GatesAir: Powering NEXTGEN TV In D.C.


GatesAir, known for its wireless, over-the-air content delivery products used by radio and TV stations across the U.S., has joined forces with Pearl TV and Howard University to bring NEXTGEN TV service to Washington, D.C.

GatesAir will ship a Maxiva ULXTE-50 UHF transmitter to Howard University’s WHUT-TV in preparation for an October launch, forming the nucleus of the public broadcaster’s new ATSC 3.0 transmission facility. WHUT, the market’s secondary PBS member station, will serve as the host station for the collaborative effort — using the liquid-cooled GatesAir transmitter to carry NEXTGEN TV signals from WHUT and four local commercial broadcast network affiliates.

WHUT brings several compelling advantages as a lighthouse station, including a prime location in the city that will maximize market reach. Howard University’s academic resources and educational initiatives will add value to the cooperative effort taking shape in DC. These include a Media Technology Innovation Learning Lab that, in cooperation with NAB, was formed to drive industry collaboration and develop new NEXTGEN TV services. Working closely with NAB, Howard University is also the only learning institution in the United States to offer a dedicated NEXTGEN TV seminar series, which is an educational platform for next-gen eration engineering talent. This important initiative gives students a chance to be on the ground level of NEXTGEN TV development for the Washington DC service.

Local commercial stations WJLA (ABC), WUSA (CBS), WTTG (FOX) and WRC (NBC) will join WHUT in the delivery of HD programming and standard-definition sub-channels (including the PBS Kids service) from the GatesAir transmitter. The transmitter will also carry new digital and multimedia services supported through the ATSC 3.0 standard.

“WHUT is testing many of the datacasting concepts that come with NEXTGEN TV, and all four commercial stations are sharing innovative ideas,” said Sean Plater, Acting General Manager of WHUT. “WHUT will look to provide internet access to those without broadband internet service, particularly in the Ward 7 and 8 neighborhoods of Washington DC. All five stations are looking at emergency alerts and interactive services that weren’t before possible with local television. A Howard University student is interning with Pearl TV this summer to help develop a new application, and we hope to involve more students in these development processes over time.”

Pearl TV Managing Director Anne Schelle added that the Washington DC model exemplifies the spirit of public and commercial broadcasters working together to advance the future of local television. “The commercial stations recognized the challenges that Howard University would have as a lighthouse station and, along with GatesAir and other partnering technology suppliers, played important roles in funding this project,” she said.

GatesAir is one of many suppliers supporting the initiative. The Maxiva ULXTE-50 transmitter, built at GatesAir’s Quincy, Ill., manufacturing center, will provide interoperability with the encoders, schedulers, and other key technologies within WHUT’s transmission headend. GatesAir will provide installation and commissioning services for its transmitter, which integrates an ATSC 3.0-ready GatesAir Maxiva XTE exciter.

— Brian Galante