Silicondust Raises Funds For ATSC 3.0 HDHomeRun Gateway
The first ATSC 3.0 “NextGen TV” broadcasts are about to go live in various markets around the country, but so far the number of televisions equipped with the necessary tuners to receive the new signals are few and far between.
As we have previously reported as many as 20 of the first ATSC 3.0 TV models are coming this year from LG, Samsung, and Sony, but in most cases those sets will require a futhurer firmware update to activate the reception hardware. Beyond that, little has been known about how quickly the number of ATSC 3.0-ready TV models will ramp up in 2021 and beyond.
Since the NextGen TV system was first proposed, it was envisioned that in the early stages of the launch, most viewers would be using outboard tuner dongles or set-top tuner boxes to get the new signals on legacy TV or monitor screens.
Unfortunately, all of the “dongle” solutions announced so far have been primarily for commercial/professional test applications, with prices in the area of $1,000 per unit or much higher.
Early this month, one company — Silicondust — announced a Kickstarter campaign to fund the ramp up of a solution priced for the masses, called the HDHomeRun Quatro 4K (HDHR5-4K). The campaign had a goal of garnering $50,000 by May 29th; It passed that goal within weeks of the effort. As this was written Silicondust had generated $355,648 from 1,662 backers and growing.
Having already met its goal, Silicondust plans to use the funds raised at the end of the Kickstarter campaign on a “mini production run” to support the early adopters. Unfortunately, the cap for further tuner orders has been reached at this time, and consumers now will have to wait for final versions to hit retail channels to get one.
So, why should you care? NextGen TV (ATSC 3.0) over-the-air broadcast signals will bring more robust signal reception, and will enable broadcasters to pick and choose from a large basket of new capabilities to improve their visual and audio services and add new revenue-generation systems. Among the voluntary capabilities some of these signals might deliver (depending on what each broadcaster chooses) are 4K HDR video, 3D multichannel audio signals including Dolby Atmos and DTS-X, on-demand video, and possibly even streaming to mobile devices and automobiles.
As for 4K high dyanmic range (HDR) signals, the early prospects don’t look good. A number of early broadcasters are looking at using more bandwidth friendly Full HD 1080p resolution signals (as Fox used for the Super Bowl) along with HDR to improve their pictures. Broadcasters will also eventually have the ability to use new Digital Rights Management (DRM) encryption and conditional access systems to offer some form of pay TV services on a portion of their bandwidth. ATSC 3.0 will also provide the ability to deliver targeted advertising.
According to the Silicondust’s description of the product “the new HDHomeRun Quatro 4K (HDHR5-4K) is the device to upgrade your home entertainment to receive every free channel available in your area. It’s built with 4 TV tuners – all 4 tuners receive ATSC 1.0 and 2 of those tuners pick up the new Ultra High Definition ATSC 3.0 broadcasts. We plan to enable multi-channel support so you can watch up to 4 ATSC 3.0 sub-channels across the 2 ATSC 3.0 tuners, all in high definition.”
The prototype of the home broadcast gateway device on the Kickstarter page looks like a circuit board designed to connect to a Wi-Fi router. The HDHR5-4K will then deliver signals to televisions, PCs, monitors, gaming consoles, streaming media adapters etc on the network around the house running compatible apps. The company said “ATSC 3.0 brings interactive apps and DASH transport video, the modern standard you see every day in services like YouTube and Netflix. The HDHomeRun Quatro 4K is an ATSC 3.0 gateway serving DASH content and interactive app content to ATSC 3.0 aware players.”
HDHomeRun apps are able to run on platforms including: Windows 10, Apple Mac, Xbox One, iPad and iPhone, Android phone and tablets, Android TV devices and Android TV televisions with HEVC support and FireTV products and FireTV edition televisions with HEVC support. The company’s KickStarter page said Roku and Apple TV products will not be able to support all ATSC 3.0 features at launch.
As for the price, Silicondust is making a special offer through KickStarter to early backers that will make an HDR5-4K available for $199.99 with an estimated delivery date of July 2020. That’s $50 more than a similar four-tuner product the company sells for ATSC 1.0 reception. The company has committed to deliver these products up to the specified cap numbers to all of the initial early investors who sign up before the deadline and pay the specified amount.
In addition, for $299 or more, supporters can get a development edition of the HDHR5 4K and those who contribute $329 or more, will receive an ATSC 3.0 DVR pack, which includes the HDHR5 4K, a 2TB HDHomeRun Servio and a year of TV Guide listings service. For $2,499 or more a supporter will receive a 10-pack of HDHR5-4Ks for TV industry use, production or development, with engineering support.
The company’s KickStarter page warns that “not all playback clients will be able to support ATSC 3.0 content due to new codecs being utilized. You may need to purchase new client/playback hardware. For a computer you might need to purchase a new graphics card. Windows may require a paid Microsoft codec to be purchased from Microsoft Store.”
The company added that “not all playback clients will be able to play broadcast format 4K content even if the playback client is advertised as 4K or plays Netflix in 4K. You may need to purchase new client/playback hardware. For a computer you might need to purchase a new graphics card.”
The company clarified that platforms with full-featured HDHomeRun apps can include the following:
iPad and iPhone (64-bit models)
Android phones and tablets with HEVC support
Android TV devices and Android TV televisions with HEVC support
FireTV products and FireTV edition televisions with HEVC support
For those who like to time-shift broadcasts, the company said that third-party apps like Plex and Channel will work with MPEG-TS-supporting HDHomeRun Quatro 4K enabling the recording of content “without changes and can playback content with the addition of codec support.”
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By Greg Tarr
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