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Samsung, Pearl and Sinclair Gear Up for ATSC 3.0 Dry Runs

WASHINGTON—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.

“We’re exploring the capabilities of ATSC 3.0 with technical and consumer testing, usage cases and scenarios,” said John Godfrey, senior vice president of public policy for Samsung.

Samsung, Pearl and Sinclair said the MOU represents a commitment to “work together over the next 18 months to perform technical, field, and consumer testing and other collaboration to support the implementation” of ATSC 3.0. They also will “research ways to enhance reception and to deliver new, immersive services such as UHDTV, high-dynamic range, portable reception, interactivity, targeted advertising, and 21:9 ultra-wide content.” Product development and public demos are also a part of the MOU.

The first of five major components of the standard was elevated to candidate status at the Advanced Television Systems Committee last month. (See “ATSC 3.0 Bootstrap Signal Becomes Candidate Standard.”) This “bootstrap” signal portion of the standard provides a universal entry point for the broadcast waveform, and allows for future modifications without requiring device upgrades. It will remain a candidate standard for nine months while prototype technology is created to test it. The remaining components are expected to reach candidate status by fall.

“We’ll look at how will it help consumers and help broadcasters build new business,” Godfrey said. “We’ll be starting immediately on ATSC 3.0 acceleration activities. This will begin right away. The standard’s not complete, so you have to build a certain amount of technical flexibility, and change the code along the way, but you can do realistic capability testing of the standard.”

Anne Schelle, managing director of Pearl TV, a consortium of nine station groups, said the triad of partners will start developing devices and business models.

“This can develop alongside of the standard,” she said. “We’re only talking a window of six months. We’ve got a pretty good sense of the things in the standard. You can do a lot of implementation testing.”

ATSC 3.0 will be IP-based and therefore support services broadcasters are not now able to offer, said Del Parks, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Sinclair.

“It opens up other possibilities besides over-the-air broadcasting, like mass delivery of bits to cars; the Internet of Things,” he said. “The signaling piece can certainly address over-the-air or update the computer in your car.”

Godfrey referred to 3.0 as the “Swiss Army Knife” of capabilities.

“This will be more efficient, deliver more robust ability, mobile and portable reception, 4K and high dynamic range,” he said. “The whole system is based on IP, and can integrate really well between broadcast and broadband.”

ATSC 3.0 is a radical departure from the current broadcast standard and will not be backward compatible. Existing television sets will not decode it, but Godfrey says chips will be fabricated.

“I think we can expect to see 3.0 chips. What we’re doing now will be using prototypes, which are pre-chip at this point,” he said. “To bring devices out at a consumer friendly price point, there’s nothing more effective as Moore’s Law.

“Over-the-air broadcasting is still very important to device manufacturers like Samsung,” he said. “It’s still a very important way to deliver content to consumers. I think the solutions are going to take advantage of that.”