Summit: 3.0 Could Be Boon To Public Safety

The inaugural Smart Spectrum Summit demonstrated to the public safety community how adoption of the ATSC 3.0 next-gen TV transmission standard will also give them a reliable, robust wireless communications service that can sidestep current wireless network congestion to deliver potentially lifesaving information.

The television world may have moved toward ATSC 3.0 — if only a smidgen — yesterday at the first-ever Smart Spectrum Summit in Washington.

Rather than simply being the mechanism to deliver 4K video to the home and HD to mobile devices, the next-gen standard with its support for AWARN (the Advanced Warning and Response Network), was elevated to the status of a critical technology in the effort to keep the public safe.

Rep. Andre CarsonDuring his morning summit keynote at the Westin Washington Center City, Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) called broadcasting the “backbone of our nation’s emergency alert system” and praised AT&T and T-Mobile for joining Sprint in activating FM receiver chips in smartphones, which gives radio broadcasters a new way to reach the public with crucial safety information.

And in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, he said, TV broadcasters now have an opportunity to make their case for why ATSC 3.0 receivers should be integrated into smartphones as a matter of public safety.

“I think what should happen — and must happen — is a fortified lobbying effort to educate people in Congress to move beyond a cursory explanation [of spectrum and ATSC 3.0],” he said. “You don’t have a better opening than you do now.”

Carson is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and ranking member on the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management.


Michael Poth, CEO of First Responder Network Authority or FirstNet, also encouraged ATSC 3.0 proponents.

According to Poth, FirstNet, which was created by Congress in February 2012, is charged with establishing a high-speed nationwide wireless network dedicated to public safety, and will soon be issuing an RFP.

ATSC 3.0 could be a link in that network. “That is what we are hoping — [that] the industry, television and others, are coming together with the carriers … to say, ‘Here are approaches to it,’ ” Poth said.

The summit gave many in the public safety community their first glimpse at the next-gen TV standard and how it could help in an emergency.

“ATSC 3.0 is a game-changing technology,” transforming TV into “a high-power, high-tower nationwide wireless IP network” equally adept at delivering 4K video and AWARN services,” said NAB CTO Sam Matheny.

“Don’t take my word for it,” Matheny added. “This comes from the FCC Technical Advisory Council.” 

Madeleine Noland, a consultant for LG Electronics’ Convergence R&D Labs, explained how ATSC 3.0 enables delivery of scalable video.

For the public safety community, she said, this ability ensures that at least a lower-quality image can be delivered wirelessly on the most robust ATSC 3.0 layer, and much higher quality images can be sent to receivers in less challenging reception conditions.

“Let’s make sure the most important bits get there in the most robust layer and then layer on the extra quality … [to] have our cake and eat it, too,” she said.

Convergence Services principal John Lawson, who produced the event, said the summit “was two worlds colliding, and it turned out that we have a lot in common.

“Public safety has requirements that are hard to fulfill by just about any other distribution platform other than broadcasting,” he said. “I was happy to see how many of our panelists who came from public safety or broadcasting all had the same conclusion about 3.0 and its power, and how real and applicable it is for public safety applications in the near term.”

To stay up to date on all things tech, follow Phil Kurz on TVNewsCheck’s Playout tech blog here. And follow him on Twitter: @TVplayout.

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