Posted on December 9, 2014 in ATSC News
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS DAILY, NOV. 13, 2014
When it comes to deployment of the next-gen ATSC 3.0 broadcast system, “I think there’s going to be a good business proposition and a good financial proposition for 4K,” Dave Siegler, vice president-technical operations at Cox, told us at NAB’s Content and Communications World conference in New York Wednesday. Emphasizing that he was speaking in the context of Cox’s broadcast as well as its cable interests, Siegler said: “So much of it comes into implementation.”
As soon as ATSC 3.0 is “ready to go, and we start getting transmitters out there and receivers, I think it’s going to be a while before 4K comes through a broadcast affiliate’s plant,” Siegler said. “I think the first step would be when we get 4K content down from a network, that we would take that and probably push it out to cable first, through direct fiber feeds to cable,” he said. To do 4K over the air would require an “incremental” boost in new equipment and other investment, he said. “We would need bigger servers, and the content—everything is just bigger. I think we’ll get there, but not on Day One.”
For any Cox move into ATSC 3.0, the system’s more robust broadcast reception and better coverage area performance will give viewing audiences a bigger wow factor than viewing shows in 4K resolution, Siegler said. “I believe coverage is a first big win for us” when it comes to ATSC 3.0, he said. “You get into areas that are mountainous and have terrain problems and we’ve had to put in these fill-in translators and things of that sort. But if we can get the coverage more robust, even within our own” designated market area, “that’s giving service to our customers who might not have it now.”
Though ATSC 3.0 is being designed so it’s not backward-compatible with the existing ATSC service, there will be plausible solutions for adding ATSC 3.0 functionality to existing receivers during any transition period, said Jay Adrick, technology adviser to GatesAir, one of several panelists at the conference to give an overview of ATSC 3.0 and a progress report on its standardization. GatesAir has partnered with LG and Zenith to propose technology they call Futurecast as ATSC 3.0’s physical layer. Most flat-panel TVs today have a USB or HDMI port, said Adrick, a former Harris executive. “There could be small devices that are basically tuner demodulators that could provide receptions to those ports,” and at “relatively low cost,” he said. “Over the course of time, I would venture to say that there’ll be set-top boxes that will provide output to 4K or output in HD. I think the two-piece concept that is sort of traditional today in the cable world is probably where broadcast will go for the launch of the home screen. Innovation to smaller devices will take time and chips.”
Among its other benefits, ATSC 3.0 gives broadcasters the “ability to become the prime source for emergency alerting,” Adrick said. “The fact that wireless systems fail in disasters is proven over and over and over again. The broadcast big-stick approach has far more survivability and the ability to deliver alerting in any type of disaster. With ATSC 3.0, the possibilities are really mind-boggling as to what the system could deliver.”
Adrick’s statement on emergency alerted later prompted John Taylor, LG vice-president-public affairs, to predict during Q&A that “there are a couple of benefits of 3.0 that will make it more compelling” for including receiver chips in smartphones compared with “ATSC-MH” mobile handheld technology. Those benefits include “better throughput and more robustness,” Taylor said.
But mobile emergency alerting is “a key element” of ATSC 3.0 that will “help drive” more ATSC broadcast chips into smartphones and other handheld receivers, he said. “Once you have a ubiquitous service that capitalizes on the benefits that broadcasters bring to this and the evolution to an advanced warning and response network with broadcasting as the backbone, there’ll be, I think, more pressure on the wireless carriers and manufacturers like ourselves to get those chips in there.”
Asked what he thinks of the likelihood of an FCC mandate to force that to happen, Taylor said LG hasn’t advocated one, “but I think there’ll be certain parties in Washington that will nicely request it at the right time and in the right way.” NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton emailed us Wednesday to say it’s “probably premature” to be having that discussion now. “But from a public safety perspective alone, we would think the carriers and manufacturers would be open to voluntarily adding DTV chips to smartphones,” Wharton said. “The reality is that local broadcasting is the one reliable lifeline information service in times of crisis.”
ATSC 3.0 will be composed of a base “core” layer and a step-up “enhancement” layer, but before deciding what future innovations will reside in the enhancement layer, “the first decision will have to be what will the core represent,” said Winston Caldwell, vice president-spectrum engineering at Fox Networks Group. “If you have sort of a uniform core that everyone’s providing, it’s important to give consumers just a little bit more than what they’re used to. I don’t know if 1080p is the answer, but maybe high dynamic range, you include in the core. Maybe you include a higher frame rate in the core. Then you have the enhancement layer, and if you’re in situation where you’re close to the transmitter, you use an outdoor antenna, you can pick up the enhancement.
“There’s an inherent motivation for consumers to make the effort to pick up the enhancement, because now, you can fill your 4K TV. You can watch sports in 120 Hz. There’s an opportunity to enhance or expand spatially in terms of resolution or temporally in terms of higher frame rate.” There’s “large” consensus within the ATSC for “going in that direction,” but systems will need to be tested first to be sure there’s no “hidden gotcha,” Caldwell said. — Paul Gluckman
Reprinted with permission from the Warren Communications News.
Posted in ATSC News
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