Advanced Television

ATSC standards boost for 4K

September 29, 2015

In a move that could enable 4K Ultra HD broadcasts to run side-by-side with robust mobile broadcasts to handheld devices, the US’s Advanced Television Systems Committee has confirmed that the ‘Physical Layer’ transmission system for ATSC 3.0 next-generation television broadcasting has been elevated to ‘Candidate Standard’ status. The ATSC TG3 Technology Group approved the ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer Candidate Standard.

“Over the course of months leading up to this vote, hundreds of volunteers have evaluated proposed technologies all with the mindset of selecting the best and most flexible transmission system as the foundation of ATSC 3.0. This represents a major milestone, and we expect to see manufacturers developing prototypes that can test the more than a dozen interconnected core building-block elements of the Physical Layer,” said ATSC President Mark Richer.

The ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer is intended to offer far more flexibility, robustness and spectrum efficiency than the ‘ATSC 1.0’ standard, which was adopted two decades ago. The ATSC 3.0 physical layer allows television broadcasters to choose from a wide variety of transmission parameters so that each station can tailor its signal to best serve its local market by providing the combination of services and coverage area best suited for the market and its terrain.

“The system will allow high-capacity, low-robustness modes and also lower-capacity, high- robustness modes in the same transmission. That flexibility means that we’re likely to see both 4K Ultra HD broadcasts running side-by-side with robust mobile broadcasts to handheld devices,” Richer explained.

Technologies can be selected for various ‘use cases’ such as Single Frequency Networks, Multiple Input/Multiple Output channel operation, channel bonding and more, well beyond a single transmitting tower. There are a large range of selections for data protection including a wide range of guard intervals, forward error correction code lengths and code rates.

“ATSC is grateful for the support and active involvement of some of the best minds in broadcasting from around the world to develop the standard for the Physical Layer. But this is not the end of the process. The Physical Layer Candidate Standard sets the stage for field testing in the months ahead leading to the Proposed Standard phase in 2016,” Richer said.

Work continues on the other parts of the suite of ATSC 3.0 standards. They include Video and Audio Compression, Closed Captioning, Advanced Emergency Alerting, Security, Companion Devices, Personalisation, Applications and Interactivity, Watermarking and Fingerprinting, and Internet Protocol Delivery. All told, some 20 standards are expected to be part of ATSC 3.0.


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