For those like me,  who might be trying to sort out difficulties with the reception of digital television broadcasts in outlying, otherwise known as fringe, areas, there are some amazing similarities to the onset of digital usage in cellular phones.

Digging around in the dirty little details, it seems that digital broadcasting is done at much lower power, and, just like the first generation digital cell phones, the sensitivity of the receivers, and the transmission power allowed, have not been finely tuned to work well together.  Another sticking point for the situation is that there is a formula used, which takes into account such factors as height of the transmitting antenna, general terrain of the proposed coverage area, and the crowding of the spectrum in the coverage area.

Due to these factors, I have a college television station that is less than 20 miles away, transmitting with 1.4 megawatts, in analog mode, which I get with no difficulty, any time of the day or night, with rabbit ears. The digital signal, from this same station, is limited to 475 kilowatts, and it originates from the same antenna stack. I frequently have real problems getting a signal on any of the digital channels from this station, encountering extreme pixellation and audio stuttering. The frequency of these difficulties is such as to make watching of anything important, such as college telecourses, useless and impossible.  The same is true of other UHF stations as far as 60 miles away, where analog reception is near perfect (no visible noise 95% of the time), with these same rabbit ears, and yet the differences encountered in reception of digital signals is again difficult to impossible when the ionospheric conditions change, such as from 6 AM to 9 AM, and 5 PM to 8 PM.

Because of the very high losses through the cable at UHF frequencies, the addition of a large outdoor antenna makes only a small difference in the signal level at the receiver, unless a very large, and very expensive (after taking into account the mounting apparatus, and the rotor needed) is used.

Is Joe Average going to tolerate this next February 18? What about when February 25 comes along and the situation is no better?

It seems that many people will be in this same situation, and many will be very disappointed, having heard the claims of digital perfection, and angry, having spent money on a newer television or perhaps just a new translator box. Either way, with poor results, the general feeling of those involved will not be warm and fuzzy.

Quote of the day:
Committee–a group of men who individually can do nothing but as a group decide that nothing can be done. – Fred Allen