HPA 2013: ATSC 3.0 Update

INDIAN WELLS, CALIF. – There is general agreement on at least one thing in broadcasting.

“We can’t be locked into a single mode of operation as we are now,” said Jim Kutzner of PBS at the Hollywood Post Alliance Technology retreat recently. Kutzner was on deck providing an update on the next-generation transmission standard known as “ATSC 3.0.” Full draft requirements for 3.0 are expected to be completed by the end of March.

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 I kilobytes. Cellphones were analog, and pagers were two-way.

The new standard needs to accommodate TVs connected to the Internet, targeting, personalization and immersive content, among other things. The 3.0 planning team is tackling the advanced standard from three directions—increased flexibility and efficiency, a reconsideration of the physical layer, and integration with other delivery technologies.

It’s also expected that 3.0 will not be backward compatible and therefore, expensive to implement. Transitioning to 3.0 will be a “forklift upgrade,” so the question for developers now is how much better it needs to be.

Skip Pizzi of the NAB provided more details. He said the draft requirements coming in March will comprise overall system design guidance, and a valuation of a non-backward compatible system—based on criteria from about 60 “highly granular” use cases.

Pizzi said a couple of scenarios were derived from the criteria. The first considered flexible use of spectrum, robustness, mobility, 4K, 3D, multiscreen viewing and hybrid services. The second included enhanced and immersive audio, accessibility, advanced emergency alerting, interactivity, advertising and a common world standard.

The data and scenarios were shared “bilaterally” with the Future of Broadcast TV group, a global consortium organized to bring some uniformity to broadcast standards. Membership includes 50 organizations on five continents.

Specialist group No. 2 within the Advanced Television Systems Committee is putting out a call for proposals just on the physical layer, he said. Those proposals will be due later this year, with evaluation taking place through mid-2014.

The FoBTV group is concurrently trying to gather all the work of the standards bodies around the world to determine “one worldwide standard,” or as Pizzi put it, “some kind of convergence.”

The proposed timeline would produce a candidate standard by 2016, given MPEG-H Par 3 FDIS for 3D audio, for example, is done by January of 2015.
~ Deborah D. McAdams