HDTV Gets Smart

In the good old days of over-the-air (OTA) broadcast TV, before the proliferation of cable and DBS, pointing your rooftop antenna was a common ritual when switching between channels. OTA HDTV has brought those days back, as viewers carefully orient their specialized HDTV antennas to lock in fussy signals.

Engineers at NxtWave Communications, which develops integrated circuits for digital television and related applications, say they have created a new technology designed to improve the terrestrial (over-the-air) reception for digital televisions using the 8-VSB ATSC standard. Building on existing "smart antenna" standards and related concepts, NxtWave's Nxtenna technology improves HDTV reception and simplifies viewing, the company claims.

NxtWave says the new system, which uses the company's third-generation demodulator technology, embedded in the NXT2005 product line, is designed to work with antennas conforming to the EIA/CEA-909 standard. According to a company statement, "Nxtenna electronically scans for the optimal digital signal and configures the now 'smart' antenna. An additional benefit is the ability to utilize a 360-degree reception zone, which eliminates the need for viewers to manually adjust the antenna."

NxtWave's Mike Gittings explains, "'Smart Antenna' technology has been discussed and debated for some time. No one has developed a commercially viable antenna system that reconfigures itself using digital demodulation technology like our Nxtenna system. We're not antenna manufacturers, but we're excited about the strong response the Nxtenna concept has received from those who are. This technology has enormous potential to change and significantly improve digital television reception in a variety of applications."

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has long recognized the need for OTA reception to drive the HDTV market. As the organization's Gary Shapiro points out, "Even as we celebrate the increasing number of cable companies providing high definition television (HDTV) content and applaud the leading role in HD played by home satellite providers, antennas remain a critical way for millions of consumers to experience the almost three-dimensional picture quality and digital surround sound that HDTV can bring. Advances in antenna design that seamlessly improve over-the-air reception and improve ease-of-use for consumers go a long way toward driving the DTV transition."