Good news surfaced for those consumers living in difficult TV reception areas who have been hoping to pick up over-the-air (OTA) TV broadcasts using the nation’s new NextGenTV platform ramping up deployments now.

According to an update posted by the directors of the Phoneix Model Market testing program Tuesday, on-going field trials of the NextGenTV (ATSC 3.0) broadcasting platform have found the Single Frequency Network (SFN) capability of the new platform can help TV broadcasters greatly enhance robust reception of broadcast TV signals.

“Since last summer, we’ve been testing out various configurations with another NextGen TV transmission tower that can greatly enhance reception and make possible new services such as data sent to both cars and homes,” stated Anne Schelle, managing director of Pearl TV, which oversees the Phoenix Model Market program. “The results are very encouraging.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that NextGen TV will overcome the laws of physics. If you live too far from a transmission tower where the curvature of the earth begins to obstruct the signal path to your antenna, you still won’t be able to receive the new signals. But for thousands of viewers living within 60 to 70 miles of a transmission site, but experience blockages and picture breakup, due to a variety of issues, when trying to tune in current ATSC 1.0 stations, the NextGen TV platform just might provide you a subscription-free solution.

The group’s statement explains that the new tests involved the second Phoenix-area NextGen TV station launched last summer from KASW-TV (CW) using a Single Frequency Network to supplement existing signals in the nation’s 11th largest TV market. KASW-TV is owned by the E.W. Scripps Company and hosts KSAZ-TV (Fox) programming.

“Starting in February, we began a series of tests of the Single Frequency Network broadcast from KASW on physical channel 27,” said Pearl TV Chief Technical Officer Dave Folsom. “With its primary transmitter about eight miles south of downtown Phoenix and a smaller transmitter on the same physical channel 27 about 18 miles away on Shaw Butte, we were able to determine the impact of how different power levels and polarizations affected reception at various locations around the Phoenix metro area. The robustness of the signal improved. Viewer reception in difficult areas was also improved. Technical coordination between the two transmitters was shown to dramatically enhance what a consumer would be expected to receive.”

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“Our two testing transmission antenna patterns were designed to intentionally overlap each other. Their signals are timed (in frequency and time) such as to interfere with each other in a positive or additive fashion and thus improve viewer’s resultant signal level, service margin and receivability within their overlap area. This is the very basis of a Single Frequency Network’s design. The improvement in signal level and service margin translates into a marked improvement in the additive signal’s signal-to-noise component. That means we can either improve reception or increase carriage bandwidth for more data,” Folsom explains.

Peal TV said the tests were devised to measure results from 40 locations in an approximate grid within the system’s transmission overlap area. An omni-directional test receiver antenna was purposely used in the testing to ensure the reception was taking full benefit of both transmission signals within the overlap area.

The good news is that “large improvements in signal level and service margin were found in nearly all test locations when the Single Frequency Network nodes were both transmitting. Error-free reception was improved in approximately 80% of the sites,” the test report compiled by broadcast engineering consultants Meintel, Sgrignoli & Wallace as part of the Phoenix Model Market testing program stated.

“We believe that broadcast TV has the potential to offer a new data delivery service, because of television’s new broadcast standard speaks the same language as the internet itself. A Single Frequency Network arrangement with multiple transmission towers can help broadcasters develop new markets and new opportunities,” Schelle added.

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By Greg Tarr

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