Posted on November 9, 2022 in ATSC News
Opportunities Ahead with NextGen TV
The over-the-air broadcast industry went into the spectrum repack period focused on helping broadcasters move to new channel assignments over a series of carefully structured timelines. With the completion of each phase, we were all aware that the promise and potential of NextGen TV awaited us on the other side.
Transmitter and antennas suppliers knew that broadcaster investment in repack products meant that their RF systems would be healthy and modernized for years to come. Most of us built ATSC 3.0 capability into our repack products that broadcasters could take advantage of upon adopting NextGen TV. That means providing solutions that could simultaneously accommodate ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 signals – an approach that is now live within cities around the United States via the “lighthouse” configuration.
The lighthouse model essentially calls on one station to light up an ATSC 3.0 transmission system, and another to populate 1.0 signals. This is an excellent approach in urban areas, and GatesAir has been active in most trials and deployments. One example is the Washington, DC area, where GatesAir supplied a Maxiva ULXTE-50 liquid-cooled transmitter to lighthouse stations WHUT, a PBS member station located on the campus of Howard University. Local commercial stations WJLA (ABC), WUSA (CBS), WTTG (FOX), and WRC (NBC) have joined WHUT to deliver HD programming and standard-definition sub-channels (including the PBS Kids service) over the same transmitter, taking advantage of WHUT’s prime location in the city to maximize market penetration of the ATSC 3.0 signal.
The lighthouse model is an excellent first step in bringing this highly efficient and effective modulation, which also improves penetration to mobile devices, to the real world. However, the lighthouse model is less advantageous, if possible at all, in smaller cities and rural areas where broadcast towers and translators are more dispersed. That makes the prospect of single-frequency networks, or SFNs, a highly attractive proposition for the next phase of ATSC 3.0 deployments.
SFNs are essentially the opposite of the big stick approach that most ATSC 1.0 systems follow. SFNs are more closely related to what we see in rural areas that require multiple translators to cover mountainous terrains or very dispersed populations. An ATSC 3.0 SFN architecture would bring several lower power transmitters together to form a network, maximizing market penetration and audience coverage throughout the market. This is a model that is equally beneficial in urban and rural areas alike.
GatesAir has prepared for this crossroads over the last several years. Our higher-power Maxiva models are built for that lighthouse approach, and it is clear that ATSC 1.0 signals will remain on the air for years to come. We have upped the efficiency level with mid-gain drivers and 500-watt, hot-swappable PA modules, while providing a path to ATSC 3.0 through our software-defined exciters.
Meanwhile, we have filled out our low-power transmitter lines with traditional models as well as non-traditional innovations like our PTMX line, which are weatherproof systems that can be configured as translators or gap fillers and mounted on poles, buildings, or towers. We are also addressing the need for bulk transport of ATSC 3.0 content across SFNs and other ATSC 3.0 network configurations with our Intraplex Ascent cloud transport platform.
The future is bright for ATSC 3.0 beyond the lighthouse, both inside the U.S. and in countries such as Brazil, Jamaica, and India where GatesAir is one of many suppliers active in current trials.
–Steve Rossiter, TV Systems Applications Engineer, GatesAir
Posted in ATSC News
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The Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc., is an international, non-profit organization developing voluntary standards and recommended practices for digital terrestrial broadcasting. ATSC member organizations represent the broadcast, broadcast equipment, motion picture, consumer electronics, computer, cable, satellite, and semiconductor industries. ATSC also develops digital terrestrial broadcasting implementation strategies and supports educational activities on ATSC standards.