DTV reception - FCC future power levels

CSH

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#1
Hello all,

New to the board here.

Can anyone advise if the FCC will allow DTV broadcasters to increase DTV output power levels after the Feb 2009 cutover date ? I fear that without a signal level increase I will see no improvement.

Maybe the broadcasters here are simply using a low RF output level currently ? Or maybe they only transmit DTV on specific days ? Can anyone confirm ?

Or, maybe I just need to be patient and wait until February 2009 ?

When I checked the FCC website I found that the local network affiliate stations here are authorized for up to a 1000KW ERP signal output level per FCC licensing. (That's a million watts folks).

So here's my concern: Dismal reception 35 miles north of Seattle when atmospheric changes occur - despite the multiple "fixes" that I've tried.

Good (new) moderate gain multi band (UHF / VHF) directional yagi antenna in place now (oriented south) outside on the roof - that has INCREDIBLE ANALOG (clear) signal at all times. Not so with the few DTV signals that I can capture on odd days.

I understand the channels: 9, 11, and 13 will remain at VHF (digital) after the cutover date so maybe there is some hope yet ?

Have tried both a tower top amp and also an in-line amp with worse signal results on DTV. I'm at a 200 foot elevation with a good view of the horizon into Seattle.

Replaced all feedlines with high quality (solid copper) RG-6U cables that are less that 75 feet in length. Proper broadband (modern / weather tight) compression fittings are used. I used a very conservative amount of GE silicone dielectric protectant grease on the "F" fittings for a weathertight seal. No improvement.

Again, atmospheric conditions seem to really impact the DTV signal here. Cloud cover even on dry days, and rain, both really impact the signals negatively. Some days see an 80% signal capture - and then on the following day there is a broken signal, . . . even when I've made no equipment adjustments in-between the changes in weather. Can't understand it. I've considered sunspots and the current solar cycle too.

Have tried multiple subtle adjustments in the antenna path orientation / direction, but no joy.

Replaced the 300 / 75 ohm matching transformer twice just for good measure. That proved interesting too. Seems that one of the matching transformers acts as a notch filter, and won't pass channel 13. Strange indeed.

Removed the 2-way splitter for the second receiver with no improvement either. It is understood that each port on a splitter can introduce a loss of -3db to -7db.

O.K. you "techy" types, what am I missing here ?

"Signaless" in Seattle.
 

Aaron62

Contributor
Staff member
#3
Your level of detail is awesome on your post!

Can anyone advise if the FCC will allow DTV broadcasters to increase DTV output power levels after the Feb 2009 cutover date ?
This is only a question that your local television stations can answer. You'll want to get in contact with them by email or phone and ask them. I haven't seen a lot of statistics on what the percentage of broadcast stations will up their broadcast power on February 17th.

Maybe the broadcasters here are simply using a low RF output level currently ? Or maybe they only transmit DTV on specific days ?
Any broadcast station that is outfitted to broadcast dtv signals should be fully operational every day. I haven't seen anything from the web that's said otherwise.

Dismal reception 35 miles north of Seattle when atmospheric changes occur
Ahh! With all the clouds/rain you guys get, that's sure to make dtv reception even tougher.

You've gone far beyond the simple fix/suggestions I've seen offered on the web. I would definitely suggest contacting some of your local television stations. I've seen instances where the station will actually send someone out to help you.
 

Jason Fritz

Administrator
Staff member
#4
Hi CSH,
I've heard that Seattle is somewhat of a trouble spot for DTV reception.

Since Yagi's are sort of a directional antenna, have you tried to aim it in a different direction?

Does your converter box have an on-screen display to indicate signal level. You may want to have a friend or family member come over and watch the tv screen to relay signal information as you move the antenna around.

I found a great blog article (The blogger lives in North Watham County, Seattle) in which the author upgraded to an Terrestrial DB8 Antenna setup: Broadcast DTV and HDTV in North Whatcom County Wally Wonders Why

It was a huge upgrade over his old antenna setup which was just a set of rabbit ears, but he mentions the following about North Seattle options for DTV,

Now here is the real reason for this post. I wanted to explore broadcast digital options that are available to me and I couldn’t find them anywhere out on the web. And even those sites with promising information assumed I’d be looking for Seattle stations rather than the much closer Canadian stuff. So this post is sort of a public service post of what I have found so far.
Anyway, here's a forum post I found as well:

HDTVoice.com - High-Definition Television Talk - Seattle area DT signal levels
(DTV in South Everett between Boeing and Downtown Everett)
 

CSH

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#5
Update: Seattle market, the saga continues

Thanks for the tips / suggestions guys. Neat web sites for related info.

I did contact the engineering dept at KOM0 channel 4 (Seattle ABC affiliate) who advised that their current DTV (channel 4.1) broadcast antenna is positioned on the south face of their tower - effectively creating a signal null for me in here Northern Puget Sound. This condition won't change until after the February cutover date. At that time they will begin sending DTV signal on their main omni antenna.

I'm using four (4) of the DISH TV PAL (TV-40) receivers, which outwardly seem to have some pretty nice user features built in. Yes, they do have a very handy signal strength meter screen selection as part of the system setup section.

I have however discovered some quirks between them. As an experiment, I swapped them from room to room and now I find that each one has a different behavior - regarding which signals they will capture and when - despite rebooting them (have tried both the channel scan process and also removing the AC power). Seems they have a learning program as part of their internal programming that sometimes requires days to purge and relearn.

IN ONE ROOM THE RECEIVER WOULD CONTINUALLY FIND NEW CHANNELS, . . . but no so if I moved that same receiver into another room. Until I discovered this quirk it just about drove me nuts. I even checked the AC power here to see if there was any cause for concern. (121.2 V). Here's the latest mystery. The room farthest from my antenna, 75 feet away, will receive a single DTV station that no other room will.

Did find a couple of good related web sites to look at which will assist you determining where your local DTV stations are physically located so that you can aim your antenna properly. Cut and paste these into your browser:

Latitude/Longitude Position Finder

Broadcast Television Station Search

TV Fool - TV Signal Locater

NOTE: Make certain that you enter the "-" negative symbol just ahead of your longitude figure or the process will not complete.

I'd like to try the Terrestrial DB8 Antenna to see what kind of performance it might offer me, but will have to wait until payday - or take a second job. Kinda spendy. They are a departure from the directional yagi style - and appear to have a bigger wind load being flat panel mesh multi-bow tie design. The manufacturer claims they weigh in at 10 lbs !

The real burn is that I have an incredible analog signal now and can only hope that the DTV (digital) signal will eventually equal or exceed that. Right now that is obviously not the case for me. I'm a bit apprehensive about this process because in the Seattle area, on average, we have approximately 226 days of clouds or rain per year.

I can't imagine the general population would ever find the patience (or household budget) to deal with such technical requirements, . . . the constant trial and error equipment adjustments, . . . and the need to research and experiment with various components to achieve a reasonable DTV signal in their homes.

Let's hope this entire DTV cutover process doesn't evolve into another Congressional Bail Out.
 

Taki

DTVUSA Member
#6
We are having trouble where we live as well. Its really a step back in technology from my perspective. At least I got an uninterrupted signal with analog, now one little cloud in the sky and my picture freezes and the sound skips. what a rip off.
 

CSH

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#9
DTV for all

UPDATE: Still hard at it here folks, . . . will now try cascading duplicate identical antennas together (ONE ABOVE THE OTHER WITH A PHASING CABLE) and introduce the antenna pre-amp at the antenna feed to see if I can improve the signal capture.

In the mean time, take a peak at this site. Its worth a good laugh:

Hulu - Talkshow with Spike Feresten: Cable PSA

Best,

CSH
 

Taki

DTVUSA Member
#10
The thing is you should not have to be going to all this time and trouble to get a simple broadcast reception. If we are going to adopt the digital broadcasting system it should be in place for everyone who is currently getting analog service or eventually someone is going to sue for denial of service. I for one support them in their efforts as I strongly suspect that the bandwidth opened by the adoption of DTV has already been auctioned off behind the scenes to someone who will make a ton of money off of it at the expense of broadcast TV viewers.
 

Sparks

DTVUSA Member
#11
Lack of digital signal

Hi,

I understand what you are going through. I have exactly the same situation here in SW Minnesota.

When I lived in the area that you are at we always used a deep fringe antenna with a pre-amp and an amplifier. We were obviously not looking for a digital signal at that time. TV reception for the Seattle stations was always available. The most reliable TV at that time was out of Bellingham and Vancouver, BC. Back then the big problem with TV reception was when they turned on that transmitter at the naval radio station near Arlington. That thing was powerful enough to contact ships at sea almost anywhere in the world. My dad was one of the engineers for the Navy at that base. They closed the base down when they perfected the use of satellites for the same purpose.

Everyone has always experienced better days than others with analog, something to do with signal bounce off of the ionosphere. Ham radio operators call it the band being open. This is that time that you can get the analog signals from a great distance that you normally would not get.

I inquired with the chief engineer of a TV station serving my area. In fact, I talked to more than one of them and I got this same story from all of them. They are with different TV/Radio stations serving this area.

When I first started receiving the digital signal, I would have no digital stations available most mornings and during the time that I am referring to when the band is open. I asked if the output power would be increased in February. They told me that they were already at full power.

One engineer went on to explain the he certainly hopes and thinks that this problem will go away after the February change over. He said the first thing that will improve reception of the digital signal is that the digital signal is not being broadcast for the main taller tower where the analog signal is coming from. He went to point out that digital transmissions are temporarily being transmitted from smaller towers and that it would be switched to the taller towers when the change is made. He said that this was the situation with many TV stations across the country.

He went on to explain the second cause of the weaker digital signal. As he explained it, when the band is open the analog signals that are coming in much stronger than normal, with more of them from greater distances. The analog signal is then drowning out the digital signal. In February when the analog signal is gone for the most part. This problem of receiving the digital signal should be gone since the analog signal will be gone. This of course is the reason that just about every thing is going digital in the first place.

Taking away most of the analog signal should also improve the analog reception from the low power TV stations and repeaters that do not have to change over. It will also improve other present day digital radio reception such at cellular phones and government weather radio.

Since those conversations over one year ago the digital reception has greatly improved in this area. That is supposed to be due to fact that many of the radio stations that have already changed over to digital in this area. The radio stations have no reason to wait until the deadline date. For the radio station to change over the change is done to their equipment only. Our radios both at home and in the car will continue to be the same without any modifications necessary. I do not know why, I had already taken up enough of their time so I did not ask.

I would imagine that the digital reception will improve for you for these same reasons.

---------------

It has occured to me that I should mention this. A TV station to the east of me has already got everything set other than turning off the analog in February. They are a CBS affiliate that I usually did not come in very well with the analog signal. There tower is about 75 miles away and they do not serve the area that I am in. My local CBS is to the SW of where I am at.

There is virtually nothing between me and their tower that will produce an analog signal. A few cellular towers, a few small towns and some UHF repeater towers left over from a off antenna pay TV service that I think is not even operating anymore. My point is no analog interference in that direction. That stations two digital channels are the stongest stations that I get and like I said I am not even in their broadcast area. These stations are always at full strength on the signal meter no matter what the conditions are.

Maybe that is a sample of what it will be like when analog is gone.
 
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CSH

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#12
DTV Reception woes

Thanks for the informative synopsis. It does make more sense to me than anything else I've contemplated thus far.

On inclement weather days I can see the signal strengh meter fluctuate from 0 to 80 %. It just maddening. Most of the leaves are gone from the trees nearby here, so I can eliminate the signal scatter condition as a result of native foliage.

I did try adding a second "cascaded" (95 inch boom, 39 element UHF) yagi below the original, with some interesting results. I now receive even more analog UHF channels that I've never seen before ! Some from British Columbia too. VHF analog remains, as always, crystal clear. No change on the digital UHF reception however.

I can fully undestand and accept the description of "band opening" - but fail to grasp that if a broadcster is licensed at 1000KW how that would still result is such dismal performance, especially given my insignificant distance of only 35 miles from the transmitter sites. I do also agree with you that many broadcasters are currently using an ancillary antenna (with obvious less performance) until the final cutover date in February.

I can't honestly beleive that this is really as good as it gets. If it were then this is a huge step backward in technology, not to mention the dangerous condition this might create for emergency preparedness and general notification the public during times of need.

Three local Seatle stations (9, 11, 13) will remian at VHF (albeit digital) after the cutover date so there still is hope.

I will do as you suggest here and wait patiently for February - to observe the final results.

Thanks indeed for the feedback.
 

Sparks

DTVUSA Member
#13
As I think that I mentioned before, they may be at full power as many of them that I contacted says that they are. In all situations that I am aware of. The stations tallest most powerful tower is still tied up with analog transmissions. Most of them have the digital on a smaller tower somewhere that may not even have the signal aimed in all directions. Then in February when they turn on digital and analog is turned it will be on the main towers.

I have not been in the Northwest for some time now so I can not be certain of what the situation is there. My company contracts with communications companies towers power systems. So I am in contact with the engineers on a regular basis and they all sing the same song about DTV. They say that it is pretty much the same thing every where. In many cases the company that owns the station out there owns some of them where I am at.

All of it that they say seems to make sense. What makes more sense than anything else is that they want to sell commercial time for the largest audience possible. I do hope that all of this is true and it does all get better in February. I live in an area now where TV stations are not very plentiful and the programming is not that good for the most part. My family spends much of the TV viewing time watching the local stations across the country off of FTA (Free To Air) satellite.

If you or anyone is not familiar with free satellite. Let me know and I will put up enough information of where to look and what to look for to research it yourself.
 

Aaron62

Contributor
Staff member
#14
As I think that I mentioned before, they may be at full power as many of them that I contacted says that they are. In all situations that I am aware of.
It's so odd that a search on dtv.gov, dtv2009.gov, and dtvtransition.org does not net any results on what levels television stations are broadcasting dtv signals at.
 
#16
I live in Buffalo and have satellite dish for my main TV, but got the rabbit ears for the kitchen TV. After I got the converter box hook up to that set, now the picture freezes up and separates what a pain to watch now. Good thing I don't have that problem with my main TV, but I am not looking forward to always watching this. I am not electric minded, so I can't be changing wires or climbing on the roof.

Any suggestions for me?
 

CSH

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#18
UPDATE: DTV Resception in Seattle

UPDATE:

We've been experiencing a local snow storm event with low temps for the last week.

My 39 element yagi is completely covered in snow and ice, so much so that I became concerned about the extra weight - three inches thick on most all elements.

Now I'm seeing signal levels in the 80 to 90 percent range,and also receiving some channels I've never seen before. I'm lucky on most days to see a 60 percent signal strength.

HAH ! Now I'm trying to figure out how I can freeze the antenna in the dead of summer so I can achieve this level of much improved signal strength.

Stay tuned.

CSH
 
#19
CSH
if one of your antennas is a VHF then it must be below the UHF antenna about 4 ft if they are both vhf UHF then they need to be 8 ft apart to keep from interfering with each other. :)
see my deep fringe prescription in the recption section.:)
 

Jason Fritz

Administrator
Staff member
#20
WFXT in my area is building a new system and they said in august they are going to raise DT signals to full power

not sure about the rest
That's good to hear, it's almost impossible to find information on the net about who actually is full power digital, or who won't be by the digital transition.
 
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