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NextGen TV Poised to Move Out in Big Way in 2020

(Image credit: DrGrounds/iStockphoto)

Now that the fast-tracked repacking of U.S. TV spectrum is nearing completion, broadcasters have a little more time to focus on moving to the world’s newest and most versatile transmission platform. This recently developed standard, ATSC 3.0—now officially branded “NextGen TV”—and the high-quality content and “Swiss Army knife” feature set it brings to the viewing screen is destined to have profound effects on the way stations prepare content, how consumers access that video content and even the way companies in the broadcast sector structure and operate their businesses.

INDUSTRY EXPERTS SAY...

Madeleine Noland, Advanced Television Systems Committee

 “ATSC 3.0 is a new broadcast technology and the idea behind ATSC 3.0 is that broadcasters need to modernize. The current standard is 20 years old. Modernization is extremely important. Broadcasters and ATSC got together and said we need a new standard to modernize for now and for the future. [NextGen TV’s] internet protocol backbone is very important, particularly as we get into a 5G world and look at other global standards which are all IP-based.”

Dave Folsom, Technical Consultant, “Phoenix Model Market” ATSC 3.0 Test and Implementation Project

“The largest part of the standards work is now complete. Broadcast equipment and receiver development as well as testing, has been done over the last two years. At least three major manufacturers showed 20 different models of receivers equipped to receive the new NextGen TV signal. It’s important now for the broadcast industry to step up and do their part in getting signals on the air to provide the features of NextGen TV to their viewers.”

 Jerald Fritz, ONEMedia

“[With NextGen TV] we get phenomenal enhancements to our traditional linear TV service with pictures available in ultra-high definition, wide color gamut, high dynamic range and high frame rate — images that almost leap off the screen. Immersive sound in multiple languages adds to the rich new video experience. And the advanced emergency information capabilities of the new standard make it a critical, must-include feature in all receive devices.”

TELEVISION, THE NEXT CHAPTER

IP, or Internet Protocol, technology is at the core of NextGen TV, as it’s deployed via a hybrid mix of signals delivered both over the air and through the internet, and long-established equipment suppliers such as transmitter manufacturer Hitachi-Comark are ready to help broadcasters make the NextGen move. In addition to ATSC 3.0-ready exciters such as EXACT-V2 DTV, the company has created a new division to make it easier to move into the IP connectivity that’s an integral part of NextGen.

“IP connectivity and NextGen TV are very closely coupled concepts,” said Joe Turbolski, Hitachi-Comark’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Both are key factors in driving product development decisions at Hitachi-Comark. We launched Comark Digital Services (CDS) in 2018 to integrate NextGen TV solutions for broadcasters,” he said. “CDS focuses on ‘all things IP,’ including encoding, signaling servers, broadcast gateways, as well as IP delivery solutions over pubic internet links.”

Triveni Digital, which has been an active participant in the development of the NextGen TV standard, is also ready to assist broadcasters in moving to this new delivery platform. And with the requirement for stations to maintain a “conventional” ATSC 1.0 service for the viewers in addition to NextGen TV transmissions, Ralph Bachofen, Triveni’s vice president of sales and marketing, views cloud technology as a very useful tool in this respect.

“The transition to ATSC 3.0 is underway, and simulcasting will be a requirement as broadcasters migrate to NextGen TV,” said Bachofen. “By offering simultaneous delivery of ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 services from a unified infrastructure, along with innovations like ATSC 3.0 streaming from the cloud, we are making this transition as simple and efficient as possible. Our new solution for streaming ATSC 3.0 from the cloud is available as a SaaS (software as a service) business model, lowering the cost for new channels and services by eliminating capex costs. The solution includes support for the Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) protocol to ensure a secure broadcast communications path in the cloud.”

BROADCASTERS PLANNING LARGE NEXTGEN TV PUSH

Although NextGen TV broadcasts aren’t readily available now, that will likely change soon, with plans for service in some 40 television markets by the end of 2020.

Television stations joining the “pioneers” in Raleigh-Durham, Baltimore and Phoenix include stations in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, Fla.

ATSC President Madeleine Noland, speaking in a March 19 interview, added that even with the major upset created by the Coronavirus, she was optimistic that the planned rollout would continue.

“We’re hopeful to keep that momentum going by providing a platform for our members to talk about what they’re up to with 3.0 as they head into April,” said Noland. “We’re optimistic that work is going to continue apace. I know that everybody has a lot of great ideas on their minds and want to carry them forward.” 

—James E. O’Neal

SFN NETWORKS PART OF THE BIG PICTURE

NextGen TV also greatly simplifies deployment of single-frequency networks (SFNs) to help broadcasters provide better service throughout their market area by filling in coverage “dead spots” stemming from terrain and other issues. Transmitter manufacturer GatesAir has supported broadcasters in SFN deployment in several areas of the world, and is now poised help ease U.S. broadcasters into this mode of operation.

“The U.S. broadcaster has long operated this ‘tried-and-true’ model where content is received from a studio and transported to a big stick transmission side via fiber or microwave,” said Joe Seccia, GatesAir’s TV transmission market and product development strategy manager. “While there are other network configuration options, the majority of NextGen TV networks may broadcast content using an SFN model with several transmitter sites. There are other alternatives to consider, and this is where efficient network planning will help broadcasters get the most out of their signal coverage.”

The year 2020 is destined to go down in the history books for many reasons. One of these will be the arrival of a television broadcast standard that provides image quality, a feature set and versatility almost unimaginable when the new century began, and NextGen TV is that standard.