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A Promising Year Ahead

Over the years, televisions have slowly evolved from bales of analog electronics into sleek digital devices. The next generation of broadcast TV is round the corner. Technical experts are finalizing the subsequent revolution in over-the-air broadcasting.

Customer demand is shaping the businesses of satellite operators and antennae manufacturers. Service providers are constantly re-evaluating their business models to tie in with the new capacity that is becoming available. The antenna and its associated equipment must offer flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Auto-deploy systems, though very easy to use, must also not interfere with other systems, which is a constant challenge for manufacturers.

Unprecedented technology changes for over-the-air delivery of video, audio, and many other services are being planned in the near future. The implementation of an advanced transmission standard, ATSC 3.0, will likely impact every part of the transmission chain, from encoder through antenna.

Indian Market
The Indian market for antennae for the broadcasting sector in 2015-16 is estimated at 15 units, valued at Rs.3.74 crore. 
Demand is expected to emanate from expansion of DD DTH, Doordarshan’s terrestrial broadcasting, and DSNG vans for election coverage in 2017. DTH subscribers have grown over 10 percent in 2015 as compared to 2014, which has provided the requisite impetus to the DTH antennae segment.

The DTH service providers are not expected to have any requirement over the next couple of years, considering there is consolidation on the cards.

NXT DIGITAL, which provides television channels to cable operators through a satellite instead of the traditional cable television headend, where multitudes of satellite dishes and antennae are used to get cable stations from dozens of communication satellites, promises to provide impetus to this industry too.

Doordarshan has invited a bid for SITC of 7.3-7.6 M Uplink antenna (C-band) at DDK Gorakhpur and DDK Dehradun too.

Major Players
Arraycom, a system integrator, offers panel antennae for television and bay antennae for FM transmitters. In 2015-16, the company supplied four units of 10-kW UHF Superturnstile antenna systems from RFS to be installed at HPTs of Doordarshan.

General Dynamics offers earth station antenna larger than 1 m in diameter for uplinking and mobile/flyaway antennae for DSNG vans. In 2015-16, its major customers were defense, ISRO, and government.

Radio Frequency Systems (RFS) is a global designer and manufacturer of antennae systems. RFS’ systems integration and services for broadcast segment offer the provision of services that are critical for successful installations, including site survey, field strength mapping, system design, manufacturing, project management, and installation and commissioning. Going forward in 2017, the company expects huge demand, once the second round of FM Phase-III licenses are granted. In 2015-16, RFS supplied side-mount FM antennae for four sites in Patna, Agartala, Lucknow, and Pune through BECIL.

Indiasign offers uplinking services through C-Band static setup in 1+1 configuration in HD/SD format. The company has leveraged its position in the field through acquisition of latest technology, not only for channel uplink on satellite but it also encompasses ground-level solutions for pre-production and editing of content. Indiasign also offers customized DSNG vehicles and has integrated more than 200+ mobile units for news, production, and special applications. The DSNG vans are equipped with auto-pointing antenna system for C- and Ku-band, supported by GPS and compass.

In 2015-16, Indiasign sold one unit of Enertech brand, C-band 1.8 m antenna for DSNG vans, valued at Rs.20 lakh to Summa Real Media Pvt. Ltd., Orissa; one unit of Enertech brand, 2.4 m Ku-band antenna for trailers, valued at Rs.30 lakh to ISRO; and one unit of WebsatMedia brand, 4.5 m Ku-band antenna for hub antenna, valued at Rs.45 lakh to ISRO.

Comsat manufactures antenna systems for satellite communications and also for UHF/VHF frequencies. Presently, the company is manufacturing a wide range of large steerable earth station antennae with Cassegrain/Gregorian configuration for hub/teleports and VSAT antennae in C/Ext C/Ku/Ka-bands both Prime Focus and Offset types from with various configurations in the mount for fixed/static/non-penetrating/transportable/mobile applications.

The company manufactures mobile VSATs for DSNG/OB vans. The company is undergoing a change in the manufacturing technique of antenna panels by stretch-forming method for its large-size antennae. This will increase the efficiency of the antennae. In 2015-16, the company supplied one unit of 9.3 m of antenna to Ortel Communications Ltd., Bhubaneswar, valued at Rs.0.7 crore; one unit of 6.3 m to Avantel, Hyderabad, valued at Rs.0.4 crore; one unit of 4.6 m antenna to Prasar Bharati, New Delhi, valued at Rs.0.2 crore; and one unit of 1.8 m mobile antenna to Alpha Design Technologies Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore, valued at Rs.0.1 crore.

Modern Communications and Broadcast Systems (MCBS) manufactures and supplies antennae systems for DTH. The company offers various high-quality and superior-grade parabolic dish antennae in a variety of models for a wide range of applications. MCBS has an installed base for more than 30,000 antennae. Recently, MCBS has offered antennae for use in Apna DTH, a DD-Direct Freedish network.

Vislink, Vertex and Jampro (marketed by Horizon Broadcast), PSI (marketed by Harri-Ban Communications), Andrew, AvL, Cobham, Kathrein, DataPath, Sumeru Microwave, and Viasat also have presence in this segment. Installations are also done by system integrators, Arraycom, Indiasign, Essel Shyam, and VTI-BEI.

FM Phase-III. The industry is anxiously awaiting the second round of e-auctions which will generate demand for antennae in 2016-17

Getting Ready for ATSC 3.0
A new broadcasting standard is on the way that could bring Roku-style features to TVs – all without the need for a box. On-demand video, 4K resolution, and ultra-high-quality sound may soon be coming to both local and national broadcasters, thanks to a new version of the ATSC standard used for transmitting digital television over-the-air.

ATSC 3.0 is a next-generation transmission platform in development, using new technologies and advanced error correction for the physical layer featuring OFDM modulation to create a wireless data-agnostic IP delivery system. It accommodates and extends the existing high-power/tall-tower broadcast infrastructure, while supporting delivery of robust mobile and pedestrian mobile television and other data services to portable devices.

Unlike all preceding television standards, this one will affect far more than television, providing over-the-air audiences with options for using the Internet and smart home receiver systems that can distribute to any device in the home. It also offers unparalleled video and audio quality.

ATSC 3.0’s enhanced video and audio capabilities initially received the most attention. Its 4K ultra-high-definition resolution and high-dynamic range (whiter whites and blacker blacks), are enhancements that many observers think will have the biggest consumer appeal. It also enables geeky features like high frame rate, wide color gamut (richer, more saturated colors), and immersive audio.

In addition to the development revenue potential of ATSC 3.0’s interactive features, many broadcasters are interested in taking advantage of its flexible transmission system to attract revenue from new kinds of customers – those who use file transfers to complete video purchases or deliver Internet of Things software and firmware updates to vehicles and appliances. TV stations will attract new customers through local and national collaborations that pool available spectrum.

Stations will need to purchase new components to enable their transmitters to work with the new standard. Those stations that wish to provide 4K UHD and other advanced features will incur additional capital expenses to upgrade their studios and master controls.

The transition to the new standard will be more transformative than any other industry has experienced. It recognizes and embraces the world of multi-device, user-driven media that provides the greatest prospect for public broadcasting’s future. Since this will be rolling out contemporaneously with the post-auction repack, stations and governing boards need to think strategically about spectrum management – how to get the most mission value out of these new capabilities and how to manage associated costs.

MIMO technology can be used to increase channel capacity, though multiple antennae at the receiver are required. Considering the relevance of maximizing the broadcast spectrum efficiency, due to rapidly growing demand for wireless broadband services, MIMO is the most convincing technology that brings huge benefit in this aspect. MIMO is also an effective way to impose the use of two antennae at the receivers, which result on an average another 3 dB gain as compared to SISO for cross-polarized transmissions.

LG Electronics, at this year’s NAB Show, demonstrated a unique new wireless network antenna designed to receive and process ATSC 3.0 next-generation television broadcast signals and redistribute them via Wi-Fi throughout the home to connected devices such as smart TVs, tablets, laptop computers, and smartphones. The steerable network antenna is coupled with a network interface to communicate with the in-home Wi-Fi router to allow connected devices to blend ATSC 3.0 signals and services with over-the-top Internet-delivered content.

Technology continues to march forward and broadcasters need the tool set that allows them to compete with wireless and telcos. ATSC 3.0 will revolutionize the broadcast industry bringing technologies, capabilities, and complexities never dreamed before. Media consumption by consumers has changed and will continue to change. Manufacturers need to design equipment that is both flexible and extensible so that new technologies, functionalities, and services can easily be added in the future.

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