Sony revealed last week that field tests conducted for mobile reception in vehicles of the new ATSC 3.0 digital over the air broadcasting system showed significant positive results under “on the move” conditions.

The company said the tests were conducted under conditions that are currently difficult for multi-path interference, at locations including California Canyons and Arizona Mountains.

Test broadcast signals included infotainment and non-real-time transmissions from local TV broadcasters using a “robust automotive mode ideal for vehicle software and navigation updates,” the company said.

Sony called the so-called NextGenTV platfom “a substantial upgrade in local station broadcasting in more than two decades,” adding the that it allows TV stations to custom tailor their broadcasts to simultaneously reach different types of viewers on a variety of devices, from stationary big-screen televisions in living rooms home theaters to portable devices installed in or carried inside of moving vehicles.

In addition to providing passengers with infotainment services, Sony pointed out that the system provides “another more substantial opportunity” for local TV stations to easily transmit software updates and information for reception devices in future cars and trucks.

The field tests were conducted through a joint effort of Sony’s Semiconductor and Home Entertainment and Sound Products groups, and were carried out with the assistance of the Pearl TV broadcasters and the Phoenix Model Market ATSC 3.0 partnership in Arizona. Also involved was the News-Press and Gazette Co. of Santa Barbara, California.

The tests analyzed real-world performance of new worldwide demodulator chips from Sony Semiconductor and related software for used for ATSC 3.0 created by Sony Home Entertainment and Solutions of America, the company said.

This involved taking receivers through difficut mountain passes and in urban settings where signal multipath issues often plague mobile and stationary reception of current ATSC 1.0 signal transmissions.

Driving routes in both Phoenix and Santa Barbara were chosen based on difficult reception areas, including a circle around the Paradise Valley north of Camelback Mountain in Arizona and along Highway 192 in California. Four different routes in Arizona and two in California allowed engineers to test different signal-to-noise power levels and highway speeds above and below 55 mph.

Sony said “Arizona provided one exceptionally complex reception challenge while another route along the Pacific Coast near Santa Barbara, California had its own difficult reception environment.”

“For the field testing areas selected, there are some rolling hills, rural canyons and light urban canyon terrain causing echo delays,” stated Mike Nejat, VP of Engineering at Sony Home Entertainment and Solutions of America. “We wanted to find out if ATSC 3.0 can support multiple services, show an example configuration for automotive service, test the configuration with separate solutions in a variety of markets, terrains, and driving conditions, and test the simultaneous delivery of [signals] not related to television entertainment to see how this transmission and reception system might appeal to new customers like automakers..”

The Sony ATSC 3.0 mobile reception field testing is outlined in a white paper available here.

“Sometimes simplicity contains the greatest brilliance,” stated Pearl TV Chief Technical Officer Dave Folsom. “The real brilliance in Sony’s chip and implementation is the use and enabling of diversity antenna reception. Pearl TV and the Phoenix Model Market partners know that mobile reception is particularly hampered by smaller, less efficient antenna systems in a motion environment with the signals reflecting off of adjacent automobiles, buildings, or terrain. In Sony’s implementation they can use up to four antennas and their signal outputs which likely arrive at different levels and times at any given time that are then added together efficiently. Diversity reception has been around for years and has been used in situations like wireless microphones and microwave reception. The brilliance of Sony’s design is the reduction of this capability to a small chip and using it to enable efficient NextGenTV mobile reception.”

Similarly, Sony added that broadcasters in Detroit recently launched a “Motown 3.0 Test Track” and expect to test the Sony implementation this spring, as part of the broader initiative now underway in Michigan. Detroit is one of more than 20 cities now offering NextGenTV broadcasts powered by ATSC 3.0 technology.

At its core, the new broadcast platform merges over-the-air TV with the Internet, which Sony believes will lead to a substantial change in the way viewers watch live broadcast television.

Among other things, this will enable television broadcast stations to personalize their news, sports, live events and shows with interactive features that give viewers the content most relevant to them.

According to the test report conclusions: “Automotive field testing indicates that an ATSC 3.0 solution, physical layer configuration along with upper layer protocol stack can provide robust reception of data at all vehicular speeds. The data in this case was video / audio media, but ATSC 3.0
can deliver any kind of IP data as was tested with a picture file. There was no correlation of packet errors to speed in any scenario.”