The trade group along with noncommercial broadcasters and the consumer electronics industry ask the FCC to authorize use of the ATSC 3.0 standard that they say will enable stations to broadcast 4K, reach smartphones and other mobile devices and offer new IP-based services. ATSC 3.0 is "the bedrock for continuing innovation by the television industry for decades to come," they say.
NAB Asks FCC To OK Next-Gen Broadcasting
Achieving another major milestone in their eight-decade history, TV broadcasters, backed by the consumer electronics industry, today asked the FCC to permit them to deploy a more powerful broadcasting standard that will help them keep pace — and interface — with the proliferating digital media.
What it calls the “Next Generation TV,” otherwise known as ATSC 3.0, “will create the bedrock for continuing innovation by the television industry for decades to come,” the 21-page petition says.
The petitioners — the NAB, America’s Public Television Stations, the Consumer Technology Association and the AWARN Alliance — say the FCC should authorize the standard’s use on a voluntary basis, claiming that it will require few rules changes and will not disrupt the current broadcasting service.
The petition also requests fast action. “By allowing voluntary use of this new transmission standard now, the commission will give broadcasters and manufacturers the certainty they need to invest in equipment to support innovative new technologies as part of the repack of broadcast spectrum following the incentive auction.”
The AWARN Alliance is a new coalition of broadcasters and technology companies dedicated to improving the broadcast Emergency Alert System using the new standard.
“This is an exciting time for the broadcast industry,” said NAB President Gordon Smith. “Next-Gen TV will provide broadcasters with the voluntary option of offering a higher-quality viewing experience, an IP-based infrastructure and greater interactivity with viewers.We believe our viewers will be the beneficiaries of new services ranging from breathtaking picture quality to in-depth emergency alerts and more personalized program content.”
CTA President Gary Shapiro was equally enthusiastic in his statement.”Our television manufacturers are excited to partner voluntarily with broadcasters, the public safety community and the ATSC to usher in this exciting new Golden Age of television technology and bring the benefits of this standard to devices throughout the home and beyond.”
APTS President Patrick Butler stressed the need to expedite the FCC proceeding. “The FCC’s timely adoption of the new standard may also help public television stations save money by combining some of the investments needed to deploy the new standard and to affect the repacking transition required by the broadcast spectrum auctions.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group CEO David Smith, an early advocate of the new standard, said he was pleased that the consumer electronic and public safety industries rallied around broadcasters. “Freeing the broadcasting industry as a powerful engine of innovation has been Sinclair’s long-sought goal. This petition is an important first step, and our hope is that the FCC will move with great speed to unleash that innovation.”
The petition says the standard will enable broadcasters to deliver “visually stunning pictures” (4K Ultra HD) to large-screen TV sets with “superior in-building reception” and, because it is IP based, it will allow them to deliver the entire breadth of broadcast programming to smartphones, tables and other mobile devices.
Other benefits, according to the petition:
- “Broadcast programming with multiple consumer-friendly features, such as interactivity and personalized audio, which exceed those available through the current broadcast standard;
- “Seamless integration of broadcast programming with other Internet Protocol (IP) services, with the ability to provide state-of-the-art security that content owners depend upon;
- “Advanced emergency alert information backed up with live, professional reporters and connecting public safety officials with the public;
- “Datacasting that will offer a new broadband data pipe into the home, thereby giving content providers another means for distributing large video and other digital files to consumers, and providing enhanced opportunities for essential public services including education and public safety; and
- “The ability to geo-target news, weather and other programming to better serve the public.”
Broadcasters’ interest in the standard will be underscored next week by demonstrations of the standard and discussions of what it can do at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.
The ATSC 3.0 Broadcast Pavilion in the Futures Park exhibit in the South Upper Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center will spotlight 3.0 technology, ranging from transmission gear to technology supporting HDR content, interactivity and watermarking.
At the ATSC 3.0 Consumer Experience near the entrance of the convention center’s South Upper Hall, receivers, including TVs and gateways that receive and retransmit next-generation television to tablets and smartphones, will be on display.
The exhibit will feature off-air reception of an 3.0 signal from a tower on Black Mountain, 20 miles south of the convention center.
The petition is the culmination of years of standards-setting work by the Advanced Television Systems Committee that began not long after the final transition to the current DTV standard in June 2009.
The new standard is based on Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) transmission technology coupled with Layered Division Multiplexing that combines two independent data streams at different power levels, the petition says.
“Broadcasters … will have the flexibility to choose operating points that support their operating environments and evolving business models. For example, a broadcaster could provide UHD service to fixed locations while simultaneously providing robust mobile services.”
Another key attribute of the standard is the use of an IP transport, which permits the “next-generation broadcast services to be fully integrated with internet data and services, and vice versa,” the petition says.
“The use of IP also enables ‘localization’ and personalization of broadcast services and adaptability (such as hybrid operations using both over-the-air and internet-delivered content components).”
The petition acknowledges that the new standard is incompatible with the current DTV standard and the tens of millions of TV sets now in use, but it also says the standard can be introduced without disrupting existing service through a market-driven plan it calls “parallel implementation” or “local simulcasting.”
“Stations electing to deploy Next Generation TV will enter into market-by-market deployment plans that will rely on local simulcasting agreements to ensure the ongoing availability of programming in the current DTV format.
“Specifically, a temporary ‘host’ broadcaster would agree to carry on its DTV subchannels the programming of those stations broadcasting with the Next Generation TV format. The ‘host’ station’s programming would be carried reciprocally as a programming stream on one of the stations deploying the Next Generation TV standard.
“Local simulcasting will permit uninterrupted service to continue as the American public embraces Next Generation TV reception equipment, and will permit this innovative new standard to be implemented without necessitating new simulcast channels from the commission.”
When broadcasters implemented the current DTV standard in the late 1990s and 2000s, each station was assigned a full second channel so that it could continuing simulcasting the original NTSC signals until all TV homes bought a new DTV set or DTV-to-NTSC converter box.
Unlike the transition to DTV, the petition says, it will not be necessary to mandate that TV sets be equipped with tuners to receive the new standard “pursuant to the All-Channel Receiver Act of 1962.”
“When Next Generation TV transmissions become available, the high-value, free local broadcast programming offered by diverse broadcasters across the country will spur consumer demand for Next Generation TV–capable devices,” it says.
Market forces will also lead broadcasters to adopt the new standard, the petition says. “For many …, the upgrade to their transmission facilities may be as simple as installing a new exciter.”
Although the new standard is not compatible with existing TV sets, it is compatible with current FCC rules governing interference within the TV band, the petition says. “Testing to date has confirmed that the essential transmission aspects of Next Generation TV are fully compatible with the Table of Allotments.”
The petition does not discuss the use of single frequency networks, which some Next Generation TV proponents feel are crucial for tapping the full potential of the standard.
SFNs are networks of low-power stations strategically located within a market that simulcast a broadcast signal on the same channel to improve reception, particularly on mobile devices and TV sets without outdoor antennas.
The new standard is conducive to SFNs, the proponents say.
The ability of broadcasters to issue emergency alerts will be significantly enhanced by the “more robust and capable” new standard, the petition says.
“New optional features include the ability … to convey more detailed emergency information, such as locally relevant evacuation instructions or interactive maps, as well as the possibility that receivers have the capability to ‘wake up’ in response to an active alert.”
“AWARN will provide a resilient and pervasive emergency communications system for a 21st Century America, a major upgrade to systems we have now,” said John Lawson, executive director of the AWARN Alliance. “In response to manmade and natural threats, AWARN can deliver rich media, geo-targeted, and multilingual content — including video, storm tracks, evacuation routes, flood maps, and earthquake early warnings. And these alerts can reach millions of people simultaneously, even when the cellular network overloads or the grid goes down. ATSC 3.0 makes all of this possible.”