LOS ANGELES and WASHINGTON—How do we get there from here? That’s the main question around the emerging transmission technology standard for over-the-air television in the United States. The last time the TV standard was changed, TV stations had two channels—one on which to broadcast in the old analog format while they fired up digital transmitters on the second. This gave the broadcasters time to work out the bugs, and it gave citizen viewers a chance to get caught up to speed on what was going on.
There are no second channels this time.
The Advanced Television Systems Committee, the organization developing the standard, is leaning into the development of two-way technology that would be compatible with the Internet and fundamentally change the way U.S. broadcast TV is delivered.
The new standard—ATSC 3.0—is on a fast track of sorts as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to auction off a portion of the radio frequency spectrum now dedicated to broadcasting. ATSC 3.0 is inherently more spectrum efficient than 1.0, the version currently in use, and could not only preserve, but enhance coverage of over-the-air television.
The question remains, however. How will it be implemented this time around? TV Technology’s Deborah D. McAdams fired off a few questions about a 3.0 transition to Fox’s Richard Friedel, who was recently elected as ATSC board chairman for 2016. Friedel, an industry veteran who is executive vice president and general manager of the Fox Network & Engineering Operations, was joined by ATSC President Mark Richer in the exchange.
The bottom line: broadcasters must cooperate.
TV Technology:Has a transition plan been mapped out?
Richer: While the ATSC board has discussed some concepts for transition to ATSC 3.0, it’s up to the industry to develop an overall strategy. ATSC 3.0 is a global standard and transition plans will differ from country to country.
TV Technology:Is it likely to be a market-by-market process? If so, how would that work?
Friedel: By its nature, broadcasting is local. The transition to ATSC 3.0 will require strategies that take into account such things as spectrum availability, transmission facilities, capacity of existing 1.0 services and potential 3.0 services. As such, it’s unlikely that all U.S. broadcasters will transition to ATSC 3.0 at the same moment.
TV Technology: Will it require nationwide adoption?
Friedel: At the appropriate time, and likely at the request of broadcasters, we expect the FCC to consider ATSC 3.0 as a permissible service on TV channels. The actual rollout, however, is likely not something that will happen coast-to-coast at one time.
TV Technology: How will broadcasters be able to fire up 3.0 while maintaining 1.0 for existing viewers?
Richer: Business discussions are necessary to determine the best way to transition from 1.0 to 3.0, without disrupting service for all viewers in a given market. Detailed logistics will be up to broadcasters to determine.
TV Technology: How will reception be implemented in the absence of a subsidized converter program?
Friedel: TV receivers are far more advanced now than they were back in the late 1990’s. One answer might be USB-style receivers that could plug into a TV and an RF antenna. We also are starting to see new options emerge as prototypes, such as ‘gateway’ receivers that could receive ATSC 3.0 and retransmit the signals as Wi-Fi to be presented on existing tablets, phone, and TV sets in a house. I have no doubt that we’ll see more innovations at the upcoming NAB Show in April.
TV Technology: What new equipment will be necessary for transmitting 3.0?
Richer: That depends on the type of ATSC 3.0 services that a broadcaster wants to offer, and how exactly that broadcaster will transition to 3.0. Certainly, new exciters will be needed at the transmission level. We do expect to see more details at the April NAB Show from a variety of broadcast equipment companies who are designing new products for broadcasters.
TV Technology: Have any vendors committed to manufacturing 3.0 equipment, and if so, how long after the standard is completed will it take them to make it available?
Richer: Equipment manufacturers do not discuss their strategies in ATSC. It looks like several new products are in development, with public and private demonstrations that are based on the ATSC 3.0 Candidate Standard.
(Note in the “Also see…” 3.0 archive below, Teamcast provided an ATSC 3.0 exciter to the Korean Broadcasting System to evaluate the developing transmission standard.)
Note also that Fred Baumgartner has contributed a three-part series on how ATSC 3.0-based broadcasting is crucial to video distribution in an ecosystem of proliferating device types and content preferences:
January 4, 2016
“Part I: April SBE Ennes Workshop to Focus on ATSC 3.0”
The relationship between broadcasting and technology is a deep one that defines us as broadcast engineers.
January 12, 2016
“Part II: ATSC 3.0 Brings Flexibility of IP to Broadcast”
The hardest part of the ATSC 3.0 proposed broadcast standard to get one’s head around is probably the IP transport piece.
January 28, 2016
“PART III: Where Does ATSC 3.0 Fit in a Multichannel Universe?”
Two stakeholders that might not be so excited about ATSC 3.0 include the radio access network (RAN) carriers (the providers of wireless data services) and multichannel video programming distributors.
January 13, 2016
“James O’Neal Reports on ATSC 3.0 Tests At CES 2016”
ONE Media, Pearl TV, Samsung, TeamCast and Sinclair Broadcast Group teamed up to transmit 4K video from a mountain-top low-power transmitter 13 miles from the Las Vegas Convention Center, and displayed on the show floor and in a demo suite in the Wynn Hotel.
January 13, 2016
“Doug Lung on ATSC 3.0, Two-Way ENG and New Mic RFs”
I thought it would be a good time to take a look at new technology trends. Three areas that attracted my attention are ATSC 3.0 (no surprise), two-way ENG and new technology for wireless microphones.
Janaury 6, 2016
“KHMP-LD Delivers Live HDR 4KTV in ATSC 3.0 at CES”
The broadcast, from Las Vegas station KHMP-LD’s transmitter on Nevada’s Black Mountain, is delivering clear 4K HDR content, received for the first time on LG’s new ATSC 3.0-enabled receivers at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
January 5, 2016
“TeamCast Delivers ATSC 3.0 Digital TV Exciter to KBS”
The exTra3.0 is a real-time, standalone terrestrial exciter that supports ATSC 3.0, which is designed to transmit 4K/UHD content.
December 23, 2015
“The ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer—Bootstrap Basics”
Doug Lung parses the 3.0 physical layer.
December 23, 2015
“Q&A: Technicolor’s Alan Stein on Las Vegas ATSC 3.0 Tests”
Technicolor contributed content and prototype reception technology to the simulations, which took place last month in Las Vegas with Sinclair Broadcast Group and ONE Media.
December 15, 2015
“ATSC 3.0 Audio: A Big Bet?”
The debate centers on the two remaining candidates under consideration for the audio codec, AC-4, proposed by Dolby Laboratories, and MPEG-H, supported by the MPEG Audio Alliance.
December 3, 2015
“Sinclair Demos HDR 4KTV Over ATSC 3.0 in Vegas”
Sinclair Broadcast Group, along with subsidiary One Media and Technicolor, report they have successfully transmitted high-dynamic range 4KTV over the air using the proposed ATSC 3.0 standard and a prototype reception device.
November 17, 2015
“ATSC 3.0 DTV Standard Gets Far East ‘Test Drive’”
The engineers were convened “to confirm a common understanding of the ATSC 3.0 specifications A/321, A/322 and other relevant standards, and/or working drafts.”
October 7, 2015
ATSC 3.0: Mark Richer Details Phys Layer CS
The ATSC achieved a significant milestone last week with the elevation of the ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer to Candidate Standard status. TV Technology asked ATSC President Mark Richer to provide more details on the technology and the process…
September 29, 2015
“Samsung, LG, Contributed Technology to ATSC 3.0 Candidate Standard”
Both Korean electronics giants have been integral in developing the U.S. broadcast standard.
September 21, 2015
“ATSC 3.0 Tested With 4K, Mobile in Korea by LG, SBS”
Korean broadcaster SBS partnered with LG Electronics for the country's first live over-the-air broadcast of 4K Ultra HD signals using technologies behind the ATSC 3.0 TV broadcast standard.
September 2, 2015
“Voting on ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer Standard Begins“
Ballots were sent out on Aug. 31 and over the next four weeks members of the TG3 Technology Group will vote on whether to approve or not approve the Physical Layer to Candidate Standard status.
July 13, 2015
“Inside the Cleveland Futurecast ATSC 3.0 Transmission Tests”
And with an experimental high-power ATSC 3.0 transmitter available for test broadcasts at any time during the day, the GatesAir/LG/Zenith Futurecast proposal shows some interesting data from recent tests in Cleveland.
June 17, 2015
“Samsung, Pearl and Sinclair Gear Up for ATSC 3.0 Dry Runs”
Samsung, Pearl TV and Sinclair Broadcast Group are collaborating on how to deploy the next-generation broadcast standard and what to do with it. The three have agreed to a Memo of Understanding “collaboratively to support the development and the implementation” of ATSC 3.0.
May 15, 2015
“Samsung and ONE Media Drive ATSC 3.0 Candidate Standard“
Samsung and ONE Media proposed a hierarchical framework comprised of the ‘bootstrap,’ preamble and data framing to meet broadcasters unique requirements.
May 7, 2015
“ATSC 3.0 Bootstrap Signal Becomes Candidate Standard“
The first of five components in the Physical Layer transmission standard for ATSC 3.0 has been elevated to “Candidate Standard” status.
April 9, 2015
“Technicolor and Sinclair Demo HDR UHD Live Over-the-Air Broadcast”
Technicolor and Sinclair Broadcast Group have announced a successful demonstration of UltraHD with high dynamic range live broadcast based on proposed ATSC 3.0 technologies.
February 12, 2015
HPA 2015: ATSC 3.0 Prototypes Expected in 2016
Prototype ATSC 3.0 receivers may appear as early as next year, according to Skip Pizzi of the National Association of Broadcasters.
“The target is to get a candidate standard out later this year. Prototypes might start showing up in 2016.”
January 5, 2015
CES 2015: Samsung, Comark and TeamCast Demo Live ATSC 3.0
Samsung, Comark and TeamCast will demonstrate a terrestrial broadcast of “full ATSC 3.0 technology” at CES 2015. The demonstration will show a live transmission of MPEG‐H HEVC ultra HD video and MPEG‐H 3D audio content.
October 22, 2014
“Futurecast Demo Shows Simultaneous 4K, HD and Mobile Reception”
Quincy Group’s WKOW-TV conducted a second round of field testing with the Futurecast terrestrial broadcasting system developed by Zenith, LG and GatesAir.
October 8, 2014
“Sinclair and Technicolor Do ATSC 3.0 4K Over-the-Air Broadcast”
Sinclair Broadcast Group and Technicolor said they successfully deploying Technicolor’s ATSC 3.0 4K UltraHD testbed platform and receiving an over-the-air signal. The Technicolor platform, based on open audio, video and transport standards including Scalable HEVC (SHVC), MPEG-H audio and MPEG-MMT transport, has been integrated into Sinclair’s experimental OFDM transmission system in Baltimore, Md.
August 27, 2013
“TV Tomorrow: ATSC 3.0 Advances”
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.
March 28, 2013
“ATSC 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.
March 27, 2013
“ATSC Seeks Proposals for ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer”
Glenn Reitmeier, ATSC chairman, noted that, “the ATSC 3.0 effort is a crucial time for broadcasters, professional equipment manufacturers, consumer device manufacturers and all stakeholders to collaborate and create the future capabilities of over-the-air broadcasting.”
February 22, 2013
“HPA 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
“New 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 System.
February 15, 2012,
“HPA Tech Retreat: The State of ATSC 2.0”
ATSC 2.0 will provide a variety of interactive capabilities to broadcasters not now available.
September 6, 2011
“New 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 system.
(Note in the “Also see…” 3.0 archive below, Teamcast provided an ATSC 3.0 exciter to the Korean Broadcasting System to evaluate the developing transmission standard.