At Datacasters Show, Some DTV News


Las Vegas-At the National Association of Broadcasters convention here last week, some attendees seemed more interested in delivering data over digital spectrum than in digital TV.

Attendees scrambled around various venues looking at datacasting and Internet-streaming solutions and technology to deliver some of the interactive capabilities of the Internet and cable TV to a broadcast environment.

For many, the running joke was that they had joined a new industry group-the National Association of Datacasters.

In fact, last week's gathering resembled two trade shows-the traditional broadcast- and production-equipment show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and an Internet/PC-industry show at the Sands Expo Center. Based on informal surveys of foot traffic, it seemed like more people went to the latter.

But in and around the convention center, ongoing arguments over the U.S. standard for digital TV continued to generate some heat and some light.

Members of the Digital Video Broadcasting camp continued to push for the coded orthogonal frequency-division multiplex (COFDM) modulation scheme, versus the 8-VSB (vestigial sideband) option.

"If [VSB supporters] have something that works, show it to us now, because I'm going to show you something that works." So said Sinclair Broadcast Group vice president Nat Ostroff, a leader of the anti-VSB camp, during a DVB Group briefing to announce a 6-megahertz version of the its "DVB-T" standard for digital terrestrial TV.

He demonstrated a prototype handheld video tablet built by Nokia Corp.-essentially a battery-operated video screen designed to receive DVB-based services aimed at portable devices.

Ostroff asserted that COFDM signals could be broadcast in the same markets as VSB without creating any interference, although he conceded that there was no filed test data to confirm that view. "Let broadcasters have the option" of which modulation system to use, he said. "Let it be a business decision."

The response from VSB backers came partially in two new studies, by CBS Corp. and Canada's Communications Research Center, indicating that new 8-VSB demodulation chips have at least partially addressed concerns about multipath effects on digital-TV-signal reception.

"Ongoing testing of the next generation of DTV chips, not included in this report, shows that many of the unsuccessful indoor sites were able to successfully decode DTV signals reliably," the CBS report noted. It cited new chip designs from NxtWave Communications Inc. and Motorola Inc.

"We're very excited about their test results," Zenith Electronics Corp. senior vice president Richard Lewis said at a briefing to discuss improvements in 8-VSB, which Zenith helped to develop as part of the so-called Grand Alliance of digital-TV-system developers.

"We know [the U.S. standard] works," Capitol Broadcasting Co. Inc. vice president John Green added. "Field tests in Raleigh [N.C.] proved that to us early on."