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5 Noteworthy Features of ATSC 3.0

June 2, 2019

As viewers’ video consumption habits continue to evolve with over-the-top (OTT) services and broadband distribution, the future of broadcast looks to offer a more hybrid solution for consumers.

Over the past few years, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has been working on a new broadcast system, ATSC 3.0, which will be the first of its kind. A major upgrade to over-the-air (OTA) television, this system will be designed to fit the needs of next-generation TV.

Based on the article, ATSC 3.0 Standards Usher in Next Gen TV Era by ATSC President Madeleine Noland in the July 2019 SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal, let’s dive into what viewers can expect from the future of TV.

What is ATSC 3.0?

ATSC 3.0 is the latest broadcast emission system by ATSC defining the future of TV standards, including sweeping innovations in contrast to the current adoption (ATSC 1.0). The idea was to combine broadcast (OTA) and broadband (OTT) service offerings. In theory, it enables distribution to your phone, laptop, tablet and car in addition to your in-home entertainment. The physical layer transmission will offer a 30 percent higher capacity than ATSC 1.0.

All in all, this new system should provide a transformative experience for viewers and allow broadcasters more freedom and creativity. Keep reading for a look at five noteworthy features of ATSC 3.0 to get a better idea.

Five Noteworthy Features

1. Evolvability

Due to the ever changing nature of the industry, a key component of ATSC 3.0 is its ability to evolve in the future. The mechanism enabling this is called bootstrap, a powerful point of entry that signals theoretical information (i.e. signal bandwidth) of a “waveform to the top of hierarchical parameters enabling decoding of physical layer frames.”  In simpler terms, it should be capable of including extensions such as 8K distribution later on.

2. OTA/OTT Hybrid

ATSC 3.0 will be the first TV broadcast standard to use an Internet Protocol (IP) transport system (the language of the world-wide web) rather than MPEG2-TS, merging broadcast and broadband. Essentially, it combines OTA signals with a viewer’s home internet for a hybrid approach, allowing easier access to live content and a more personalized, diverse content selection

3. Enhanced Picture Quality

The current ATSC 1.0 standard can only go as high as 1080p (Full HD). However, version 3.0 will be capable of distributing ultra-high-definition (UHD) in 4K, which is four times the resolution of Full HD. It will also include image enhancements such as high dynamic range (HDR), wide color gamut (WCG) and a high frame rate (HFR).

4. Immersive Audio

The move from the current standard to 3.0 means the industry is no longer limited to right and left speakers or surround sound. Audio features will be more realistic and lifelike, with the ability to support object-based, three-dimensional sound such as Dolby Atmos or MPEG-H.

5. Advanced Emergency Alert Information

This next-generation TV update opens the possibility for advanced emergency alert information through broadcast and/or broadband. The types of media that could be pushed include evacuation maps, images associated with AMBER alerts, weather radar maps, user-generated videos and possibly even the ability to “wake” sleeping devices during dangerous situations.

The only downside is that ATSC 3.0 is not backward compatible, meaning an external converter box or ATSC 3.0 capable TV will be needed to use these features. However, a new study in which consumers were able to see and hear how ATSC 3.0 could enhance their listening and viewing experiences shows promising signs of adoption regardless of the compatibility caveat. A whopping 80 percent of consumers said they were either “interested” or “very interested” in purchasing an ATSC 3.0 capable TV or add-on device, so clearly viewers are attracted to the features despite the minor stipulation.

For more technical, in-depth specs on ATSC 3.0, check out the July Motion Imaging Journal by SMPTE.


Erminia Fiorino

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