The amount of progress made over the last couple of months on the ATSC 3.0 suite of standards is quite remarkable. Current time marks the tipping point insofar as completion of ATSC 3.0 is concerned; more standards have been completed than are in process. The FCC has already issued its plan for voluntary adoption of the standard, setting in motion the process by which the commission will develop the guidelines for the transition.
The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) gave its approval to three more standards for ATSC 3.0 – the next-gen broadcast TV transmission system for over-the-air delivery of high dynamic range (HDR), 4K resolution, and other advanced TV features.
The ATSC 3.0 Link Layer Protocol – which transports data between the network layer to the physical layer on the sending side, as well as the data from the physical layer to the network layer on the receiving side –
is among the three standards that received approval.
The latest ATSC 3.0 standards will help future devices transport incoming data and provide for both audio and video watermarks in broadcast content. These are each important elements that will give ATSC 3.0 remarkable flexibility.
ATSC 3.0 is not just one standard; rather, it is a suite of about 20 separate standards. Each standard moves through the process at its own pace. The ATSC has also announced that it has made progress on three new proposed standards and two new candidate standards, with the group's technical subcommittee currently reviewing all five.
There are four major document classifications within ATSC, namely, working draft, candidate standard, proposed standard, and standard. Each step forward requires agreement of the appropriate group of experts, and with each step the document moves closer to its final state.
Dividing up the last six years of intense work on ATSC 3.0, Jerry Whitaker, ATSC, Vice President-Standards Development, has broadly split it into three distinct periods:
2010–2012: Planning. Initial work focused on developing user requirements and use cases for what the next-generation DTV system should be able to provide for consumers.
2012–2014: Technology. Dozens of new technologies were proposed for inclusion in ATSC 3.0. Following established procedures, those technologies were discussed, evaluated, and selected.
2014–2016: Document development. With the fundamental architectures of ATSC 3.0 agreed upon, work began in earnest to document the technologies and to make sure all of the elements would work together to yield a flexible, efficient, and reliable service.
In February 2017, the FCC unanimously voted to allow broadcasters to deploy ATSC 3.0 voluntarily and issued a notice of proposed rulemaking, which is currently limited to what developers have promoted as the game changer for next-gen TV, A/321, system discovery and signaling, and the bootstrap layer. The regulatory process is now on track and broadcasters have been testing ATSC 3.0 for quite some time.
In a growing world of over-the-top bundles and on-demand streaming alternatives, ATSC 3.0 is aimed at keeping broadcasters competitive by providing IP data transmission and enhanced multicasting on excess broadcast spectrum. The improved compression standard of ATSC 3.0's 6 MHz spectrum adds a data casting element that opens new opportunities in advertising, programming, and multiplatform options.
The BIA/Kelsey report predicted that ATSC 3.0 could pay for itself within three years. The report cited increased viewership gained through improved 4K broadcasts, and targeted advertising and new non-broadcast opportunities enabled via IP as reasons for the rapid growth. Whether or not these predictions are realized will depend on industry's support for the new standard and whether consumer electronics manufacturers will follow it.
Looking forward, 2017 and beyond will be the period of ASTC 3.0 implementation.