Posted on May 1, 2014 in ATSC News
For your bedtime reading enjoyment, here are some ATSC-related excerpts from NAB Show coverage by Consumer Electronics Daily and Communications Daily, reprinted with permission from Warren Communications:
‘National Broadcast Plan’
ATSC 3.0 Can Help Keep Broadcasters Competitive, FCC Chief Tells NAB
LAS VEGAS, April 9 — Broadcasting is at “an inflection point” where it can move from “being disrupted to the disruptor,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a highly anticipated speech to a packed room at the NAB Show Tuesday. In the speech and a subsequent chat with NAB CEO Gordon Smith, Wheeler offered up a list of “opportunities where the FCC could help broadcasters remain competitive.”
Wheeler suggested broadcasters should offer local news using over-the-top services, use channel sharing to make money in the incentive auction, and shift toward adopting the Advanced Television Systems Committee’s 3.0 standard (CED April 8 p1). He also expressed support for Smith’s “National Broadcast Plan,” though he cautioned that Congress would need to release funds for it, and that it would happen after the incentive auction.
Broadcasters shouldn’t be afraid to transition to new ways of doing business in the wake of technological change, Wheeler said. “Broadcasters aren’t in the TV business,” he said. “Your horizons are better than your current product.”
Anticipation for Wheeler’s speech was high at the convention, coming after recent FCC decisions limiting some TV station sharing arrangements and banning joint negotiation of retransmission consent contracts. Some convention attendees told us they thought it was possible the chairman could get booed, or that some broadcasters might boycott the speech. There wasn’t evidence that either occurred during Wheeler’s talk. Several broadcast attorneys told us it was unusual for the FCC chairman to pass rules opposed by broadcasters right before their convention. It’s more usual for chairmen to pass something especially favorable to a given constituency just before its trade shows, several attorneys told us. “I understand that a good enemy is a priceless asset,” said Wheeler. “That tactic sure feels different if I’m the enemy — especially when I’m not,” he said. “Trust me. I get the skepticism.”
Broadcasters should use their existing resources to begin delivering expanded OTT services with an emphasis on local news, Wheeler said. Licensees could use their content to become “the source for local news down to the neighborhood,” he said. The Internet has a gap where local news is concerned, Wheeler said. The local news service could be promoted using stations’ unsold ad slots, Wheeler said. In focusing more on the Internet, broadcasters should support an open Internet, Wheeler said. “This is where our policy activities become relevant to creating a new expansive era for broadcast licensees.” Net neutrality rules are an “open sesame” for stations to move from the “television” business to the “information” business, Wheeler said…
Wheeler credited a “heart-to-heart” meeting with Smith last week for inspiring the third prong of his plan for broadcasters: Using the new ATSC 3.0 standard as “the entry point to the broadband economy for broadcasting.” Smith urged broadcasters to support the new standard, in a speech Monday. The FCC will be ready and responsive when the standard is completed, said Wheeler. Though ATSC 3 isn’t backwards-compatible with existing TVs, “it is compatible with the incentive auction,” Wheeler said. “If it is possible to get a multiple of throughput on spectrum with OFDM, we, as stewards of the spectrum, need to be supportive.”
Wheeler’s statement that he supports broadcasters using the new standard to participate in the broadband market is “terrific,” said Sinclair Vice President Mark Aitken. He said it’s important that any efforts to transition broadcasters to ATSC 3.0 be coordinated with the repacking, to spare expense to licensees. “We have maintained from the beginning that we believe there is a responsibility by the FCC to allow broadcasters to advance,” Aitken said. “If we’re going to do a repack, we should allow broadcasters to do so using a next generation standard.”
“If it is possible to expand competition by offering wireless throughput at or better than the level that will be commonly available at the time of its rollout, we need to welcome the competition,” Wheeler said. He cautioned that ATSC 3.0 transition would be “a heavy lift” on the order of the DTV transition. “We should neither shrink from it, nor underestimate its magnitude,” he said. Smith suggested the effort could be part of a National Broadcast Plan, which Wheeler said should be considered, if the funds are approved by Congress and the effort begins after the auction. A National Broadcast Plan should be compared to other congressionally funded FCC efforts, like the auction, Wheeler said… — Monty Tayloe
* * *
LAS VEGAS, April 8 — The Advanced TV Systems Committee’s “S34” specialist group, assigned to fashion the “applications and presentations” of the next generation ATSC 3.0 DTV system, thinks it’s “not in scope” to include 8K resolution in the proposed “candidate standard” that’s expected next April, the group’s chairwoman said in an “ATSC 3.0 Update” panel Sunday at the NAB Show’s Broadcast Engineering Conference.
“We are looking at a very flexible service model, with the idea being that you as broadcasters can choose different aspects of services that you want to deliver, but also allowing wide flexibility on the consumer side,” said S34 Chairwoman Madeleine Noland, an LG consultant. S34 also is to pick ATSC 3.0’s audio and video codecs, and is responsible for its closed-captioning, personalization and interactivity, she said: “If you see it on the screen, that’s what we do.”
UHD support along the lines of 4K remains a key ATSC 3.0 given, but S34 thinks 8K resolution “actually is likely out of scope” for the next-gen 3.0 standard, Noland said. Though ATSC officials have spoken broadly for years about UHD support in ATSC 3.0, Noland’s disclosure was the first by anyone connected with ATSC 3.0 standardization efforts to specifically rule out including 8K in the ATSC 3.0 standard earmarked for completion by the end of 2015. “We are envisioning a flexible system, so potentially future evolutions” of ATSC 3.0 will provide 8K support, but not now, Noland said: “To specifically design a system with the anticipation of 8K rolling out at the start is not in scope.”
That statement later prompted an audience questioner in Q&A to express his “concern” that ATSC shouldn’t be so “exclusionary” when it comes to 8K, particularly amid the repeated claims of ATSC 3.0’s standards-setters that they want to make the next-gen system as flexible and as future-proof as possible. With that, Rich Chernock, chief science officer at Triveni Digital, chairman of the ATSC’s Technology
Group 3, which is overseeing work on ATSC 3.0 and its various specialist groups, gave Noland a slight rebuke. On Noland’s statement that 8K wasn’t in S34’s scope, “I would have phrased it slightly differently,” Chernock assured the questioner.
On 8K, that’s “not our starting target, but it’s within the realm of where we expect the system to evolve to,” Chernock said. “We’ve learned a lot in the past about picking operating points and making it very difficult to change them. It’s been very painful.” It’s “very hard” to standardize today which technologies might work in the future, he said. “We just have to make sure we have the evolution path, to be able to say, ‘Well, over time, we’re going to change this.’” Setting a “fixed point” at 4K and saying, ‘That’s where we’re going to be forever,’ that’s not what we’re trying to do.”
Noland then chimed in to clarify that “what you saw on the screen there were some of the decisions that have been made in order to help us get to a 2015 candidate standard,” including her declaration that 8K is not in S34’s scope. That “does not preclude extensibility and evolvability over time,” she said. “To get to a candidate standard by 2015, we need to make some decisions about what we’re going to write down today, which doesn’t preclude us adding to it tomorrow. So what we would envision is that the candidate standard will come out with a very rich, robust and flexible package of options for broadcasters and consumers and that activity can continue beyond that point to add on additional aspects of the standard in order to incorporate more things as time evolves.”
S34 is eyeing resolutions of up 3840 x 2160 — equivalent to today’s 4K Ultra HD — while frame rates of 60 Hz and 120 Hz “are all on the table,” Noland said. “Fractional frame rates are a hot discussion” at ATSC and elsewhere, “and that discussion rages on, so we’ll see,” she said, noting that of the 59.94 Hz and 119.88 Hz fractional frame rates being discussed, many broadcasters favor the former. Of video codec proposals S34 has fielded, there’s broad consensus for using the HEVC codec, “so that’s probably the way we’ll go,” she said. There’s also broad support for using progressive scanning only in the UHD domain, with no provision in the candidate standard for interlaced UHD format options, she said.
Though ATSC 3.0 won’t be backward-compatible with the existing DTV standard, it will include legacy 1080p formats, Noland said. And “we’re looking definitely at high dynamic range, and high frame rates are anticipated,” she said. Also, “lots of additional resolutions are being considered,” including 2560 x 1440, she said. S34 also is “targeting specifically mobile devices for HD,” she said. “We’ve got some very, very nice screens on mobile devices today and there should be no reason we can’t do that.”
S34 is drafting a call for proposals on the various audio requirements of ATSC 3.0, and that should go out in a month or two, Noland said. “Details of testing and evaluation are being discussed. We want to make sure all of that is very, very clear in the call for proposals, so proponents understand how they will be looked at.” Sound quality is one of two “major buckets” for ATSC 3.0 audio under consideration at S34, she said. “But the other is the operational workflow — how easy it is for the broadcaster to actually implement this in the plant and to use it.”
The audio requirements of ATSC 3.0 are “rather clear,” in that ATSC 3.0 audio “needs to work on a wide variety of speaker systems,” Noland said. “So as we draft our call for proposals, the proponents will understand that their systems will be tested on a variety of output devices. So you might have some very high-quality 22-channel input or something else in the future that eventually will need to be rendered on a handheld device or a tinny speaker on a tablet device.”
Asked from the audience how ATSC 3.0’s implementation might mesh with the FCC incentive spectrum auction, Robert Seidel, CBS-TV vice president-engineering and advanced technology, said “it’s very unclear what the outcome of this auction will be.” But “at the end of the auction, whether it’s successful or unsuccessful, there has to be a technical solution in the wings, ready to go,” and that’s ATSC 3.0, Seidel said. Uncertainties also abound about how to transition to ATSC 3.0 from the existing DTV system, he said. “Do you start a parallel transition, or do you do a flash cut overnight?” Various transition “scenarios” are under discussion, and “it’s unclear which one will be selected, depending on how much spectrum is available” after the auction, Seidel said…
Releasing ATSC 3.0 as a candidate standard next April will be a prelude to publishing it as a final standard by year-end 2015, Chernock said. As a candidate standard, ATSC 3.0 will be “complex” as it’s submitted to the ATSC membership for balloting, he said. “We think we got it right, but it’s complicated enough that we put it out and let people build it, try it, find any problems, and then have the ability to change it before we go on to a complete published standard.” December 2015 is “the target we’re aiming for” on completing the final standard to be submitted to the FCC, “and we have a very good chance of making it,” he said.
Other disclosures: (1) S32 expects its work on ATSC 3.0’s physical layer will result in completion of a “baseline system” by midyear, Fay said. What’s known so far is that ATSC 3.0’s physical layer will feature orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing modulation and low-density parity-check forward error correction, he said. (2) The “big news” is that the S33 specialist group responsible for ATSC 3.0’s management and protocols has opted to go with an Internet protocol-based transport system, said Sungho Hwang, a Samsung engineer who sits on S33 and chairs one of its subgroups. “No more MPEG2-TS!” his PowerPoint slide said, referring to the existing ATSC transport protocol. S33 also likely will endorse the ISO Base Media File Format protocol for ATSC 3.0 streaming, Hwang said. — Paul Gluckman
Copyright 2014 by Warren Communications News Inc., Reprinted by permission.
Posted in ATSC News
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