A Federal Communications Commission study released Monday heartened backers of the
current 8-VSB (vestigial sideband) modulation technology for digital television.
Receiver performance appears to be improving, the FCC concluded.
The tests, conducted in the Washington, D.C., metro area, apply to outdoor
mast-mounted antennas, as well as to both rabbit-ear and directional indoor antennas.
According to the FCC's numbers, 98 percent of the locations tested were able to
receive a sufficiently strong digital-TV signal, up from between 63 percent and 79 percent in 1998.
Using outdoor antennas, more than 98 percent of the locations were able to get an
acceptable picture, up from roughly 83 percent in 1998.
Indoor reception performance also exceeded 1998's numbers with acceptable
pictures about 85 percent of the time. The tests, measured from 51 sites offering a
broad range of reception difficulty levels, show generally good reception.
That analysis runs counter to industry results released in January comparing
8-VSB reception to a rival standard, COFDM (code orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing), which show both technologies
performing poorly. The industry tests, however, measured locations where terrain
and urban development made reception difficult.
Also notable to 8-VSB supporters looking at the new FCC tests are performance
numbers superior to conventional analog reception.
Critics of 8-VSB contend that the technology is unacceptable for indoor reception,
areas where high buildings and terrain created multiple reflected signals and
for mobile applications.
The FCC plans additional analysis and it said it may conduct additional tests in
the Baltimore area.