The nation’s next broadcast TV platform is steadily progressing toward realization, following the disclosure Tuesday that the physical layer of The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) 3.0 digital TV broadcast platform has achieved candidate standard.

The “A/322 Physical Layer Candidate Standard” was awarded by the ATSC TG3 Technology Group and covers a significant portion of the technology needed to transmit and receive next-generation digital TV signals that are expected to carry such benefits as pictures with 4K Ultra HDTV resolution, new object-oriented surround sound, more robust home and mobile TV reception, interactivity, and conditional access for use with premium broadcast content for TVs and mobile devices.

More on the ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer Candidate Standard after the jump:

ATSC 3.0, which is intended for use in the United States, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, and any other countries that choose to adopt it, is also being developed to provide greater spectrum efficiency through the use of High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) compression that will fit more data in the less broadcast spectrum, possibly freeing up more broadcast spectrum for 4K and eventually 8K video content and wireless services.

“This represents a major milestone, and we expect to see manufacturers developing prototypes that can test the more than a dozen interconnected core building-block elements of the Physical Layer,” said ATSC President Mark Richer.

The ATSC 3.0 physical layer allows television broadcasters to choose from a wide variety of transmission parameters so that each station can tailor its signal to best serve its local market. Broadcasters will have the flexibility to choose the combination of services and coverage area best suited for their market and its terrain.

Launch of ATSC 3.0 broadcasting signals is expected to roll out, possibly within the next five years, on a market-by-market basis, depending on cooperation between all broadcasters in each market area. Broadcasters may even be able to share portions of each other’s frequency bandwidth for greater transmission efficiency and carriage capability.

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“The system will allow high-­capacity, low-­robustness modes and also lower-­capacity, high-­robustness modes in the same transmission,” Richer pointed out. “That flexibility means that we’re likely to see both 4K Ultra HD broadcasts running side-by-side with robust mobile broadcasts to handheld devices.”

Technologies can be selected for various use cases like single frequency networks, multiple input/multiple output (or MIMO) channel operation, channel-bonding and more, well beyond a single transmitting tower. Broadcasters and content owners will also enjoy greater data protection, including a wide range of guard intervals, forward error correction code lengths and code rates, according to Richer.

The next step in the ATSC 3.0 standard development and selection process is to begin Physical Layer Candidate Standard field testing through April 4, 2016, at which time it can be considered for adoption as a full standard.

Work continues on the other parts of the suite of ATSC 3.0 standards, which is expected to number 20. They include: Video and Audio Compression, Closed Captioning, Advanced Emergency Alerting, Security, Companion Devices, Personalization, Applications & Interactivity, Watermarking and Fingerprinting, and Internet Protocol Delivery.

LG Electronics celebrated the ATSC’s approval of the Physical Layer Candidate Standard by saying that core technologies developed by LG, its U.S. R&D lab Zenith and partner GatesAir were included in the majority of key elements in the approved Candidate Standard.

“ATSC 3.0 is a collaborative effort among many broadcast technology experts. We are proud that LG technology is behind the majority of the elements of the Physical Layer transmission system. In fact, our technology is part of at least 10 of the 15 building blocks of the new Candidate Standard,” said Jong Kim, LG Electronics Senior VP and president of the Zenith R&D Lab… ATSC 3.0 promises to usher in the new Golden Age of broadcast television.”

LG contributions to the physical layer candidate standard include: forward error correction, bit interlever, mapper, MIMO, time interleaver, OFDM framer, frequency interleaver, pilot and tone reserve, and guard interval.

Similarly, Samsung Electronics contributed essential components, such as low-density parity-check (LDPC), a FEC technology which makes it possible to reduce the amount of redundancy bits to increase the system’s spectral efficiency; and non-uniform constellation (NUC), a key component for generating the modulated symbols and optimizing the transmission capacity for all reception conditions.
Samsung said both LDPC and NUC will strengthen ATSC 3.0’s ability to deliver Ultra High Definition (UHD) and High Dynamic Range (HDR) programming as well as other new broadcast services.

Samsung and ONE Media’s collaborated in developing A/321, which is known as the “Bootstrap” system that enables flexibility and evolution of ATSC 3.0. Samsung has worked with a number of local broadcasters, including ONE Media’s joint venture partner, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and Pearl TV, a consortium of nine of the largest television groups in the country. The parties collaboratively developed technical elements on the orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) frame architecture, which was said to have hastened the Candidate Standard approval.

Samsung, Pearl TV and Sinclair have a memorandum of understanding to strengthen their cooperation on technical initiatives as well as pre-commercial market development initiatives.

Anne Schelle, Pearl managing director, said, “ATSC 3.0 becomes the first TV broadcast standard in the world to deploy Internet Protocol technology as an essential ingredient. A terrestrial IP network matched with improved transmission capabilities will enhance the television experience at home with stunning UHD broadcasting, vivid high dynamic range, tailored programming and new services, and robust mobility for on-the-go viewers.”

Among those areas still to be determined for use in ATSC 3.0 is next generation audio. Giles Baker, Dolby Labs broadcast business group senior VP, said “there are two advanced audio technologies under consideration: Dolby AC-4 and the MPEG-H Audio Alliance TV System for ATSC 3.0. Baker notes that AC-4 is “a complete, ready-to-implement package with clear and affordable pricing from a company that has been a reliable partner to the broadcast industry for decades.”

The MPEG-H Audio Alliance TV System for ATSC, proposed by Fraunhofer, Technicolor and Qualcomm is said to allow “broadcasters to meet challenges beyond 5.1 surround sound while incorporating new groundbreaking interactive features in a rapid and cost-effective manner.” It was developed in MPEG with several companies participating, the standard was said to be “open” and a collection of the best next generation technologies as evaluated in the technical community. Eventually MPEG agreed to test scenarios and selected the best ones specified in the standard.

By Greg Tarr


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