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Zenith, NxtWave Submit Joint VSB Enhancements

Zenith and NxtWave Communications said they have completed agreements to jointly develop compatible data-transmission enhancements for the VSB modulation system in the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) DTV standard.

The two companies said they have merged their independent proposals for the ATSCs call for 8-VSB “enhancements” to create a signal best-of-breed system that integrates the strengths of the separate proposals. Representatives from each company said the modified proposal now “exceeds the requirements of the ATSC request for proposals,” which is looking for a broadened DTV transmission system.

The companies said chipsets could be ready for ATSC receivers within 12 months of an ATSC approval of the technology. Mark Richer, ATSC executive director, said the ATSC’s T3S9 Group is currently reviewing eight proposals for 8-VSB enhancements as it prepares drafts of a revised ATSC system, and is scheduled to issue a recommendation to the ATSC at the end of May. The full ATSC is expected to finish its final approval late in 2002.

Richer said a primary objective in the T3S9 Group’s recommendation will be backward compatibility with existing 8-VSB equipment.

Matt Miller, NxtWave CEO, said the combined system, which has been submitted to the ATSC for approval, is backward compatible with the existing 8-VSB system, meaning owners of early DTV decoders will not be adversely affected. The new system would be transmitted in tandem with the original 8-VSB system inside the 19.6 Mbps signal of a DTV channel. The new data could be used to improve signal reception in problem areas (particularly using indoor antennas), the companies said. It can also be used to facilitate transmission of a variety of ancillary programming services ranging from datacast text and graphics to the simultaneous transmission and HDTV and SDTV programming inside a station’s signal bandwidth.

Specifically, the joint system combines NxtWave’s error-correction coding and pre-coder solution with Zenith’s dataframe mapping, interleaving and packing algorithm, the companies said.

New receivers with Zenith-NxtWave technology will be able to decode the standard 8-VSB and the more robust enhanced signal with improved multipath performance for both, as well as better signal acquisition and significantly improved “white noise” performance for enhanced programs and data.

“By joining forces with a company of NxtWave’s caliber, we have developed a unified, technically advanced proposal that further enhances DTV reception for indoor, portable and pedestrian applications,”said Richard Lewis. Zenith senior VP.

Zenith emphasized the joint solution will continue to provide equipment manufacturers with a “one-stop shop” for VSB licensing. Under the agreement, Zenith will license related intellectual property of both companies –- without any increase in royalty rate, it said.

For consumers who have already purchased DTV receivers, the companies said it may be possible to upgrade legacy devices using an add-on box that can utilize the enhanced VSB content.