Defense Dept Taps SBE to Coordinate Frequencies Common to Broadcasters

Over the past several years, the Society of Broadcast Engineers has worked with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which has been provided co-primary status with broadcasters in the 2025-2110 MHz Broadcast Auxiliary Spectrum (BAS) band as a result of the Advanced Wireless Services-3 (AWS-3) transition.

The DoD plans to deploy a number of training systems that utilize this spectrum it now shares with broadcasters. The SBE, DoD and the National Association of Broadcasters have discussed how broadcasters use this spectrum and its importance for electronic news gathering. It became clear to DoD officials that to operate their defense systems without causing or receiving interference, a substantial, national frequency coordination effort would need to be initiated, providing in some cases, near-real-time coordination. The DoD turned to the SBE for assistance.

The SBE has for many years facilitated a network of volunteer frequency coordinators, most through local SBE chapters, across the United States and its territories.

The systems the DoD intends to deploy potentially may be located at installations of all the military branches, including the Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves. These installations are ubiquitous and located in both urban and rural areas. The DoD, with encouragement from the NAB, asked the SBE to employ a national frequency coordinator, paid for with DoD funds, who would work with our established volunteer coordinators, and cover the areas that don’t have their own local coordinator.

Through the DoD’s primary contractor in this area, Alion Science and Technology, the SBE has entered an agreement to provide national frequency coordination services that will mutually serve the needs of the DoD and broadcasters. The SBE Board of Directors approved the agreement in April of this year and work began in June.

To handle the added responsibilities, the SBE retained the broadcast consulting firm of Technical Broadcast Solutions, Inc., (TBSI) of Middletown, DE. Its principal is RJ Russell, CPBE, a 20-year member of the SBE and, until recently, SBE national vice president and chair of our Frequency Coordination Committee. TBSI is heavily involved in TV repack and ATSC 3.0 implementation work for clients and is taking on the SBE as a major client to serve as our national SBE Frequency Coordination Manager (FCM). Russell and SBE General Counsel Chris Imlay have worked on the SBE’s behalf with DoD officials and the NAB to develop a workable solution for this shared spectrum.

On taking on this important project, SBE President Jim Leifer, CPBE, said, “Part of the SBE’s mission is to create working alliances within the broadcast industry and with those who work in our space. Entering into this agreement serves to protect broadcaster’s use of spectrum and provides a needed service to our government. I am pleased that we are able to partner with the DoD’s prime contractor in this effort.”

Launching NextGen Broadcast: An SBE Tutorial at PBS TechCon 2019

ATSC 3.0 and the rapid launch of NextGen Broadcast are the drivers behind the first-ever SBE/PBS TechCon collaborative tutorial day, which takes place Saturday, April 6, 2019 at PBS TechCon, held at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel. Open to anyone eager to learn what ATSC 3.0 means for the future of broadcast, the tutorial takes place the day after TechCon, is affordable ($95 for SBE and PBS members), and open to all. Online registration is now open for this session at bit.ly/SBEatPBS.

PBS TechCon 2019Periodically, broadcast goes through an extensive revamp. The launch of TV, FM, DTV – and now NextGen Broadcast – are pervasive and swift. For decades, the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) has held programs and tutorials to help broadcast professionals build the necessary new skill sets required in our industry. This year, several dozen NextGen stations take to the air. The pace is likely to pick up. Broadcast engineers need to understand the potential of ATSC 3.0 and see what’s under the hood: the architecture, equipment, configurations, and options that go into NextGen. What follows are highlights of the daylong agenda.

– The regulations that dictate the requirements of the transition and technical compliance. These include MVPD notifications, carriage and 1.0 host requirements and agreements. Meeting these obligations and preserving station cashflow require that broadcast engineers have a good handle on how far ATSC 1.0 content compression can be pushed and at what cost. It’s valuable to have a firm grasp of video quality measurements. Partnering is a big part of Pearl’s and many others’ transition plans creating channel shares. It’s a broadcast engineer’s role to competently fill in the technical specifications in each of these legal arrangements.

– Converting a transmitter to 3.0 service and performing the proof-of-performance and acceptance testing will be covered by the engineers that build the transmitters. Further, some studio-to-transmitter links (STL) can be reutilized or upgraded; others cannot. While most stations will start with converting a “big-stick,” many will be looking at extending their coverage and increasing their penetration with the additional boosters that OFDM enables in a way that no other modulation previously used in broadcasting has. We will give you a good foundation for designing (or selecting vendors and partners that can help), planning and building your NextGen distribution system, including single-frequency networks.

– The centerpiece of NextGen is the scheduler. This cannot be understated. You will understand why this is, and we’ll cover the most practical configuration options. Key vendors will address how to use their solutions and explain the tradeoffs and system limitations for each as well as existing workarounds. We will also look at the field measurements of the past and future and how they impact an ultra-flexible system where so many variables are in play.

– Performance. We will cover monitoring the performance of the NextGen system and look at what test equipment, TVs, dongles and first-day hacks are available. These are all critically important to a successful launch. The options are early in their development cycle, and broadcast engineers will be doing a lot of hand-holding and integrations (read that “MacGyvering”).

– Finally, we’ll address some of the issues of adoption, timing, budgeting, project planning and (looking further out), the enhanced content and services that NextGen Broadcasting is designed to enable. Everybody in your world will want to know what NextGen is all about. Some will have overindulged in the hype. Most will have more misunderstandings than real knowledge (we don’t throw out TVs this time). For others, there will be fear, uncertainty and dread. We’ll conclude with what is real and what is not, matching adoption curves with equipment life cycles. We will separate what happens today and what happens further down the road. In particular, we’ll look at what changes in broadcast station architecture and workflows, including digital ad insertion and ad tech, will help move the revenue needle.

We’ll do the best we can to give you what you need. But when the hype becomes real, it is always a big deal. This year, you might want to get support to come to Vegas a couple of days before NAB opens, and join us Saturday, April 6, at the PBS Technology Conference. Register now: bit.ly/SBEatPBS.

Also at TechCon, Another ATSC 3.0 Option
The IEEE Broadcast Technology Society will be hosting the ATSC 3.0 Roadshow at PBS TechCon 2019. BTS will be hosting the ATSC 3.0 training seminar taught by expert Gary Sgrignoli of Meintel, Sgrignoli, and Wallace, the noted digital TV transmission consulting firm. This course will cover the ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer and prepare participants to take the SBE ATSC 3.0 certification exam. Registration and seminar information can be found on bts.ieee.org.

Register Your C-Band Receive-Only Earth Station Now

The Battle for the C-Band Heats Up

On April 19, 2018, the FCC issued a public notice of a temporary freeze on applications for new or modified fixed satellite service earth stations and fixed microwave stations operating in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band. This is the C-Band downlink. The notice also established, as a limited exception to the freeze, a 90-day window allowing existing entities that now own Fixed Satellite Service earth stations to register or license them if not currently licensed or registered. During this 90-day window, earth station users of this band can also modify currently licensed or registered earth stations.

The FCC explains plainly that the purpose of the freeze is to preserve the status quo in the C-Band pending FCC action in its open inquiry into “the possibility of permitting mobile broadband use and more intensive fixed use of the band” pursuant to Docket 18-122. This is known informally as the “mid-band proceeding” and it is a freight train. Congress, in the Mobile Now Act (Part of the 2018 Appropriations Act), called on the FCC to study the feasibility of federal and non-federal sharing of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band and to submit a report to the Secretary of Commerce and Congress within 18 months. In other legislation, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services (Ray Baum’s Act), the NTIA and the FCC are required to submit reports evaluating the feasibility of allowing commercial wireless services to share use of specified frequencies between 3.1 and 4.2 GHz. If such sharing is feasible, the reports must identify which of the frequencies are most suitable: (1) for sharing with commercial wireless services through the assignment of new licenses by competitive bidding, (2) for sharing with unlicensed operations, or (3) for sharing through a combination of licensing and unlicensed operations. So there is a direct threat to the C-Band.

As noted in the public notice, there is a 90 day filing window for Receive-Only Earth Stations that have not been registered or licensed and current registrations and licenses can be modified. It is critical that you immediately see to the licensing or registration of your C-Band receive-only earth station within this window or risk losing the programming feeds. The window opened April 19 and it closes July 18, 2018. Don’t miss this opportunity.

Read the public notice
Info on registering Earth station sites

EAS violations are happening more than you think. Here are some tips –

As an ABIP inspector, I continually find violations at stations regarding EAS.  What’s puzzling about this is that the rules are straight forward, and the EAS devices do most of the work for you! 

One of the first issues I usually find is with logging.  The device keeps an electronic log, which is all well and good.  But I recommend that station personnel print this log once per week for two reasons.  First, you can sign the paper copy, meaning that you looked at it and paid attention to it.  Second, I, at least, find it easier to print the log and then compare it to a calendar to see if anything is missing for a given week.  If you find, for example, that you did not receive a RWT in a given week from your second monitoring source, you need to find out why (maybe the station made a mistake and did not send a test that week), and you need to log the reason for the missing test.  Printing and signing the log forces you to put it in a folder.  Therefore, appending the log when you find something wrong becomes a simple matter. 

The next thing I find are stations monitoring the wrong monitoring assignments.  Note the word ASSIGNMENTS.  The stations you monitor are assigned, usually by a committee associated with your State Broadcasters Association.  EAS is a daisy chain, with some stations higher in the pecking order and others below them.  If you are monitoring the wrong stations, you may not properly receive crucial data and break the chain.  Check with the Broadcasters Association to find out who you should talk to, and make sure you are monitoring the correct stations.  If you cannot receive one of your assignments, you need to inform the Committee.  They will suggest other stations for you to monitor so the chain isn’t broken.  And if a monitoring assignment needs to be changed, the Committee will send you a note to this effect and inform the FCC of the monitoring change.  If the FCC were to inspect your station, they will look to see what stations you are monitoring.  If they are incorrect, this is a violation and your station may be subject to a fine.

Next, you need to be polling the FEMA CAP server.  I have run into one station where their corporate IT department will not unblock the FEMA CAP server, so they cannot receive it.  This is a violation of the rules.  If their IT people don’t seem to understand the regulation that monitoring the CAP server is a requirement, alternative measures, such as installing a separate DSL service, must be implemented. 

And, of course, you must send a Weekly Test every week – with the following exceptions.  You do not need to send a RWT in a week when a RMT (Required Monthly Test) is run, or if you activated EAS for any reason.   And the RMT must be forwarded within 60 minutes of receiving the test.

Any questions you have can be answered in 73 CFR Part 11 of the FCC rules.  It is available on several online sources and is worth the time to read it.

Tom Ray, CPBE, DRB, AMD 

Tom’s views do not reflect those of the SBE, or its Board of Directors.

Pecena presenting day-long session on IP Networking for Broadcasters August 30 in Los Angeles

Wayne Pecena, a member of the SBE Technical Presenters Group, is presenting IP networking to broadcasters on August 30.  Thank you to SBE Chapter 47 and NBC Universal for working together to bring this program to their area. The cost for members of the SBE is $49. 

This full-day intensive class will focus on TCP/IP based networking fundamentals in an Ethernet environment. Topics covered will include understanding RFC’s, TCP and UDP fundamentals, IP addressing, IPv4 subnetting, an introduction to IPv6, switching fundamentals, VLAN use, routing fundamentals, quality of services (QoS) Basics, and networking security concerns.

Emphasis will be placed upon understanding and applying IP subnetting techniques, understanding when to switch, and understanding when to route in an IP network. Where appropriate, the application focus and practical use cases will be oriented towards a broadcast technical plant. Theoretical principals will be reinforced through practical exercises, network use cases, and a design practical to close out the day.

Class size is limited, so reserve your spot today!

TV broadcasters – looking for an online reference you can access anytime? SBE members save $20

One of the courses on SBE UniversityTelevision Video and Audio – a Ready Reference for Engineers, is being offered at a discounted rate for SBE members only through June 30. The course, which can serve as an online reference guide, gives the television engineer a solid grounding in the various aspects of video and audio for television, and to serve as a ready reference to the pertinent standards. This course provides an overview of video and audio for television, from the dawn of analog television broadcasting to today’s digital television transmission.

NTSC_Figure 2This course is for anyone who needs a good grounding in television video and audio, from the relative newcomer to the field who needs to learn all about how television video and audio work, to the seasoned engineer who needs to know something about digital. It also serves as a ready reference for the working engineer.

Topics include NTSC video and transmission, component video, analog resolution and aspect ratio, digital video, digital scanning formats, other SD and HD video characteristics, baseband signal interfaces, video compression for DTV, video storage, analog audio, digital audio, digital audio compression for television and audio storage.

The special rate for SBE Members is $79 (normally $99). The cost for non-members is $149. Act now to save money, and don’t forget, you will always have access to any of the courses you purchase on SBE University, including any course updates that are made.

Free Webinar on IP Microwave STL’s presented by DoubleRadius

The FCC abolished the last link rule opening up Part 101 licensed frequencies to broadcasters. New frequencies have opened up that can be used for reliable STL’s. These frequencies, like 950mhz, 7ghz, and 13Ghz are licensed frequencies but with the ability to run high speed bi-directional data rates. These frequencies have the ability to provide up to a gigabyte of bi-directional throughput to your transmission sites.

Taking place June 27, this webinar will inform you on these new licensed frequencies and the design do’s and don’ts for these frequencies. The webinar also looks at a live path profile showing what can be done today.

DoubleRadius-logo-coatedClick here for more information and to register for this Webinar by SBE.

Thanks to DoubleRadius for allowing us to make this webinar free to members of the SBE!

New SBE University course helps broadcast engineers embrace media systems engineering

Philip Cianci, CSTE wrote an inspiring, informative course for the SBE on the challenges of a contemporary technologist who works in the broadcast or media industry. The online course, titled “Adaptive Media Systems Engineering“, offers techniques to ease the transition from Broadcast Engineer to Media Systems Engineer. Each chapter provides practical suggestions and solutions for the digital era. Subjects include an introduction to media systems engineering, the role of the media systems engineer, the importance of professional societies and standards bodies, project management techniques, the planning process, process improvement, organizational efficiency and more.

“The author uses lots of industry standards and relates them very well to the broadcast industry. This is a thought provoking course that guides the project engineer to new methods of managing the unmanageable task of today’s broadcast IT-centric projects.” – Paul Claxton, CPBE, CBNE, Course Reviewer

Free Webinar on IP Microwave STL’s – thanks DoubleRadius!

Broadcasters have been needing and asking the FCC for more channels and bandwidth for years now. We need more! With the growth of HD audio and video the need for reliable STL’s continues to grow every year.

In August of 2011 the FCC abolished the last link rule opening up Part 101 licensed frequencies to broadcasters. Finally the FCC has opened up new frequencies that can be used for reliable STL’s. These frequencies like 950mhz, 7ghz, and 13Ghz are licensed frequencies but with the ability to run high speed bidirectional data rates. These frequencies have the ability to provide up to a gigabit of bidirectional throughput to your transmission sites.

Taking place June 27, this webinar will inform you on these new licensed frequencies and the design do’s and don’ts for these frequencies. The webinar also looks at a live path profile showing what can be done today.

DoubleRadius-logo-coatedClick here for more information and to register for this Webinar by SBE.

Thanks to DoubleRadius for allowing us to make this webinar free to members of the SBE!

Is it time for a new engineering position in the broadcast industry?

“The Broadcast IT Engineer”

The impact of the Information Technology world has certainly been felt in the ranks of traditional broadcast engineering for several years. Whether radio or TV, the systems we depend upon daily have become or will become more of an IT looking environment than the baseband audio and video world that has embraced broadcast engineering for years.

Is it time for a new engineering position in the broadcast industry? Will the “Broadcast IT Engineer” become the new job title for the broadcast technologist of 2013 and beyond? Or maybe this already is the new engineering position and we have simply not fully acknowledged in our industry and our own career progression.

How does someone entering the industry obtain the knowledge and skills of broadcast engineering and IT to successfully accomplish the demands of this position?  Is an experienced IT professional better suited for this role by learning the traditional diverse broadcast engineering skills? Is an experienced broadcast engineer better suited for this role by learning the necessary and diverse IT skills?

Who is best suited for the coming norm of the broadcast plant in the “IT Cloud”?

What are your thoughts?

Wayne M. Pecena, CPBE, CBNE

SBE Board Member, Chair – SBE Education Committee

 Wayne’s views do not reflect those of the SBE, or its Board of Directors.