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ATSC looking for ideas on the future of broadcasting

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has announced a call for proposals for the “physical layer” of the next-generation broadcast TV standard.

The physical layer, it said, is the core transmission system that is the basis for any over-the-air broadcast system, including ultra high-definition technology. In the years ahead, the group said this technology could replace the current digital broadcasting systems used in the United States and around the world.

It has been envisioned that the ATSC 3.0 system will be designed with a “layered” architecture in order to leverage the many advantages of such a system, particularly pertaining to upgradability and extensibility. The specific layering architecture will not be predetermined, but designed as the specification is created, the ATSC said.

With members from the broadcasting, broadcast equipment, motion picture, consumer electronics, computer, cable, satellite and semiconductor industries, the ATSC said it is defining the future of television by developing and approving open technical standards.

The deadline for the initial call for proposals is on Aug. 23. Detailed technical descriptions of proposals are due on Sept. 27.

The next-generation ATSC 3.0 broadcast television standard must provide improvements in performance, functionality and efficiency that are significant enough to warrant the challenges of a t

ransition to a new system.

“ATSC 3.0 should maximize the one‐to‐many (point‐to‐multipoint) attribute of broadcasting, which enables a highly efficient means for distribution of popular content to an unlimited number of receivers,” the ATSC wrote in its call for proposals. “ATSC 3.0 should provide robust mobile services to untethered devices that move, such as phones, tablets, laptops and personal televisions. Since these devices are likely to move across borders, it is highly desirable that the specification contains core technologies which will have broad international acceptance and enable global interoperability.”

The new standard, the ATSC said, is likely to be incompatible with current broadcast systems and, therefore, must provide improvements in performance, functionality and efficiency significant enough to warrant implementation of a non‐backwards‐compatible system. Interoperability with production systems and non‐broadcast distribution systems should be considered.

“The ATSC was formed 30 years ago to create standards for advanced television, and the successful transition to digital television broadcasting using ATSC standards is serving the public well,” said Mark Richer, the ATSC’s president.

“Using the ATSC Digital Television standard adopted by the FCC in 1996, broadcasters led the way in the development and introduction of digital HDTV, a revolutionary advance in picture and sound quality from analog television,” he added. “With the completion of the digital transition in 2009, 108 Megahertz of UHF spectrum is available to be auctioned by the FCC for new wireless broadband uses.”

One of those proposals is sure to come from Sinclair Broadcast Group, a longtime proponent of the OFDM transmission scheme used in Europe, which it hopes will be part of the new ATSC 3.0 standard. In the early morning hours of March 27, as part of an FCC-sanctioned test, engineers at WNUV (the Sinclair-owned CW network affiliate in Baltimore) shut off its ATSC 8-VSB transmitter and fired up an OFDM DVB-T2 exciter for about five hours. Results of this and subsequent tests will be presented to the ATSC commiteee working on the emerging standard that they hope to deploy sometime in 2016.