Next-Gen TV Standard: DVB With A Twist?

Proposals for the upcoming ATSC 3.0 TV transmission base much of their plans on the European standard DVB-T2. The ATSC's goal is to develop a standard by 2016 that generates a signal robust enough to be received on smartphones and tablets and on TV sets with indoor antennas virtually anywhere. “I’m very pleased with all of the responses,” says Mark Richer, ATSC president. “There’s a great range of companies, a lot of support."

Most of the 10 proposals for a next-generation TV standard submitted to the Advanced Television Systems Committee last week are based on the DVB-T2, the European broadcast standard.

The proposals, representing the work on 18 organizations and one individual, are for the standard’s “physical layer” — the component that deals with the actual over-the-air transmission.

Detailed versions of the proposals are due Sept. 27.

The ATSC’s goal is to develop a standard that generates a signal robust enough to be received on smartphones and tablets and on TV sets with indoor antennas virtually anywhere. The ATSC also wants the standard to give broadcasters a platform to implement advanced services like 4K, 3D and interactivity.

ATSC is on a timetable to adopt a final standard by 2016. It would take several years after that to implement.

Organizations that submitted a proposal included television manufacturers, broadcast equipment manufacturers, international research groups, one individual and one broadcaster,  Sinclair Broadcast Group.


“I’m very pleased with all of the responses,” says Mark Richer, president of ATSC. “There’s a great range of companies, a lot of support, and it’s always really interesting to see which companies are working together on joint proposals.”

The proponents:

  • Samsung and Sony
  • Canada’s Communications Research Centre and South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute
  • Qualcomm and Ericsson
  • LG and Harris Broadcast
  • China’s National Engineering Research Center of Digital Television, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai Advance Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Bell Labs
  • Allen Limberg
  • Technicolor
  • Sinclair Broadcast Group and Coherent Logix
  • DVB
  • Power Broadcasting

Peter Siebert, executive director of the Digital Video Broadcast (DVB) project in Geneva, Switzerland, said he expected ATSC to adopt a standard that would be based around DVB’s technology.

His group submitted a near blueprint of the existing standard, while others, based on interviews with proposal authors, made alterations and added enhancements to the standard.

Allen Limberg, the lone individual to submit a proposal, would keep DVB-T2 nearly as-is, but would modify the way data is sent to improve frequency-selective fading. Limberg is an inventor and engineer whose past employers included RCA, GE and Samsung. The 76-year-old has authored 152 U.S. patents in the radio electronics field during his career.

Technicolor, a global media and entertainment technology company, submitted a proposal with DVB-T2 at its core, but wants to bring in mobile transmission capabilities found in DVB-NGH, which stands for Next Generation Handheld. NGH is a relatively new DVB effort to address specific issues with mobile transmission found in DVB-T2, says Alan Stein, VP technology at Technicolor.

“ATSC’s ambition is for a fixed and a mobile solution, and we believe by incorporating some of the NGH elements, as well as updating certain things in T2 that are known to be slightly deficient, we can put together a system that has a high degree of worldwide compatibility and additionally be optimal for a fixed and mobile terrestrial broadcast system,” says Stein.

Stein declined to comment on specific DVB-T2 deficiencies that Technicolor believes could be improved upon until the detailed responses come in next month.

A proposal put together by Canada’s Communications Research Centre (CRC) and South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, two government-funded research labs, wasn’t for a complete end-to-end system, rather, it was designed as an add-on to enhance whichever standard is ultimately selected by the ATSC.

Yiyan Wu, a research scientist at CRC, says both teams recognized that most of the proposals would likely include DVB-T2 at the core, which uses co-orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (COFDM) as a modulation scheme.

“I can see our proposed model being added to almost any of the proposed systems and be harmonized together,” says Wu. “Think of it as a top layer solution that can go on a T2, or other high-speed transmission system.”

Mark Aitken, VP advanced technology at Sinclair, says the joint Sinclair-Coherent system uses a “parameterized” approach and has an ability to evolve the standard over time. “There is a go-forward, evolutionary path with what we’ve proposed,” says Aitken.

The proposed system integrates the broadcast band and IP networks together with an aim of making it easy for consumers to receive content on any device over a terrestrial broadcast, which is one of the big goals of ATSC 3.0.

To make both ends of system — DVB-T2 on one end and LTE on the other — work seamlessly together, the two organizations spent the last three years developing what they call the Broadcast Market Exchange (BMX).

BMX is a rules-based intelligent network that’s open in the sense that it’s a marketplace where different content and different delivery methods, chosen by an individual broadcaster, may derive different business values based on the nature of business being conducted.

“The BMX is the orchestra leader that says these resources are available here, they can be contracted on these terms, you’ve already set your terms for delivery, and off it goes,” says Aitken. “To the end-user, it’s invisible, in every literal sense that when you use a cellphone today, you pick it up, dial in a number and you talk. You don’t worry about how it ended up that you’re having a conversation. We’re talking about that same level of transparency to the end-user that allows broadcasting to engage in business models that today are absolutely impossible.”

Under Sinclair’s proposal, if a broadcaster, for example, wanted to broadcast premium content over-the-air, it could set up rules to charge for that content to that user.

Aitken says the best part about his system is that nothing in it is mandatory.

“If a broadcaster wants to be on an island and thinks it has better economics as an island, you can still do what you’re doing today,” he says.

Aitken also says he was disappointed by the lack of diversity in the other proposals.

“They are all absolute dead-ending proposals,” says Aitken. “In other words, if you’ve got the best you can get out of DVB-T2, with some enhancements, it would most definitely be an improvement over where we are today, but what happens in five years when the next greatest technology comes along and you’re stuck where you are?”

For its proposal, San Diego-based telecommunications company Qualcomm, which partnered with Ericsson, stepped outside the DVB-T2 bubble. The companies proposed a standard that would allow a TV station to broadcast over LTE, just as wireless carriers use the technology today to send and receive data from mobile devices.

According to Brent Nelson, product manager at Qualcomm, both companies believe LTE broadcast is the best option to reach fixed and mobile devices, and demoed the technology at the CES and NAB trade shows in Las Vegas earlier this year.

“The use of LTE enables an all-IP solution that brings broadcast television into technical alignment with the future of streaming media,” Nelson said in an email to TVNewsCheck. Because LTE is used globally, he added, it would achieve one of the goals of ATSC 3.0 that calls for a more global standard.

It’s unclear if Qualcomm and Ericsson’s solution would use an enhanced or modified version of existing LTE technology. Nelson declined comment on specifics until a more detailed proposal has been submitted next month.

LG, the developer of the current ATSC transmission standard, teamed up with Harris Broadcast to submit a system, but declined to talk about it.

“Our innovations are designed to expand the capabilities of today’s ATSC terrestrial broadcast system with modulation and coding enhancements for improved throughput and robustness,” a spokesman for LG said.

South Australian-based Power Broadcasting, a telecommunications consulting firm, submitted a proposal for DVB-T2 with modified coding for error correction. However, Max Power, the founder of Power Broadcasting, says that ATSC has already contacted him saying that his proposal was out of compliance with the RFP.

A spokesperson for Sony, which partnered with Samsung on a proposal, had no immediate comment.

Most of the system proponents contacted for this article say they expect the proponents to mix and match elements from the various proposals and come up with a single common system. That was the approach that yielded the current ATSC standard in the 1990s.

But not everyone thought that was a good idea. “I wouldn’t expect another grand alliance,” says Aitken. “I’d hope, this time around, for a grand convergence that allows the best of the class ideas to exist alongside each other.”

Work has already begun on the two other layers of the complete standard — management and protocols, and application and presentation. But there’s no schedule for the call for proposals for those layers, says Richer.

Comments (13)

Leave a Reply

E B says:

August 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Backwards compatible? Hello?

    Brian Critchfield says:

    August 29, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Zuma – ATSC 3.0 won’t be backwards compatible. Thanks for reading.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    August 29, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Forget it. It’s a brave new world. However, since most of today’s HDTVs have USB ports, it’s possible (from what I’ve been reading anyway) that the tuners can be upgraded with either a dongle or a change in software. We’ll see. The real expense will be on the transmission side.

    Tanya Pavluchuk says:

    August 29, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Upgrading internal tuners in a multitude of different HDTV’s is unlikely. An easier solution would be a HDMI dongle with the new tuner inside of it. This HDMI dongle could also provide many other services as well.

Mitch keegan says:

August 29, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Why couldn’t this have been done during the transition a decade ago. Turning ATSC into DVB brilliant!

    charles spencer says:

    August 29, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    It needed to happen, seems like this time it will.

    If we’re lucky, we could also get the US on the metric standard as part of the same process!

    Keith ONeal says:

    August 29, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    … and (conversion to the Metric System) good luck with that!

Peter Grewar says:

August 29, 2013 at 10:37 pm

It does seem a shame to obsolete existing receiver hardware just as it seems that “cord cutting” is starting to build to the point of being recognized as something that really is happening.

    Tanya Pavluchuk says:

    August 29, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    See my post above. Your TV becomes a display device for a HDMI dongle…..

Wagner Pereira says:

August 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Government will just hand out crappy adapters as they did in 2008-2009.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    August 31, 2013 at 2:26 am

    Actually the government handed out coupons and we bought the “crappy” DTV tuner boxes. My Chinese-made tuner lasted all of 8 months before croaking.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    September 2, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    You got 8 months out of it? Apparently you got one of the good ones 🙂

Chris Swope says:

September 7, 2013 at 2:18 am

Power Broadcast submitted probably the most divergent proposal — in terms of bandwidth and error correction, but for some bizarre reason — the ATSC has not made any of its submissions public.

It is really hard to know where all the other proposals are going, but as ATSC 8VSB is more or less crap — it is better to kill it sooner than later.

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