The next-generation of over-the-air TV broadcasting moved a big step closer to realization Wednesday after members of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) voted to approve a final standard for the Physical Layer transmission system in the forthcoming ATSC 3.0 technology platform.

The achievement moves the overall process of adopting a next-generation television broadcast system closer to adoption. In addition to bringing the possibility of 4K Ultra HDTV broadcasts, more robust mobile DTV reception and greater interactivity to broadcast TV, the new system will bring broadcasters greater flexibility in selecting, adopting and deploying a solution that’s best for their market conditions, terrain and viewer requirements.

Read more on the Physical Layer final standard for ATSC 3.0 after the jump:

Unlike the last upgrade to an all-digital broadcast TV platform that was implemented across the board in one time frame, the next generation platform will be implemented when broadcasters and markets are ready to do so. It’s likely that instead of the whole country switching over at one time, broadcasters in individual markets will work cooperatively (including use of spectrum sharing in some cases) to upgrade one market at a time.

In announcing the Physical Layer approval, ATSC Chairman Mark Richer said: “The hundreds of technology experts from around the world who have contributed their time and expertise to this process have selected the best and most flexible transmission system as the foundation of ATSC 3.0. While other ingredients of the ATSC 3.0 standard are still in the final stages of standardization, the approval of the over-the-air transmission system is a foundation for the future.”

The 3.0 Physical Layer, described in A/322, allows television broadcasters to choose from a variety of transmission parameters, Richer said, adding that “we’re likely to see both 4K Ultra HD broadcasts running side-by-side with robust mobile broadcasts to handheld devices.”

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The approved ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer brings use of Single Frequency Networks, multiple physical layer pipes, and channel bonding. Selected technologies allow for data transmission with a wide range of guard intervals, forward error correction code lengths and code rates.

The ATSC said work continues on other elements of the suite of ATSC 3.0 standards. In March of this year, the A/321 System Discovery and Signaling (the “bootstrap”) part of the Physical Layer was standardized, and a number of other ATSC 3.0 standards are nearing the conclusion of the standardization process.

These Proposed and Candidate standards will include video and audio compression, high dynamic range, wide color gamut and immersive sound, closed captioning, advanced emergency alerting, security, companion devices, personalization, applications and interactivity, watermarking and fingerprinting, and Internet Protocol delivery.

Some 20 standards are expected to be part of the final ATSC 3.0 suite of standards by early next year, according to the ATSC.

Among the bigger winners in the adoption of the A/322 Physical Layer was LG Electronics, which, in part, through its acquisition of Zenith contributed key technologies used throughout the new standard and in the current one as well, the company said. This includes the A/153 Mobile Digital TV Standard adopted by the industry in 2009. Zenith also invented the core transmission system at the heart of today’s ATSC 1.0 A/53 Digital Television Standard.

Others who submitted initial proposals for the ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer technologies were:

  • Coherent Logix and Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG)
  • Communications Research Centre (CRC) and Electronics & Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI)
  • Digital Video Broadcasting Project (DVB)
  • GatesAir
  • Allen Limberg
  • National Engineering Research Center of Digital Television (NERC), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU),  Shanghai Advance Research Institute, (SARI) and Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent
  • Power Broadcasting
  • Qualcomm and Ericsson
  • Samsung and Sony
  • Technicolor

By Greg Tarr


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