The country’s move to a next-generation broadcast TV platform is starting to pick up momentum.

The platform, which is called ATSC 3.0 or “Next-Generation TV,” could soon bring to TV markets around the country the possibility of 4K Ultra HDTV pictures with high dynamic range (HDR) and a wide color gamut, new surround sound formats, live TV delivery to both mobile and stationary receivers, and more robust signal reception, among other things.

This week, in advance of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention in Las Vegas, April 18-21, a coalition of consumer electronics companies, commercial and public television broadcasters and public safety advocates filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting local television stations and television receiver manufacturers be permitted to adopt the new over-the-air broadcast transmission standard on a voluntary, market-driven basis.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) and the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN) Alliance were the groups who jointly filed the petition at the FCC.

Unlike the last transition from analog to digital TV broadcasting, the ATSC 3.0 rollout is expected to be undertaken on a market-by-market basis and would not require consumers to purchase new equipment. The proposal would make both ATSC 3.0 transmission and inclusion of ATSC 3.0 tuners in television sets optional.

ATSC 3.0 tuners could eventually be built into Next-Gen TVs, but in the interim, consumers are expected to be able to purchase Next-Gen TV tuner dongles that could connect to a TV’s USB port to receive the new signals.

Some have speculated the transition could begin as early as 2017.

Read more on the ATSC 3.0 transition petition after the jump:

The petition asked the FCC to approve:

  • The Next Generation TV transmission standard as a new, optional standard for television broadcasting.
  • Rule changes to permit local simulcasting to enable Next generation TV to be deployed while ensuring that broadcasts in the current DTV standard remain available to viewers.
  • A specification that Next Generation TV transmission is television broadcasting in parity with the current DTV standard.

Major TV makers including Samsung, LG and Sony already have committed to implementing ATSC 3.0 tuners in television sets. At the same time, the Pearl TV consortium of broadcasters and the Sinclair station group, which together have stations covering 85 percent of the U.S., have committed to transmit the new signals. Others are planning similar support.

If accepted by the FCC, the voluntary roll out would begin with broadcasters in a given territory agreeing to cooperate on spectrum sharing so that no additional bandwidth would be necessary to broadcast both the Next-Generation TV signals and existing digital signals.

Television broadcasters in the same market would simulcast each other’s programming. In that way, a station that converts to ATSC 3.0 would continue to have its existing signal available in via carriage by a temporary host station that hasn’t yet converted to the Next-Gen TV system. In exchange, that upgraded station would carry the temporary host station’s programming in an ATSC 3.0 signal using the converted station’s spectrum. Both stations would continue to keep their current dial positions, making the process virtually transparent to viewers in the market.

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Using the new technology, the ATSC 3.0 station could broadcast two Ultra HD programs simultaneously, in addition to secondary channels.

Further, there would be no mandated cut-off of current-generation DTV broadcasts. No additional spectrum or government funds will be necessary and consumers would not have to purchase new television sets to continue receiving over-the-air signals. Pay-TV providers’ carriage of broadcasters’ Next-Gen TV standard signals would largely be determined through business agreements, the petitioners said.

The Next-Gen TV standard was developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), a cooperative effort that includes the broadcast, consumer electronics, cable, satellite, motion picture and computer industries. The system is an IP-based standard that specifies an entire next-generation broadcasting system, from the RF transmission through presentation to the viewer or listener.

In addition to enabling the broadcast of 4K Ultra HD signals, the new system will allow transmission of advanced emergency alert information, increased programming streams and channels, mobile broadcast TV, new immersive audio formats, interactivity features and datacasting.

The petition requests the FCC approve the core transmission technology for the new standard as an option for local broadcasters and receiver manufacturers. The petition also requests the implementation of certain rule changes to permit local simulcasting, enabling the new standard to be deployed while broadcasts in the current digital television (DTV) standard remain available without interruption to viewers.

“From 4K UHD TV to mobility and more, ATSC 3.0 offers consumers the most immersive viewing experience and more viewing options than ever before,” stated Gary Shapiro, Consumer Technology Association (CTA) president and CEO. “Our television manufacturers are excited to partner voluntarily with broadcasters, the public safety community and the ATSC to usher in this exciting new Golden Age of television technology and bring the benefits of this standard to devices throughout the home and beyond.”

Elements of the Next-Gen TV standard will be demonstrated at the NAB show next week.

The petition also was filed as the broadcast industry deals with requests that broadcasters sell back some of their spectrum through a broadcast incentive auction involving a digital spectrum repack. Broadcasters have argued that the transition to the new ATSC 3.0 standard should not wait for that process to be settled, since it doesn’t require the use of any additional spectrum.

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By Greg Tarr


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