New antennas again?
The No. 1 looming issue is TV spectrum repacking. It is also the most difficult to predict the outcome because the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking contains far more questions than answers. The FCC’s NPRM press release helps point out some highlights. Actual FCC documents are available here.
Broadcast Engineering also recently published an article on TV spectrum repacking in its December 2012 print issue titled "Television Spectrum Repacking," which was part of its in-depth focus on transmission systems. Congress has determined the repack process should take three years, meaning physical repacking could begin by late 2016. In the meantime, myriad variables demand resolution that will determine the course and future of TV spectrum repacking. Its most obvious promise is to be messy.
Another item high on the list is High Efficiency Video Encoding (HEVC). HEVC is said to be the successor to MPEG-4/AVC or H.264. HEVC is a brand new framework using coding units (CUs), prediction units (PUs) and transform units (TUs). The CU replaces the familiar macroblock structure. Then there’s Palo Alto-based EyeIO, which recently announced a next generation of H.264 that encodes 45-percent faster and reduces bit rates by an additional 26 percent, and integrates studio-level profiles that improve some aspects of video data by more than 50 percent. Called HDRes, it is built to 4K requirements. Both new encoding schemes are certain to be the topics of upcoming "Transition to Digital" newsletters, and are beyond the scope of this particular tutorial. ATSC 2.0 is also on our tutorial radar.
The Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) continues under attack from industries competing for what was once our turf, and it’s sure to play out further this year. Fortunately for broadcasters, there are some viable alternatives to traditional ENG microwave backhaul, such as Wi-Fi and Cellular ENG.
Other than atypical cell congestion problems at a couple of major national media news frenzies, Cellular ENG seems to be as reliable as line-of-sight RF, except you don’t need line-of-sight to a station's microwave receive antenna. Cellular ENG is as reliable and simple as a smart phone. Will Cellular ENG backhaul replace ENG vans and SNG trucks? Will i-Phone size cameras replace over the shoulder ENG cameras? Only the market can answer those questions, but there is no doubt Cellular ENG will continue to penetrate the market as its advantages are discovered and enjoyed by users and viewers.