ATSC Getting Closer to 2.0 Broadcast Standard
Committee expected to complete work soon on several key developments
By George Winslow -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/7/2012 12:01:00 AM
Over the past 15 months, however, a growing number of broadcasters, standards bodies, research labs and industry associations have been exploring the idea of creating a more harmonious standard for global terrestrial broadcasting.
That idea, which was raised at a Future of Broadcasting TV Summit last year in Shanghai, was formalized last month at the NAB show with the launch of the Future of Broadcast Television (FoBTV) initiative. Its 13 founding members from North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America include ATSC, NAB, PBS, the CRT in Canada, the DVB Project in Europe, the European Broadcast Union, NHK in Japan and Globo TV in Brazil.
If successful, the development of global broadcast standards would both encourage innovation and reduce costs by creating economies of scale.
The effort also dovetails nicely with ATSC’s ambitious effort to create the next-generation broadcast standard, ATSC 3.0. Both the Technical Group 3 working on ATSC 3.0 and the separate FoBTV initiatives are looking at ways to produce at least “a six-fold improvement [in] the efficiency” of their spectrum usage, ATSC president Marc Richer says. At the same time, they want to find more flexible ways to use spectrum so broadcasters are not constrained by fixed channels.
“We’re hoping it will be so efficient and flexible that it will be able to serve the needs of everyone” worldwide, Richer says. —GW
Some of this work—notably the development of the ATSC 3.0 next-generation broadcast standard and its involvement in the Future of Broadcast TV initiative—will take years to complete. But some other major projects, such as a standard for nonreal time delivery of content, the new ATSC 2.0 and the first version of a 3D standard for terrestrial 3D broadcasts are expected to be wrapped up this year.
The most immediate impact from this work is the proposed non-real time (NRT) standard, which is currently being voted on by ATSC members. “This is a big deal,” says ATSC president Mark Richer, because it would allow broadcasters to send out fi les—news clips, weather reports or even whole newscasts, full TV episodes or movies—onto TVs, smartphones, tablets or any other device capable of getting a DTV signal.
“Linear TV is a great service and isn’t going away, but the ability to download content as files as part of NRT is really going to enhance the capabilities of broadcasters and change the way broadcasting is done around the world,” he says.
First implementations of non-real time broadcasts are already under way as part of the mobile DTV launches. Those features will be included in the mobile DTV system being tested this summer by two members of the Mobile500 Alliance.
Getting TV sets, mobile devices or accessories that are capable of receiving the signals into the market will take some time, however. “The next step will be for broadcasters to work with consumer electronics manufacturers,” Richer says.
The NRT is also an important component of the ATSC 2.0 standard that Richer expects to be completed in the late third quarter or early fourth quarter of this year.
ATSC 2.0 also opens up a number of major opportunities for broadcasters. Besides NRT, it will include MPEG-4 compression, which cuts spectrum needs in half and offers broadcasters a way to integrate broadcasts and broadband services. Triggers in live TV broadcasts would prompt the receiver use in the broadband connection to display additional online content for interactive TV, second screen or social TV experiences.
Like NRT, ATSC 2.0 is backwards-compatible with existing receivers, but new ATSC 2.0 receivers and devices will need to come into the market before a number of its features, including MPEG4 compression, can be used.
E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @GeorgeWinslow
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