OFDM-Based ‘Futurecast’ ATSC 3.0 Proposed by LG, Zenith and Harris Revealed

WASHINGTON — This lead is not for the faint of heart: One of the primary developers of the current 8-VSB over-the-air broadcast transmission standard is proposing a future system based on OFDM. Backers of the two technologies came to loggerheads in the 1990s when the first-ever DTV transmission standard was being adopted in the United States. 8-VSB won out.

Now, Zenith— which patented 8-VSB, the core technology behind the current over-the-air U.S. DTV transmission standard—along with parent corporation LG, and Harris Broadcast, are proposing a standard based on orthogonal frequency demodulation, or OFDM, “with optimized pilot patterns for enhanced performance over traditional OFDM modulation approaches,” according to a spokesman. They’re calling it the “Futurecast Universal Terrestrial Broadcasting System.”

The three companies say Futurecast UTB provides a 30 percent improvement in data throughput over the current 8-VSB standard while maintaining reception coverage and improving “multipath performance for fixed and portable TV reception.”

The 250-page proposal was submitted to the Advanced Television Systems Committee for the development of ATSC 3.0, the next-generation DTV transmission standard.

In addition to the beefed-up data load and multipath resistance, LG says the Futurecast model “includes energy-saving features for consumer receivers and enhanced indoor TV signal penetration, thanks to flexible coding choices. Advanced modes also deliver very high data rates or very robust transmission capabilities.”

The first round of ATSC 3.0 proposals, comprising the “physical layer” or the foundation of the standard, were sought by the Advanced Television Systems Committee last March and announced in August. There were 10 in all, including submissions based on DVB, the European digital TV transmission standard. Others likely proposed software-defined radio technology and “cloud” transmission systems, according to Doug Lung’s Sept. 9, 2013, report, “ATSC Receives 3.0 Physical Layer Proposals.”

“In addition to significantly increased data capacity and improved robustness, the Futurecast UTB System includes state-of-the-art error-correction coding and signal constellations,” the announcement said. “The system’s optimized pilot patterns promise enhanced performance over traditional OFDM modulation approaches.”

Futurecast also is said to “optimize efficiency for the most-used data formats—Internet Protocol, Transport Stream—via customized stream compression.

LG further said the system supports single-frequency networks and/or multiple transmitters and uses a single RF transmission’s flexible physical layer profile to assure optimum quality-of-service. The extensible new system is designed to support evolution to future broadcast systems beyond ATSC 3.0, LG said.