The $3 “software defined radio” chips, developed by Saankhya Labs, an India-based company in which Sinclair’s ONE Media has a financial stake, will allow mobile devices like smartphones to receive ATSC 3.0. The challenge will be to get the chips in phones. There is no law or FCC rule requiring makers of mobile devices to include 3.0 chips, and, thus far, wireless companies have turned a cold shoulder to proposals to include broadcast receiver chips in the smartphones they control.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is planning to unveil an ATSC 3.0 receiver chip at the CES show in January that it is hoping will open the door for broadcasters to beam traditional video programming and other fare directly to the smartphones, notebooks and other mobile devices of consumers.
The $3 “software defined radio” (SDR) chips, developed by Saankhya Labs, an India-based company in which Sinclair’s ONE Media has a financial stake, will allow the mobile devices to receive ATSC 3.0, the voluntary next-gen TV standard that the FCC authorized U.S. broadcasters to start rolling out late last year.
“Our first sample of SDR chips comes out of the Samsung foundry in November, [and] working chips will be demonstrated at CES,” said Mark Aitken, Sinclair VP of advanced technology, who sits on Saankhya’s board.
The challenge will be to get the chips in phones. There is no law or FCC rule requiring makers of mobile devices to include 3.0 chips, and, thus far, wireless companies that have a lot of say about what goes into the devices have turned a cold shoulder to proposals to include broadcast receiver chips in the smartphones they control.
Because the Sinclair chips are configured by software, they will also be able to pick up signals broadcast under 22 other international standards, as well as any new standards adopted in ATSC 3.0’s wake, said Aitken.
Sinclair is also lobbying in favor of India adopting an ATSC 3.0- based standard that would include critical patented SBG technology that is part of the 3.0 standard in the U.S., Aitken said.
The Baltimore-based broadcaster is hoping that India’s adoption of a “direct-to-mobile” (DTM) ATSC-based standard will help fuel demand for the mobile receiver chips in India, and eventually in the U.S., Aitken said.
“We want to prime the pump globally for consumer electronics manufacturers and entice phone makers and others to include the chip as a routine part of the consumer offering,” he said.
Tuners capable of receiving both ATSC 3.0 and ATSC 1.0, the existing TV standard, have already been included in more than half of the TV sets being acquired by Korean consumers, and smartphones in Korea will include similar chip technology “when broadcasters migrate to mobile ATSC 3 from T-DMB in the years ahead,” said John Taylor, a spokesman for Korea-based LG Electronics.
But the Korean tuners, as currently designed, will not work for 3.0 signals in the U.S., Taylor added. “Not exactly the same,” he said in an email. “Different audio system, for instance.”
Aiken said the Sinclair chips will be upgradable for revisions within the standard and will work for all kinds of mobile and fixed devices while consuming one-tenth to one-twentieth of the power of other chips.
“Imagine accessory devices of low power requirements,” Aitken said.
Sinclair has been beefing up its profile in India as U.S. broadcasters search for new business opportunities for 3.0.
In India, SBG is working on ATSC-based standards proposals along with Reliance JIO, Airtel and other India carriers, Aitken said.
In India, the wireless companies don’t have the same leverage that U.S. carriers do over control of the phones used by their customers, Aitken added.
ONE Media is a member of TSDSI, India’s telecom standards development organization. The broadcaster is working with India’s carriers “on a new work item proposal” regarding convergence between Next Gen broadcast and 4G/5G wireless, Aitken said.
TSDSI is one of the seven organizational partners in 3GPP, the standards-setting organization developing the new generation of 5G standards for the wireless industry.
In the U.S., Sinclair plans to stick to the 3.0 suite of standards while addressing traditional television, Aitken said. It is not planning any revisions to the ATSC 3.0 standard “at this time.”
But ONE Media is developing its own proprietary standard for the non-TV sorts of money-making opportunities that Sinclair believes ATSC technology offers broadcasters.
“We are working across multiple industry segments to make such opportunities real,” Aitken said.
Spokespersons for the National Association of Broadcasters and Pearl TV group declined comment on Sinclair’s development of its own standards.