In the future, broadcast TV signals around the
world will accommodate 4KTV, immersive audio, interactivity, multiscreen
viewing, mobile devices and hybrid services. This is the underlying goal of
ATSC 3.0, the TV transmission methodology now in development at the Advanced
Television Systems Committee, a consortium of broadcasters, vendors and trade
groups involved in standards development.
The ATSC announced that 10 proposals have been submitted for the foundation of
3.0 known as the “physical layer.” This physical layer includes the modulation
scheme, which defines how the signal information is carried by a radio frequency—in
this case, the TV channel.
ATSC 3.0 will be a radical departure from the current standard. ATSC 1.0 was developed
around 20 years ago, when cellphones were analog and streaming was unheard of.
It relies 8-VSB modulation capable of delivering 19.39 Mbps in a 6 MHz TV
channel—enough to carry a high-definition program compressed by a factor of 50
using MPEG-2 to a fixed receiver.
With ATSC 3.0, the committee seeks to increase that data rate by 30 percent, or
roughly 25.2 Mbps. The overall intent of 3.0 is to enable seamless transmission
of HD, 4K, 22.2 audio and other data streams to fixed, mobile and handheld
devices in all types of terrain.
The functional requirements set forth for ATSC 3.0 support that goal by
emphasizing flexibility and scalability, e.g., adaptive and variable bit rates,
various Quality-of-Service methodologies, independent data pipes, multiple
concurrent service support and bandwidth agility.
The “physical layer shall support configurations for differing coverage
scenarios, topographies and morphologies,” the 3.0 Physical Layer Call for
Proposals states. “Seamless changes to robustness and data rate of portions of
streams shall be enabled.”
Support for single-frequency networks, such as those used in distributed
transmission systems, is included by way of tolerance for “long man-made
echoes.” Distributed transmission systems are favored for mountainous areas
because they use synchronized multiple terrestrial transmitters rather than one
large one that can leave coverage gaps.
The most differentiating characteristic of ATSC 3.0 is that it will not be
backward-compatible with 1.0 or even 2.0, which is now in development. In other
words, televisions now capable of processing over-the-air TV signals will not
be able to decode ATSC 3.0 signals. It is also being developed with a global
perspective in mind, meaning that modulation schemes other than 8-VSB—particularly
co-orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing, or COFDM—will likely be on the
One further complication is the continued poaching of broadcast spectrum by the
wireless industry. Broadcasters lost nearly a quarter of their spectrum to
wireless providers in the 2009 digital transition, and face the potential of
losing 40 percent of what remains in next year’s incentive auction. Broadcaster
participation in the 2014 auction is voluntary, but there’s been no discussion
of what happens if too few participate to cover the cost of the auction.
Despite these uncertainties, there is general consensus among broadcasters that
their infrastructure needs a futuristic overhaul. Hence the development of ATSC
3.0. Establishing the physical layer was the first step. The subcommittee
assigned to hammer out ATSC 3.0—TG3—was formed two years ago and is chaired by
James Kutzner of PBS. Luke Fay of Sony and Bill Hayes of Iowa Public TV serve as vice chairmen of the
Specialist Group on the Physical Layer for ATSC 3.0. The group issued a Call
for Proposals in late March. Initial submissions were due Aug. 23. A total of
19 organizations submitted 10 proposals:
Coherent Logix and Sinclair Broadcast Group
Communications Research Centre and Electronics & Telecommunications
Digital Video Broadcasting Project
LG Electronics, Zenith and Harris Broadcast
National Engineering Research Center of Digital Television, Shanghai Jiao Tong
University, Shanghai Advance Research Institute, and Bell Labs,
Qualcomm and Ericsson
Samsung and Sony
Finalized printed documents are due Sept. 27, 2013. The goal is to produce a candidate standard by 2016.
March 28, 2013,
Seeks Next-Gen TV Physical Layer Proposals
It appears some of the requirements could be a bit of
a stretch, but that may not be such a bad idea, considering that ATSC 3.0 will
be replacing a terrestrial DTV standard that’s survived for 15 years.
February 22, 2013,
2013: ATSC 3.0 Update
The current standard was developed 20 years ago and implemented around 15 years
ago. The Internet was on baby legs, processor speeds were measured in
megahertz, storage in megabytes, and networks in kilobytes.
January 22, 2013,
ATSC Implementation Teams to Focus on Commercialization of ATSC 2.0 and M-EAS
The Advanced Television Systems Committee has formed new Implementation Teams
for two new emerging standards -- ATSC 2.0 and the Mobile Emergency Alert
February 15, 2012,
Tech Retreat: The State of ATSC 2.0
ATSC 2.0 will provide a variety of interactive capabilities to broadcasters not
September 6, 2011,
ATSC 3.0 Technology Group Formed To Anticipate TV of the Future
ATSC 3.0 is anticipated to be a series of voluntary technical standards and
recommended practices for the next digital terrestrial television broadcast