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New Initiative Will Improve Energy Efficiency of Home Internet Equipment

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:40:29 -0400

Today, Internet service providers, equipment suppliers and retail equipment manufacturers joined the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) to announce a new voluntary agreement to improve the energy efficiency of Internet modems, routers and other equipment that deliver broadband to millions of American consumers. The agreement sets rigorous requirements that will improve the energy efficiency of small network equipment (SNE) by 10 to 20 percent compared to typical, recently-deployed devices and cover more than 90 percent of U.S. broadband households – roughly 80 million homes.

“DOE appreciates industry’s voluntary commitment to improving the energy efficiency of small network equipment, and looks forward to the progress they can make and verification of the impacts at the appropriate time,” said Dr. Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency, U.S. Department of Energy.

“As we all work to improve energy efficiency in consumer electronics, this is a significant step toward realizing valuable savings,” said G.P. Li, director of the California Plug Load Research Center, a leader in cutting-edge, energy-efficiency solutions for plug load devices. “Setting these early commitments for broadband equipment is a promising move to greater efficiencies, which is very important to CalPlug’s efforts as more devices join the Internet of Things.”

Signatories to the agreement to date include service providers AT&T, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, DIRECTV, Time Warner Cable and Verizon; and manufacturers Actiontec, ARRIS, Cisco, D-Link, EchoStar Technologies, NETGEAR, Pace and Ubee Interactive.

The new SNE voluntary agreement runs through 2017 and is modeled on the successful voluntary agreement for set-top box energy conservation, launched in 2013 by the pay-TV industry, consumer electronics manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates. In its first year the set-top box voluntary agreement achieved a 4.4 percent reduction in national energy consumption by set-top boxes, even as deployed stock increased that year. According to the agreement’s first annual report, the improved set-top box energy efficiency saved American consumers roughly $168 million in energy bills and nearly 842,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) – equivalent to the output of one-half of a large (500MW) power plant.

“This agreement will begin saving consumers energy and money – and do so long before any mandatory regulatory standards could take effect – while protecting innovation and competition,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. “By setting requirements for energy-efficient broadband equipment now, the agreement will lock-in efficiencies at the dawn of the Internet of Things, which depends on strong broadband networking. Our industry has proven that voluntary, energy-conservation agreements are the best means of effectively improving energy efficiency, while recognizing the lightning-fast pace of tech innovation.”

“This new commitment further demonstrates how industry takes seriously our responsibility to deliver innovative and energy-efficient services and equipment that millions of consumers rely on,” said Michael Powell, President and CEO of NCTA. “With Americans continuing to connect more devices to their home networks, reducing the energy footprint of Internet equipment is an industry priority.”

As with the set-top box agreement, this new voluntary commitment requires broadband service providers and retail equipment manufacturers to publicly report SNE energy use including annual progress reports by an independent third party. Additionally, the agreement mandates annual verification audits to ensure SNE devices are performing at the efficiency levels specified in the agreement, and regular consultation and engagement with regulatory authorities and other stakeholders.

CableLabs has made a significant contribution to the development of the technical specification in the SNE agreement with the support of its professional testing staff, use of the CableLabs Energy Lab and its coordination of the many contributors to the technical specification. Additionally, CableLabs will assist with the implementation of the agreement, as it has done with the set-top box agreement.

Even though there are more consumer electronics in U.S homes than ever, those devices now account for a lower percentage of electricity usage per household than they did three years ago, according to the CEA study Energy Consumption of Consumer Electronics in U.S. Homes in 2013.

FCC Modernizes Numbering Rules To Spur Competitive VoIP Options for Consumers

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:40:15 -0400

FCCThe Federal Communications Commission today modernized and streamlined its rules governing the distribution of phone numbers by leveling the playing field for interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, which are increasingly popular with consumers.

Interconnected VoIP providers – defined as those capable of placing and receiving calls to and from the traditional phone network -- currently must get numbers from third-party carriers. Allowing these providers to go directly to numbering administrators for phone numbers will benefit consumers by reducing costs and promoting additional competition from these innovative VoIP providers, the FCC found.

The Order adopted unanimously by the FCC also facilitates the ongoing transitions in communications technology that are sweeping the nation and improves FCC oversight of the numbering system. These improvements will help ensure that calls connect nationwide and provide more accountability in and protections for the numbering system.

Nearly one-third of all retail local telephone connections – about 48 million connections – were served by VoIP at the end of 2013. Giving VoIP providers direct access to numbers will promote competitive choice for consumers, including by speeding the transfer of a customer’s existing number to or from an interconnected VoIP provider, known as “porting” a number.

The Order also imposes a number of conditions to protect and enhance the security and integrity of the numbering system. Conditions will also ensure that all numbers distributed are used, protecting the system from running out of phone numbers.

DTV Audio Group Wraps Series of Meets on Spectrum Ideas

Tue, 30 Jun 2015 16:58:24 -0400

speakerThe DTV Audio Group held a series of meetings in June, between constituents and stakeholders in the impending auction-based reallocation of RF spectrum, and with the FCC and its Office of Engineering Technology (OET), to present ideas on alternative spectrum assignments for licensed users of professional wireless microphones.

“The main thrust for all of these meetings has been to review the alternative spectra referenced in the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) 14-166, evaluate their feasibility, and determine the practical and regulatory obstacles to make use of them in the future,” DTVAG Executive Director Roger Charlesworth told SVG. “What’s already on the table is not going to be enough. Ultimately, we will also have to identify more spectrum and develop further technologies to make what we have work as efficiently as possible.”

The first meeting, which took place on June 12 at Fox Networks’ New York headquarters, included representatives from all four major networks as well as wireless-microphone and communications system manufacturers Audio-Technica, BSI, Lectrosonics, Radio Active Designs, Sennheiser, Shure, and Sony in addition to representatives from the Society of Broadcast Engineers and various frequency coordinators and other solution providers.

The five-hour meeting examined alternatives to the 600-MHz frequency range that will become unavailable to users of professional wireless systems after the spectrum auction and subsequent re-allocation to wireless carriers is complete, scheduled to take place in in 2016. These alternatives include expanded use of upper UHF bands in the 941-MHz to 960-MHz range, as well as frequency ranges between 1435 MHz to 1525 MHz, and 2020 MHz to 2025 MHz and parts of the 6875 Hz to 7125 MHz BAS bands.

Charlesworth said that the FCC’s OET wanted more specific information about how these bands could be used, what safeguards might be put in place to protect incumbent users, which afforded the best short-term potential, and how much additional spectrum wireless users would need and what areas they thought might be promising for further development.

“We also discussed VHF and other low-frequency ranges that are already being used for comms and the potential for extending their use,” he explained. “Short-term, the 941-MHz to 960-MHz range, which is now used for studio transmitter links and some microwave uses, will likely need to be part of the solution. The 1435 MHz-to-1525 MHz range is allocated for aeronautical telemetry and it is already also used, with special temporary authority, for some wireless camera applications and in some cases wireless microphones. European [wireless] microphone manufacturers already make products in that range, but they would have to add capability for geolocation-awareness and transmitter-to-receiver tethering to ensure that expanded use would not interfere with incumbents.”

Even a solution like that would only work robustly in areas like New York City, where aeronautical testing is rare. In areas like Southern California or even Wichita Kansas, which have bustling aviation industries, those frequencies would be of far less use.

“There are a number of promising solutions, but they’re all encumbered in one way or another,” Charlesworth said.

Charlesworth noted that the process really started in 2010, with the loss of the 700-MHz frequency band, when wireless users struggled to find other parts of the spectrum they could utilize or make more productive (including, at the time, the now-doomed 600-MHz band). “The problem now is that all of the remaining alternatives are either in some way impaired or have other incumbents or both,” he said.

Part of the solution will have to come from enhanced technology. Charlesworth noted that the latest wireless microphone systems have dramatically improved spectral efficiency. “If we can find even an extra five MHz of clean spectrum, we may be able to get another 50 channels in there,” he estimated. “Ultimately, manufacturers may also have to develop products that operate in the less-desirable higher bands above 10 GHz to make up for what we’re losing.”

The meeting with the Spectrum Auction Task Force on June 18, wasn’t cause for optimism and raised concern that some accommodation for wireless microphones in a portion of the so-called “duplex gap” — specifically 4 MHz of spectrum in the 600-MHz range between uplink and downlink operations — may be impaired if the FCC is forced to use of some of that space for television stations. In some geographical areas, like Southern California and along the US-Mexican border, there may not ultimately be spectrum available in the duplex gap to permit reliable wireless use on short notice, such as for breaking news broadcasts, as had been hoped.

On June 22, representatives from the June 12 DTV AG meeting met with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and later with Julius Knapp, chief of the OET, and members of his staff. Charlesworth said that they laid out their conclusions on alternative spectra, their pros and cons, and urged the FCC to act quickly on rule making to allow access to some of these alternate bands.

“We talked about the details of the suggested bands. It would be great if the FCC could move quickly, as it will take manufacturers time to develop product and get it into production,” said Charlesworth, who characterized the meetings as “extremely productive.”

This second major loss of spectrum in less than a decade is obviously hard on wireless audio users, including broadcasters. The fact that they’ve been through this search for alternatives before is of little comfort because there’s that much less usable RF real estate to look to for solutions this time. The pressure is apparent from Charlesworth’s observations that professional wireless users “make good neighbors” because broadcast operations and other professional use is closely coordinated and users tend to be mindful of rules and regulations, a selling point to incumbent spectrum users to encourage sharing of their airwaves. It’s an environment in which any solution, no matter how convoluted its execution may prove to be, is considered seriously.

“The reality is that the future is going to be made up of bits and pieces from here and there within different parts of the frequency spectrum,” says Charlesworth, “and it’ll all have to be shared with someone else.”

BT Sport, Ericsson To Launch UK’s First UHDTV Channel

Mon, 29 Jun 2015 17:13:58 -0400

Ericsson has signed a multi-year broadcast and media services deal with BT Sport to help launch three new television channels and an interactive red button service in the UK.

Ericsson will be responsible for designing, building and running BT Sport Europe, free-to-air service BT Sport Showcase, and BT Sport UHD. BT Sport UHD will be the first ultra-high-definition channel to launch in the UK and will feature live football and other premium content.

Ericsson will also help to deliver BT Sport’s new BT Sport Extra red button service, which will enable viewers to choose between eight UEFA games broadcast live simultaneously – including UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League games.

As part of the deal, BT Sport has also extended Ericsson’s existing six-year contract for BT Sport 1 and 2 by an additional three years. This contract includes playout and media management services and access services for both channels.

Jamie Hindhaugh, COO, BT Sport and BT TV, says, “BT Sport’s UEFA Champions League coverage sets out to bring viewers the best ever experience of football’s leading club competition. Our 4K coverage of the UEFA Champions League alongside other competitions will bring a truly cinematic experience into fans’ living rooms.”

Thorsten Sauer, Head of Broadcast and Media Services at Ericsson, says, “We are very proud that BT has selected Ericsson to help launch a new range of high-profile TV services, including the UK’s first UHDTV channel. BT Sport has made a significant commitment to its sport broadcasting portfolio, and we are delighted that Ericsson will play an integral role in its future success. This partnership is a significant win for our business and really underlines our role as a trusted partner to some of the world’s leading broadcasters and sports rights holders. We will continue to work hard to deliver high-quality, innovative services.”

BT Sport was launched in August 2013 and currently shows exclusive live action from the Premier League, FA Cup, and Europa League. Customers can also enjoy live football matches from top-flight European leagues, including Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1. BT Sport is available via BT TV, Sky’s satellite platform, Virgin Media and via the BT Sport App.

Ericsson and BT Sport have been working on UHDTV together for some time, combining in 2013 for the first full multi-camera production of a sports event captured in 4K UHDTV and transmitted live internationally via satellite and fiber. Last year, Ericsson received the NAB Technology Innovation Award for its work in UHDTV.

EPA Report: CE Now the Fastest-Declining Portion of Municipal Waste Stream

Fri, 26 Jun 2015 11:48:16 -0400

old TV width=A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows consumer electronics (CE) are now the fastest-declining portion of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream, evidence that the environmental footprint of the CE industry is shrinking as products become lighter and less material-intensive.

According to the EPA’s Advancing Sustainable Materials Management Facts and Figures report, the amount of CE products generated in the municipal waste stream fell almost four percent from 2012 to 2013 – the biggest decline of any single product category and more than twice that of the next fastest-declining waste stream – dropping to its lowest level since 2007. At the same time, EPA reports that CE recycling reached an all-time high of 40.4 percent in 2013 – up from 30.6 percent in 2012 – a 10 percent jump in just a single year.

“This report marks a true milestone moment for the CE industry’s impact on the environment,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®. “We’ve gone from the fastest-growing portion of the municipal waste stream to the fastest-declining—a remarkable turnaround. Also, thanks to our industry’s dedicated focus on recycling, consumers now have unprecedented awareness and access to recycling resources. We are working to make recycling your old devices as easy as buying new ones. And those efforts drive the results shown in the new EPA report.”

The EPA also reports the amount of CE products discarded in the municipal waste stream dropped 17.6 percent in 2013 – a quantification of the sharp decline of CE going into U.S. landfills. CE are among the few product categories that enjoyed a decline in discarded products from the previous year, and their reduction is more than three times that of any other product category.

The decline of CE waste generation and landfilling rates in 2013 is mostly attributable to the end of the so-called “CRT era”—referring to the cathode ray tubes that dominated the video display market until the mid-2000s. CRT televisions and monitors are heavier, have smaller screens and use more energy than their flat-panel successors. But, as anticipated by the 2011 CEA-commissioned study Materials Footprint Reduction of Televisions and Computer Monitors: 2004-2010, the lighter flat-panel displays are now displacing CRT devices in the solid waste/recycling stream. Additionally, sales of heavier computing products such as desktop computers have declined over the last decade, while sales of lighter mobile devices have increased dramatically. These and other innovations within the CE industry are producing better products that use lighter and fewer materials, as well as reductions in waste generation as consumers begin to replace these lighter devices.

On the recycling front, CEA announced in April that CE recycling under the eCycling Leadership Initiative reached 660 million pounds in the U.S. last year, the CE industry’s highest ever annual total. According to the Fourth Annual Report of the eCycling Leadership Initiative – a CE industry effort led by CEA – the Initiative’s annual recycling total increased by more than six percent in 2014, 40 million pounds above the 2013 level. The report also says more than 8,500 responsible recycling locations are now available to U.S. consumers, and nearly all (99.9 percent) of the recycling facilitated by Initiative participants was conducted in third party-certified recycling facilities.

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Understanding 4K & Necessary Data Rates from Belden

4K has made some hefty promises to provide better detail, texture, clarity and resolution by quadrupling the number of pixels being delivered. Also known as ultra-high definition resolution, 4K presents four times the picture resolution that standard high-definition resolution offers.

Although displays and technology already exist to support 4K, the lack of 4K content and programming prevents it from permeating the market (although 4K displays can improve the look of standard high-definition content – not just ultra HD content). Most 4K displays and panels are larger in size (at least 55 inches) because the benefits of ultra-high def resolution are less visible on smaller displays.

As it becomes more widespread, 4K will be beneficial across digital cinema, TV, gaming, the internet, and commercial applications (video projection, digital signage, etc.).

Translating to a resolution of approximately eight million active pixels (4096 pixels wide by 2160 vertical high), 4K is delivered in an uncompressed format.

This uncompressed format requires more bandwidth than traditional high-definition. Table 1 below illustrates the data rates that are required to support 4K resolution for different color options at 60 frames per second. At 30 frames per second, the bandwidth requirements are halved.

Suitable infrastructure is also necessary to deliver 4K resolution, including systems that are designed and engineered to handle new frame rate considerations, mismatched resolutions, and source/display compatibility.

Another factor to consider with 4K is its required data rate. To support ultra-high definition resolution and maintain color information, higher data rates are needed as shown in Table 1. The HDBaseT connectivity standard has yet to catch up; it supports HDMI 1.4, not HDMI 2.0. HDBaseT is able to support 4K under certain conditions, but some features will be missing. HDMI 1.4 currently operates at a 10.2 Gbit/s data rate; HDMI 2.0 operates at up to 18 Gbit/s data rate for the highest 4K resolution and color depth. It is possible that a new-generation HDBaseT chipset will be required to support HDMI 2.0 capabilities. For now, many manufacturers are introducing HDBaseT products that can support 4K video within HDMI 1.4.

Due to bandwidth requirements, the industry hasn’t agreed on which cabling options are best suited to deliver 4K signals over longer distances. Signal integrity may be a major issue for proper 4K connectivity; noise interference and increased distances can impact signal quality.

The HDBaseT Alliance indicates that shielded Category 5e and Category 6 cabling will support 4K video, but other vendors state that better cabling is needed (for example, Category 7A). To find the true answers, further research and study are essential.

Belden hopes to verify these claims by doing additional testing in our own labs using different HDBaseT equipment offering 4K capability, along with different cable designs, including shielded Category 6, shielded and unshielded Category 6A, and Category 7A cables. As this testing is completed, we will keep you updated on the findings.

4K Chart

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