“ATSC 3.0 is rounding third base and heading into the home stretch," says Anne Schelle, managing director of Pearl TV, a consortium of leading station groups that backs 3.0 and commissioned the guide that spells out how stations can efficiently make the move to the next-gen transmission standard.
Pearl, Sinclair Offer ATSC 3.0 Planning Guide
Broadcasters championing ATSC 3.0 today released an 81-page planning guide detailing what stations must do to switch from the current ATSC 1.0 standard to the incompatible 3.0 over the next few years with the least possible cost and disruption to viewership.
“ATSC 3.0 is rounding third base and heading into the home stretch,” said Anne Schelle, managing director of Pearl TV, a consortium of leading station groups that backs 3.0 and commissioned the guide. “It’s time for managers, engineers and planners at all levels to look ahead and get ready for the requirements.
“ATSC 3.0 is the ‘glue’ that will enable broadcast protocol to exist in an internet environment, which means better pictures and sound; personalized and geo-targeted viewing; mobile viewing; more information about emergency alerts; and the seamless integration of broadcasting programming with other Internet Protocol services,” Schelle added.
The guide, which will be periodically updated, is available here.
Broadcasters have asked the FCC to permit use of 3.0 on a voluntary basis and are hoping the agency launches a rulemaking to that end in the next few months.
Because 3.0 is not compatible with 1.0 and, thus, any of the TV sets in use today, the guide suggests a transitional scheme that involves slowly introducing 3.0 signals while weaning consumers from their 1.0 stations.
The scheme would require stations in each market to collaborate. Working together, they would begin offering multiple 3.0 signals on a small scale by sharing a single designated “lighthouse” station.
Over time, they would increase the number of 3.0 stations and channels, while decreasing the number of 1.0 stations and channels. Eventually, 1.0 would be reduced to multiple signals on a single “night light” station.
“This concept of a ‘night light’ station would provide some ATSC 1.0 service, thus not stranding any consumers who don’t have ATSC 3.0 receivers,” the guide says.
Among the specific recommendations:
- Buy transmitters, RF systems and antennas with 3.0 in mind, even if it costs more. “Purchasing the components that will support stations’ future ATSC 3.0 plans can greatly reduce expenses during an ATSC 3.0 transition.”
- Add vertical polarization to the antenna, “if mobile services are in the station’s future.”
- Buy transmitters that software-upgradable to 3.0 and can be outfitted with additional power needed to handle vertical polarization.
“If broadcasters incorporate ATSC 3.0 into tower structural engineering studies, tower modifications and transmitter, RF system and antenna installations during … the repack, they will pay only once for potentially expensive and time-consuming work.”
The “repack” is shorthand for the FCC’s plan to reorganize the TV band after the incentive auction in which hundreds of TV stations are selling their spectrum and going dark.
The repack will involve hundreds of stations that chose not to sell their spectrum moving to new channels. The government will pay for the moves from the auction proceeds, giving affected stations an opportunity to simultaneously upgrade to 3.0 at the expense of the wireless buyers.
The guide is primarily the work of Pearl TV, which includes Cox Media Group, E.W. Scripps, Graham Media Group, Hearst Television, Media General, Meredith, Raycom Media and Tegna.
Other contributors include Sinclair Broadcast Group, American Tower, Dielevtric, Ericsson, GatesAir, Harmonic, Hitachi Kokusai Electric, Comark, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Triveni Digital and the consulting firm of Meintel, Sgrignoli & Wallace.
It was edited by Myra Moore and Jay Adrick of Digital Tech Consulting with oversight from Sterling Davis of Cox Media Group and Dave Folsom of Raycom Media.