With the debate over DTV transmission standards apparently hushed, broadcasters have turned their attention to meeting deadlines and extending deadlines for building DTV facilities. And transmitter manufacturers, like Harris Corp., are gearing up for a busy couple of years.
"It's going to be crunch time," says Harris President and General Manager Bruce M. Allan. "We have a lot of people putting orders in now because they know that, if they want to pick the time frame in which they get a transmitter, they have to get an order in now. We have the capacity to respond to everyone's requirements, but the question becomes, when do they really want to receive the transmitter?"
It wasn't too long ago that Harris was driving its DTV Express across the country, educating broadcasters and the public about DTV and HDTV. It wasn't too long ago, also, that Harris was primarily a transmitter manufacturer. That has changed, however, as the company has become much more serious about the systems-integration business. Therefore, Allan and company have been on top of the DTV rollout at stations, tracking developments and progress.
He does expect a lot of TV stations to use the two extensions the FCC is allowing them before they need to broadcast a digital signal, but he doesn't believe that a Republican administration will have much sympathy beyond that.
"I think the FCC and the administration are going to hold people's feet to the fire to get the infrastructure in place," he says. "Everyone knows they have to get the infrastructure in place or they're never going to get the spectrum back."
One way broadcasters may look to cut costs on the infrastructure is through the construction of "centralcasting" facilities: One station serves as the broadcast operations for others. Harris Broadcast Communication Vice President Jay Adrick says broadcast groups and the networks are implementing centralcasting in a variety of ways, and he expects the concept to attract most of the attention at the Harris booth at NAB.
"Our overall product strategy and focus is in DTV conversion, and, there, the activities are centered around encoding, transport-stream monitoring and overall system monitoring," he explains. "The second focus is on the consolidation and what some people are calling centralcasting. It's a fairly broad product portfolio based on being able to monitor all sites from a central point."
The key to that strategy is the Harris Broadcast Manager, which is based on technology that comes out of the NetBoss system. "The software allows connectivity to a multitude of devices through simple network-management protocol and several other types of communication protocols, says Adrick. "It pulls information and looks at devices selectively and, in the mean time, runs in the background."
The system is already capable of working with products from 10 third-party manufacturers, according to Adrick, including GVG, Miranda and Leitch. In addition, it can communicate with non-broadcast equipment, ensuring that a facility manager can tell whether a remote facility is receiving power or a security system is active. "What if" scenarios can also be programmed to respond to given events. "It's a true facility-management system," Adrick says. "We feel that we have one of the few network systems that are out there, and it's based on proven telcom-industry technology."
There will be a number of other products at the Harris booth at NAB, as well. Element Manager, a new management system for FlexiCoder encoders, replaces the GUI on the FlexiCoder chassis. Another monitor system to be introduced, the MonitorPlus Lite, was created for small- to mid-sized broadcasters. Designed to monitor transmitted ATSC DTV signals, the system includes a Harris ARX-H50 ATSC receiver, an 8-VSB RF analyzer, a color picture monitor, a professional audio monitor and an MPEG-2 transport-stream analyzer.
Harris is also launching NDCP, or Network Device Control Protocol, designed to provide broadcasters with an open, network-based standard for control of audio/video devices. It's built on TCP/IP as a public protocol using XML and can be used for local- or wide-area connectivity. The goal is to allow broadcasters to control the recording and playback of material through audio/video or data ports and manage the content of a device.