Beginning today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is accepting applications from local TV broadcasters for ATSC 3.0 licences through its Licensing and Management System (LMS).

ATSC is the latest system for over-the-air digital television broadcasting bringing a host of new features and capabilities, including transmission of 4K Ultra HD resolution video, object based oriented surround sound formats, interactivity, targeted advertising and more. It will, however, require a television with a new ATSC 3.0 tuner or an external tuner to receive the new transmissions.

The FCC adopted new rules enabling broadcasters to use ATSC 3.0 on a voluntary basis in November 2017. But to do this, the FCC needed to first revise its Form 2100 and modify LMS to accommodate the filing of such applications. That was officially accomplished today.

The FCC revised FCC Form 2100, Schedule B (full-service television stations), Schedule D (low-power and television translator stations), and Schedule F (Class A television stations), clearing the way for broadcasters to file applications for modification of licences to begin transmission of Next Gen TV broadcast signals.

At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention NAB 2019, TV broadcasters in the Top 40 TV markets committed to launching Next-Gen TV services by the end of 2020. This is expected to result in televisions with built-in ATSC 3.0 as well as ATSC 1.0 tuners next year. Legacy sets are expected to be able to add external ATSC 3.0 tuner boxes or dongles when robust ATSC 3.0 broadcast programming begins on a market-by-market basis.

Broadcasters will announce which of the features of the new system they intended to make available. As well as launch timing, the FCC has made such implementations voluntary for broadcasters, who will need to make significant investments to upgrade their stations.

Most recently, Detroit’s WMYD TV station, owned by The EW Scripps Co, announced this month that it plans to launch ATSC 3.0 broadcast TV technology in a collaborative effort involving Graham Media Group and other local broadcasters.

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Under the FCC plan, broadcasters must continue broadcasting there current ATSC 1.0 digital broadcasts in tandem with the new ATSC 3.0. This is expected to be accomplished using spectrum sharing by multiple stations to continue transmission of legacy channels in many markets across the country.

Detroit is considered an important market for the interactive benefits of ATSC 3.0, because the Next-Gen TV system will provide an opportunity for car makers to take advantage of an in-market test bed for IP-based broadcasts. This will enable delivery of data to millions of receivers at once without the problems typically encountered by heavy online traffic.

Scripps was among the broadcasting companies that participated in the KNXV ATSC 3.0 Phoenix Model Market test intiatives, which was managed by the Pearl TV business group of television broadcasters. The FCC had previously granted several temporary authorizations to test ATSC 3.0.

A handful of stations are already on the air with ATSC 3.0 broadcasts in five test bed markets including: Chicago; Dallas; Phoenix; Lansing, Mich.; and Santa Barbara, Calif.

By Greg Tarr

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