Category Archives: Local

Chapter Welcomes Fred Baumgartner

An SBE celebrity of sorts appeared at the annual December chapter banquet. Fred Baumgartner has joined the MediaFLO project at Qualcomm as the Director of Broadcast Engineering.

As opposed to the RF side of the project, Fred tells us that he is working the commercial insertion side. Fred is known for his FCC filing for a community-based low-power AM service in 2003, and for his work with the Ennes Educational Foundation Trust for the SBE. He is organizing an Ennes Workshop for the 2006 NAB Convention, this year with the theme “Everything RF”. He’s served at Senior Systems Engineer with Leitch Technology. He is currently commuting from his home near Denver, where he has been a member of Chapter 48, certified as a CPBE and CBNT. He’s also a licensed ham radio operator—KG0KI. We’re looking forward to seeing more of Fred at future chapter functions.

HDTV Returns to KPBS After Five Month Outage

Engineers at KPBS-TV report that their HDTV service is finally back on-the-air after a fatal failure of their encoder in July took it down. Dust off your remote and check out this battle story.

Early adopters of HDTV viewing in San Diego have long used KPBS-DT as their home system demo channel. It’s the only San Diego channel that outputs true high definition video 24 hours per day. And since the program material is commonly travel logs, music concerts, and nature shows, MPEG compression is kind to it. The video looks smashing. Enlightened consumer video dealers like Circuit City favored the channel for demonstration of their monitors because it was always there and it never showed a commercial for one of their competitors.

But that all came to a dead halt July 16 this year as the station’s first generation General Instruments encoder stopped outputting properly formatted bits. The video went blank, and audio sputtered on and off. Viewers reported that it would lock up their tuners.

The station continued, airing a simple digital simulcast of their analog content.

Director of Engineering Leon Messenie took time out from his winter vacation to chat about their troubles.

GS: Your old GI HDTV encoder broke down several months ago. Tell us about the battle getting a replacement.

LM: We actually started looking for a new ATSC encoder system after learning it was going to take about $325,000 to upgrade our current system to be able to handle Closed Captions on the standard definition channels. Since a complete new system would be much less we decided to replace our entire encoding system. I applied to CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) in early 2005 for a grant to replace our old and out dated ATSC encoder system.  KPBS was awarded a grant and after looking at several systems we selected the Tandberg equipment. This work was started a few months before the HD encoder had the major failure. This brings us up to late August 2005 when we put in the order with Signasys Inc, a system integrator, to replace our current GI system with the new Tandberg system. That very same week our HD encoder had the major failure.  According to Motorola it was going to cost $9600 to repair and had a 6-8 week turn around time. Since we had just ordered a new Tandberg system that was supposed to be delivered in 6-8 weeks I could not see spending the money to fix the GI HD Encoder.

Then the delays from Tandberg kept coming and before you know it our HD was off the air from till December 22. All we could do is continue to broadcast the HD schedule in standard sefinition and wait until the new system arrived.

GS: I understand your Tandberg replacement didn’t work on the bench. Do you have any idea of when it will finally be up again?

LM: This is correct. The new system had a couple pieces fail right out of the box. Unfortunately they were the multiplexers, both main and backup. They had to go back to the factory via a stop in Atlanta, Tandberg’s USA headquarters. We were really trying to get the HD service up by Christmas 2005….

KPBS applied for an emergency grant from their foundation. When they got the funding this fall, the station ordered a Tandberg encoder and multiplexer. The unit arrived in early December, but on the bench, it appeared to be the victim of infant mortality. A replacement arrived just days before Christmas. After a hectic few days of testing, they were able to go to air December 23—about 160 days after the HD outage. Engineer Scott Stinson is still fine-tuning, and configuring the multiplexer for a flexible set of subchannels.

Qualcomm Fires Up on Black Mountain

Qualcomm, based in San Diego, has begun transmissions of
its MediaFLO system, which use its experimental licenses on traditional
TV broadcast channels 53 and 59. They plan to eventually occupy channel
55, spectrum purchased as part of the FCC’s reallocation of the 700 MHz
band, channels 52-69, for purposes other than broadcasting.

(Reprinted from CGC Communicator #711:)

An individual familiar with MediaFLO’s operations in San Diego (CGC #710)
reports that Black Mountain and San Miguel Mountain are both on the air
for the purpose of broadcasting to cellphones (or the experimental
phase thereof).  San Miguel has reportedly been on the air since November a year ago, while Black
Mountain was added a few weeks later according to the letter. Mount
Harvard (Los Angeles), Denver and some Boston sites are said to be
completed already.  We are also told that MediaFLO is being looked at
seriously in Europe.

While MediaFLO is authorized to use a number of different TV
channels in San Diego under an experimental grant, the company’s
continued use of Channel 53 is in jeopardy.  XHUPN-DT on Cerro
Bola is
expected to light up on CH-53 soon, at which time MediaFLO will
presumably be required to extinguish its operations on that
channel.  XHUPN is said to be internationally coordinated on CH-53.