South Korean Testbed Hopes To Confirm 3.0 Service Models
While some 15 million tourists may visit Jeju Island off the southern tip of South Korea to experience what a 2011 global poll designated as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, the Korea Radio Promotion Association (RAPA) has its own big plans for the island: attracting the world’s biggest TV broadcasting players.
“Beginning in 2020, we will operate an ATSC 3.0 testbed as a public-private partnership and invite those in the 3.0 ecosystem — whether you are a broadcaster, telecom, consumer electronics supplier or broadcast equipment vendor — to participate in trials of NextGen TV services from the facilities we have established on Jeju Island,” says RAPA Communications Manager Jay Kangok Jeon.
To date, the association has taken several key steps to setting up the testbed. It has won approval for an experimental license from the Korean Communications Commission to permit ongoing testing, acquired NextGen TV transmitters and the other RF equipment for the trials, rolled out some single frequency network (SFN) sites with the goal of establishing others and even secured a variety of 3.0 consumer receivers, Jeon says.
“We want to offer facilities to enable evaluation of future-oriented service models that can be tested and verified.”
Such service model testing is fundamental to unearthing the data broadcasters need to make informed decisions about how they can best take advantage of the new opportunities 3.0 enables.
“You may be considering a move to ATSC 3.0 service,” says Jeon. “But before you can do that, your first step should be to determine what kind of service model you want to provide the consumer. It should match your business plan.”
For example, a broadcaster may which to offer personalized content, including advertising, to viewers via 3.0. However, before investing the time, capital and personnel to make that happen, broadcasters will want to make sure this new 3.0 capability actually works. To do that, the new Jeju Island testbed not only will enable testing of available technology to determine which works best, but it also will gather data on how consumers respond.
“We can share all of the data — consumer behavior and their reaction. Everything. In fact, collaborating with RAPA on these tests means you get all of the test reports about what is going on with this new technology and the chance to exchange ideas and data,” Jeon says.
In November 2019, Jeon laid out the vision for this Jeju Island testbed, which he dubbed an “ATSC 3.0 Theme Park,” during the NAB-RAPA Workshop, ATSC 3.0 Cooperation Seminar at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar in Phoenix. Jeon revealed at the meeting that a wide variety of organizations have participated in the testbed, mobile telecommunication service providers, three TV broadcasters, consumer electronics companies and South Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), since its rollout 18 months ago.
As initially deployed, the testbed on the northeastern portion of the island offered three SFN transmitter sites; however, two more are planned to improve coverage, he says.
South Korea has a history of taking a leadership role in NextGen TV. In May 2017, regular over-the-air 3.0 transmission began in Seoul. Then in February 2018, broadcasters on the peninsula used 3.0 to transmit UHD coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics to fixed LG and Samsung receivers. RAPA also took the opportunity to demonstrate UHD mobile reception on a specially outfitted shuttle bus traversing the Gangneung Olympic Park site. Next, in the summer of 2018, KBS, MBC and SBS transmitted more than 130 hours of 4K UHD with HDR via ATSC 3.0.
“If you are broadcaster — from a U.S. station group, for example — you are welcome. If you are a consumer electronics company, even one that’s not a Korean company, that’s fine. If you are a technology supplier not originally from Korea, the facility is open to you — with certain conditions because this is publicly funded. If you are involved in noncommercial R&D and want to test and verify technology, we want you to use this facility,” says Jeon.
RAPA’s aim is simple: to offer ATSC 3.0 stakeholders a world-class, open testbed that proves out NextGen TV service models, tests interoperability of 3.0 equipment among vendors, offers 3.0 researchers a place to verify their work and overall helps the entire 3.0 ecosystem identify not only what the standard enables today but also what it will be able to do far into the future, he explains.
“Jeju Island is different than other 3.0 test sites,” says Jeon. “We want to explore and demonstrate service models that have not been released. For example, we want to try 5G and ATSC 3.0 hybrid service.”
There is no charge to use the Jeju Island testbed. However, those looking to take advantage of the facilities must pay for their own flights to the island as well as arrange for any broadcast equipment that may be required other than the existing 3.0 transmission equipment, he says.
The Jeju Island testbed will be open to broadcast technology suppliers from any country. In addition, participating South Korean companies, including ATBiS, Digicap, Maru ENG, Aircode, DS Broadcast, Agos, Kai Media, CleverLogic and Lowasis will be able to offer technical assistance. ATSC 3.0 equipment from each of these companies has a proven track record, having been thoroughly tested in South Korea’s broadcast market.
While RAPA has set in place ambitious goals for the Jeju testbed, Jeon is confident they can be achieved. “I want to make this testbed in Jeju Island a facility that shows the world completely new service models,” he says.
“We are trying to make all this testing and verification a world first. It has not been done anywhere else in the world. We want to lead in the testing and verification of NextGen TV services.”