James O’Neal Reports on ATSC 3.0 Tests At CES 2016

LAS VEGAS—Following quickly on last October’s ATSC 3.0 Plug Fest physical layer compatibility testing in Shanghai, promoters of the new Candidate Standard for digital TV broadcasting were ready to impress attendees at the Jan. 6-9 CES here with continuous over-the-air broadcast demonstrations of its ability to handle UHD video and other functionalities.

ONE Media, Pearl TV, Samsung, TeamCast and Sinclair Broadcast Group teamed up to put together the demo, with 4K video being transmitted from a mountain-top low-power transmitter located about 13 miles from the Las Vegas Convention Center and displayed on monitors both on the show floor and in a special demo suite a few blocks away at the Wynn Hotel.

The solid video displayed at both venues attested to the robustness of the new modulation standard and its ability to overcome high-rise multipath challenges. (The Wynn suite was located on the side of the hotel opposite the transmitter location and the receiver there was fed by a small indoor consumer antenna.)

Kevin Gage, ONE Media’s executive vice president and chief technical officer (pictured above), acted as spokesperson during the private demonstrations and was quick to tout the many advantages offered to both consumer and broadcaster by ATSC 3.0.

“In developing the new standard we wanted to avoid the ‘one-size-fits-all’ situation associated with [ATSC] 1.0,” said Gage, describing some of the attributes of ATSC 3.0, which include the ability to handle high dynamic range, extended color gamut, immersive audio, targeted advertising, delivery of multiple resolutions and video formats for reaching numerous viewing devices, and a “bootstrap” feature that can “wake up” a consumer’s receiver to provide critical information in emergency situations.

In commenting on this enhanced emergency alerting capability, Gage noted that as the standard is IP-based, a broadcaster can “dynamically open up new streams and put up all sorts of things, such as evacuation routes, weather radar displays, storm tracks and maps.”

Gage also observed that a broadcaster could use this capability to deal with a common situation in live sports coverage—dealing with a baseball game that that runs into extra innings.

“In the past, the broadcaster had to decide whether to shut off the baseball game or to delay the regular program which followed it,” Gage said. “Now the broadcaster doesn’t have to make that choice,” demonstrating how quickly and easily another transmission path could be enabled, allowing the viewer to decide whether to continue following the sporting event or to go to a newscast or other program airing before the game ended.

“RF is now just a big IP pipe,” Gage said, noting that it was just as easy to transmit 4K video as it would be to send 100 music streams in the same “pipe.”

The Wynn demo facility also included low-power ATSC 3.0 transmitting gear and a UHD server to allow Gage to show off another feature of the standard—the melding of off-air and Internet-delivered video to create a “hybrid” television system that provided the best of both worlds. With the addition of a wireless gateway to create a home Wi-Fi “hotspot,” viewers can view programs on tablets and other devices and easily pick and choose content. This approach to television also allows broadcasters to offer “hyperlocal” material to enhance news and other programming.

“This hyperlocal approach also provides another opportunity to sell ads,” Gage said as he illustrated how easily information about local stores and dealerships could be added to commercials being aired. Such targeting could even be done right down to a neighborhood level, with electronic discount coupons being sent for a nearby restaurant or other business, and captured on a smart device by the consumer. And if a viewer wanted to provide a personal profile, special offers could be directed to him or her directly to match personal preferences.

Gage also noted that the flexibility offered by ATSC 3.0 could help broadcasters bring HDR into the existing HD television receiver ecosystem, and that it would enable broadcasters to make use of existing 1080-line content until 4K video became the norm. To illustrate this later point, he offered a demo with upconverted 1080 material displayed on a UHD monitor.

Also mentioned was the “service-following” capability of 3.0, which would allow someone viewing programming on a mobile device to seamlessly move from one market to an adjacent one without any discontinuity in reception.

“ATSC 3.0 provides really good indoor reception, really good mobile reception, and it has the ability to provide service that follows consumers from DMA to DMA,” Gage said, noting that it was ATSC 3.0’s adaptability to single frequency transmission architecture that made such service-following easy to implement.

In addition to Samsung’s exhibit hall display of off-air UHD from the temporary Black Mountain transmitter, LG also was showing the over-the-air 4K demo content received at the convention center from its own transmissions. (See“KHMP-LD Delivers Live HDR 4KTV in ATSC 3.0 at CES.)

Sinclair helped arrange the off-air signal for the demo, according to the company’s vice president of engineering, Harvey Arnold. The signal was provided by a 5 kW Rohde & Schwarz solid-state transmitter equipped with 3.0-enabled TeamCast Vortex exciter operating with an FCC-granted Special Temporary Authority from atop Black Mountain, a popular Las Vegas TV/FM transmission platform located south of the city.

Arnold said that the transmitter fed a Dielectric panel antenna to provide an EIRP (equivalent isotropically radiated power0 of about 20 kW, and was being operated under an FCC special temporary authorization on Ch. 45. He noted that the bit rate being used for the UHD video transmission was 25 mbps.

“The commission took only two days to issue the STA for the demo transmitter,” Arnold said. “I think they’re really wanting to see ATSC 3.0 succeed.”

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November 17, 2015

ATSC 3.0 DTV Standard Gets Far East ‘Test Drive
History was made here last month as a multinational group of television engineers gathered to perform systems compatibility testing of the ATSC 3.0 digital TV standard. The event, officially dubbed “Plug Fest 2015,” was hosted by China’s National Engineering Research Center of Digital Television, Oct. 19-23.