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The New Basic Cable

Aug 23, 2011 11:54 AM, By Doug Engstrom, Technical Director, Contemporary Research

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Enjoying Your New Cable

The good news about the scrambled-up cable era is that everyone can finally take control of their RF network. RF remains the country’s primary carrier for media and data, hosting 70 percent of all Internet bandwidth and 90 percent of all content. By the way, DirecTV and Dish Network are both RF carriers as well, just over the air.

In an era when IPTV is heavily marketed and companies like Cisco are communicating the benefits of Cat-5 infrastructure, it is important to consider all options for your installation; there are many situations in which RF will present advantages in cost, simplicity, and reliability, especially when an RF cabling structure is already in place. In cases of new build, running a single coax cable can be a welcome solution, allowing you to distribute hundreds of programs—both externally and internally generated—over a single wire, and enabling a mix of broadcast, cable, CCTV, local, and internal content. RF signal can travel for miles over coax, fiber, and/or Cat-5, so it will suit a variety of existing and planned infrastructures.

Bear in mind that in modern televisions a built-in TV tuner is simply an HD MPEG video player, the same as any IPTV receiver. The difference is it comes free as part of the TV. And finally RF systems are simple to upgrade: just add channels and destinations as needed.

In short, knowing your RF options will give you choices and leverage as you create content distribution networks for your customers.

Integrating Control

The RF network that carries our channels can also deliver integrated control. Various manufacturers have offered control systems for managing TVs over RF and which integrate with Crestron/Extron/AMX systems. It’s instructive to understand Contemporary Research’s Display Express as an example in considering options for control. This system is in place at a wide variety of facilities including the Louisiana Super Dome, Wachovia Center, AT&T Center, Seattle Mariners, The Home Depot, Willow Creek Community Church, and more.

Display Express comprises of three basic components:

    Software: Display Express web software and/or the protocol supports custom applications for AMX and Crestron systems. The software serves web-based user panels that can be accessed anywhere over the network by desktop PCs, tablets, and smart phones. The system’s TVs, channels, control functions, and schedule are defined by simple, fill-in-the-blank forms.

    Control Channel: The head-end control modulator is installed in the RF head end. The unit receives control commands from Display Express over RS-232 or Ethernet, and broadcasts the data as RF control channel that is combined with the other channels. The micro channel fits in between a gap between channels 4 and 5. Carried over coax with the other channels, the control channel is compatible with coax, fiber, and Cat-5 wiring schemes.

    Display Controller: A compact, inexpensive RS-232 or IR display controller mounts at each TV. The RF feed passes through the controller, supplying the control channel to the unit and passing the other channels to the TVs tuner. All the logic and codes for TV control are stored inside the controller’s permanent memory, and the code sets can be updated in the future over the same RF network. An integrated HDTV Tuner/Controller is also available for video projectors and monitors.

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