for related protection) and encoding that’s 4x extra environment friendly is equal to getting further ATSC 1.0 channels! It will get higher—a broadcaster can use LDM so as to add a really strong sign for cell TV, knowledge or different purposes like radio with little affect on the principle channel protection. Perhaps somewhat than counting on shopper pull, we want a stronger broadcaster push. This push may very well be funding an ATSC 3.0 set-top field program, both by constructing and distributing converters or offering low cost coupons. Financial incentives for machine producers (not solely TV units however streaming gadgets and set-top bins) to incorporate ATSC 3.0 functionality, simply as streaming providers do now, may drive adoption. Since sensible TVs know what the buyer is watching, providing producers a bonus when the set tunes to an ATSC 3.0 service would assist guarantee over-the-TV wasn’t buried deep within the menus. We’ve seen stations transfer away from utilizing two-way radio programs and microwave ENG programs in favor of cell telephones and bonded mobile. Will the identical transition occur to broadcasting? We can’t ignore the chance that TV “broadcasting” will ultimately transfer to the web and 5G wi-fi. I don’t see this taking place within the subsequent 5 years, but when the ATSC 3.0 transition fails and as transmitters purchased throughout the repack want substitute, the concept of counting on web supply, maybe supplemented with 5G broadcast, may look engaging, particularly if it permits broadcasters to keep away from the regulatory burdens related to an FCC license. More probably, we’ll see a number of broadcast platforms, with over-the-air persevering with to exist in some kind. Viewers are discovering free over-the-air TV to keep away from the price of cable TV and streaming subscriptions. Antenna gross sales are sturdy. For broadcasters to take full benefit of this pattern, we have to push the transition to ATSC 3.0 know-how to have the ability to each complement and compete with different platforms like web streaming (wired and wi-fi) and 5G broadcast for each viewers and content material.IEEE BTS ReturnsFinally, I used to be comfortable to see that IEEE Broadcast Technology Symposium was again in 2023. The final Symposium was in 2019 and I puzzled if it will return after the 2022 Symposium was canceled. Thanks to the efforts of Jim Stenberg, Paul Shulins and the presenters and volunteers supporting it, the symposium was a hit, with roughly 90 folks attending the two-day session at NAB headquarters in Washington, D.C. Visit https://bts.ieee.org/ for extra data on the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society. I’ll be masking the 2023 Symposium’s papers in a future column. As all the time, your questions and feedback are welcome. Email me at [email protected].


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