Over-the-air TV broadcast users in the Boston, MA market area just got the region’s first live NextGen TV/ATSC 3.0 broadcast station in Tyche Media’s WCRN-LD TV, channel 31.

WCRN, which is a Low Power TV (LPTV) station, is using the new ATSC 3.0 digital TV broadcasting standard for a new level of over-the-air and IP-based hybrid broadcasting that supports datacasts as well as NextGen TV/Radio technical services. This will make possible delivery of personalized content for viewers as well as unlimited encrypted datacasting services for businesses and first responders.

The hybrid nature of the technology will enable ATSC 3.0-enabled televisions to act as web browsers. Initially, the station plans to use about half of WCRN’s ATSC 3.0 spectrum to provide four specialized channels to viewers in the Greater Boston area. These include: France 24, Retro TV, Heartland TV and Paranormal TV.

To receive the Next Gen TV station, Boston area viewers will need a suitable TV antenna and a television with a built-in NextGen TV tuner or a connected outboard tuner box. A number of leading TV brands are now offering ATSC 3.0-supporting TV models, including Samsung in most premium TV sets, LG in mostly OLED TV models and Sony, which adds ATSC 3.0 tuners to most of its 2021 and 2022 TV models.

“NextGen TV is only one tool in the ATSC 3.0 tool chest. With IP Protocol, broadcasters can now deliver public or encrypted video, audio (including radio stations), and datacasting,” stated WCRN’s CEO Frank Copsidas. “A broadcaster’s ATSC 3.0 signal can now be divided into different delivery pipes, each with a unique IP delivery protocol for a particular use. It is a new alternative with unique qualities for multiple encrypted data delivery services, depending on the end user’s needs, be it a first responder, remote learning, signage, or a delivery truck.”

The station will also conduct field tests of new and developing technical capabilities, including a joint project involving Ateme, a global provider of video compression and delivery solutions, for the encoder, and Enensys Signaling Server (Mediacast) and Broadcast Gateway (SmartGate), global designers and manufacturers of broadcast solutions, for the gateway.

The station said it intends to serve as a platform to develop multiple new busienss uses afforded by the flexible new technology.

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WCRN said it is also working with Hudson, MA-based West Pond Technologies, a specialist in broadcast datacasting, to develop use cases for the ATSC 3.0 signal, from first responders to educational needs, transfer of data to delivery vehicles such as Fedex, to updating digital signage.

“We are excited to have this opportunity to partner with WCRN, field testing our innovative products and developing new uses in our home market of Boston,” said Steve Hastings, president of West Pond Technologies.

Peter Saad, executive director of the LPTV (Low Power TV) Broadcasters’ Association, added: “We are thrilled that WCRN in Boston is joining 10 other members of our Association in launching this cutting-edge technology. The broadcast business is transitioning from a programming delivery platform to a data delivery service, given ATSC 3.0’s IP platform. With internet data demand expected to double every year for the next five years, UHF Spectrum is beachfront property and there is only a limited amount available. It is currently the most undervalued asset in the data delivery space.”

Low-power broadcasting is broadcasting by a station licensed for low transmitter power output to a smaller service area than larger “full power” stations within the same region. 

ATSC and Broadcast Datacasting is gaining significant traction around the country this year. The technology was deployed by educational institutions during the pandemic to deliver classroom instruction via encrypted delivery.

First responders will be looking to use segments of the station’s spectrum for encrypted broadcasting. The announcement said that on July 4th similar encrypted video transmissions were deployed for multiple first responder groups in the Washington DC market.

Among other potential furture uses of such broadcasting will be over-the-air transmissions to compatible cars. Hyundai Mobis announced it was adding an ATSC 3.0 full entertainment system in two 2023 model cars. This will provide live television reception in moving vehicles as well as a possible additional option to stream specialized radio stations. The car’s software and navigation systems will be updatable using the broadcast’s datacasting capacity as a more efficient and less-expensive car systems firmware updating conduit.

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By Greg Tarr

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