AXINO-TECH FAQ PAGE

Last updated: 31 December 2017

BUSINESS RELATED

What sort of work do you perform?

As of March 2018 I have retired from business although I may accept some requests for work assuming this work may be performed at my Wellington office. Work may be for minor consultancy, design or design reviewing as well as technician work such as electronic product assembly, prototyping and testing. Enquire via the Contact Page. My experience lies mainly in broadcast such as FM, DAB, digital TV and related fields.

What are your qualifications?

I am a qualified electronics technician and hold the New Zealand Certificate of Engineering (NZCE) in telecommunications. In addition I have attended many advanced and specialist broadcasting courses. Finally I have over 40 years experience in the broadcasting industry, mainly in transmission, covering technologies of analogue TV, digital TV, FM, DAB, lab testing and electronics in general.

Do you sell spare parts or service appliances?

No, I do not sell spare parts and also do very little servicing. Occasionally, I will check an appliance for people just to give them an idea of whether it is worth repairing.

How much does it cost to engage you?

Not much! But seriously, it depends. I have hourly contract rates with several clients. In fact the rates differ depending on the type of work and the expertise required. Sometimes I simply agree to a fixed amount for a particular job. If a job is straight-forward, with a defined outcome, then a fixed price is the way to go, giving both myself and the client certainty of budgeting. Depending on my workload and whether I expect a job will be enjoyable and stress-free, I can be engaged quite cheaply. Please enquire via the contact page.

Why would I choose you instead of someone else?

For a couple of reasons. First, I am independent, with no affiliations to any other business or service and I do not resell products. That means I am not restricted to recommending only advertisers products at the expense of others. Second, because I can choose the jobs that suit my skills. I am up front when I don't think I can help. Not to mention I negotiate fair rates.

Do you install Freeview for people?

I do advise about Freeview regularly and also do some troubleshooting, but usually do not install antennas. I have done simple installs at commercial premises and, of course for friends, but I prefer to leave that sort of thing to younger people who really enjoy clambering over roofs, in attics and tiny crawl spaces.

TECH QUESTIONS

How many different programmes can Freeview have on the terrestrial system?

Currently, Freeview has five separate DVB-T multiplexes broadcasting nationwide in the UHF band. In the future, this might increase. TVNZ operates one multiplex, MediaWorks operates another and Kordia operates the third and fourth and fifth, leasing space to a variety of independent broadcasters. All these multiplexes are under the 'Freeview' umbrella. Each multiplex has a nett usable capacity of 26.3Mb/s (megabits per second). Each operator can choose to provide a mix of HD and SD services. For example; at the time of writing, TVNZ has three HD services (TV1,TV2 and Duke) plus three SD services ("TV1+1" , "TV2+1" and currently a temporary SD pop-up channel for the 2018 Commonwealth Games) on their multiplex. They statistically multiplex their programmes; each programme has a variable bit-rate (VBR). The average bit-rate for their SD programmes is between 2-3Mb/s and the average for HD programmes is about 6Mb/s. The MPEG4 (h.264) compression algorithms are very efficient. So, TVNZ has an average bit-rate totalling between 22Mb/s and 26Mb/s. Given some headroom for peaks, there is not much capacity left. I have an article on this subject linked from here.

In some N.Z regions, transmission services are provided by JDA and in these areas, the full combination of national programmes may not be available.

Do you know if all Freeview programmes will be in HD eventually?

A good question; I have no special crystal ball, but my expectation is no. Broadcasters see no more income from HD than for SD and indeed, HD programmes cost them more to buy. Each broadcaster makes its own decisions, even though they are under the Freeview banner. The Kordia multiplexes are currently not fully loaded in total, but these are used primarily for a wide mix of third level broadcasters; none of whom show any interest in HD nor have a lot of income to support it. Prime (owned by SKY) is still SD, and although there have been noises about them committing Prime to HD, they are currently planning their own on-line services which will likely take the focus away from Prime.

Will Freeview adopt the DVB-T2 standard for terrestrial services as was used for the now defunct SKY "Igloo" service?

It seems there is little impetus for this. Not only would that mean that the studios and transmission providers would need significant investment, practically every current Freeview TV would not receive the service and would need to be replaced. Although going to DVB-T2 would provide approximately 35% more capacity than at present, the Freeview terrestrial platform currently has spare capacity when totalled over the five multiplexes.

Going to DVB-T2 does not mean that 4k (UHD) services would be easy either. UHD would use a large part of a single multiplex, thus making it difficult for any one broadcaster to provide multiple programmes unless they were able to generate an agreement to carry some of their services on another multiplex with spare capacity. At the time of writing, that seems unlikely. However, with the promise of HEVC (H.265) coding around the corner, the problem might be alleviated.

In 2017, in Germany, digital TV transmission was switched from DVBT to DVB-T2 overnight across the entire country. Of course, all existing receivers were rendered obsolete, but there was plenty of publicity leading up to the date. This was quite a dramatic change however, only about 10% of viewers in Germany get TV from broadcast; the vast majority use cable.

Historical Note: "Igloo" closed in March 2017 but your Igloo box can act as a basic Freeview box if you allowed SKY to perform a firmware change during the first half of March.

If I suspect there is a transmission problem, who do I call?

Don't ask! OK, you did. Not so easy I'm sorry to say, because everyone runs for cover until there is no further place to hide. There is no 'one-stop' fault-line for TV in this country. You might have imagined Freeview themselves might perform this function, but alas, no.

Step 1 is to ensure that the problem is them, not you. Could it be your TV or your aerial (or dish)? Check another TV in the house first. If that has the same problem, is it your aerial or dish? Go and ask a near neighbour if they have the same problem. Does it happen only on one programme? That will narrow it down to either the broadcaster or the transmission provider in your area; Kordia or JDA. Generally, if the transmission has a problem, all programmes in the same MUX will be affected. e.g If a transmission fault was affecting TV3, then TV3+1, Bravo and Bravo+1 will, most likely also be affected. If the problem looks like just one programme, then the individual broadcaster is probably the culprit.

So, for TV1 or TV2, you could contact TVNZ. For TV3 or Bravo, you could contact MediaWorks. There is no guarantee they will tell you anything but that is your only recourse. The less obvious situation is for a problem affecting a programme which is broadcast on the Kordia or JDA multiplexes. They have a large number of broadcaster clients providing the programme streams. e.g Choice, HGTV, APNA, Firstlight, Prime etc. Try and find a helpline for any of them! As an illustration, there was a sound sync problem on Prime early in 2013, which badly affected the programme 'Sinking of the Laconia'. The sound was warbling like an old tape deck afflicted with wow and flutter. I emailed Prime about it. They did reply, although with the unhelpful advice that I should contact Freeview. I did that, and received the response that I should contact the TV set manufacturer! Alas, since I had checked several brands of TV and had others noting the same problem, the TV was never going to be the fault. It of course, turned out to be an equipment problem with Prime's (SKY) linking to the broadcast DVB-T headend. I believe that Freeview should accept the responsibility for providing a single point of contact, given that the public in general has no idea of the chains of responsibility involved in making pictures appear (or not) on their TV's.

There is a small ray of hope now and that is the Freeview Forum. Possibly a bit techy for some but a starting point to see if there are any network issues notified.