ATSC 2.0 – Bridge to 3.0

ATSC-Jan-2016-DolanBy Michael Dolan

I have had the privilege of chairing the TG1 Technology Group at ATSC, which has been responsible for the maintenance of the existing DTV signals (retroactively named ATSC 1.0) and more recently the development of backwards-compatible enhancements known as ATSC 2.0.

As we enter the New Year, I am pleased to report the successful conclusion and publication of all the various parts of ATSC 2.0, many of which provide a solid foundation for the next-gen ATSC 3.0 standard.

By way of background, the ATSC 2.0 effort was undertaken by TG1 as a result of direction from the ATSC board of directors in 2010 to:

…develop comprehensive standards for the next generation of fixed-broadcast digital television (DTV) services…[which] shall be carried in DTV broadcast channels and the presence of these services shall not preclude or interfere with proper operation of current ATSC services in the same RF channel or have any adverse impact on legacy receiving equipment.

Simply put, ATSC 2.0 is a new set of backwards-compatible tools and features that can be carried over the ATSC 1.0 RF layer and MPEG-TS Transport Stream without negatively impacting fielded receivers.  TG1 embarked on new work that included a number of new features and technology ultimately codified in the A/107 ATSC standard and its subordinate specifications.

These new features and their approved ATSC standards include:

  • Non-Real-Time (NRT) Services (A/103)
  • Interactive Services (A/105)
  • Advanced Codecs – AVC (A/72), Dolby E-AC-3 (A/53-6 & A/52), MPEG HE AAC v2, and DTS-HD
  • Access Control & DRM (A/106)

Complementing our ATSC 2.0 activities, TG1 developed and published specifications for 3D video coding, which was embodied in a number of parts of the A/104 standard. Features include 3D-TV terrestrial broadcasting involving stereoscopic 3D content delivery over a broadcast channel and/or a supplementary channel for fixed and/or mobile devices. This includes hybrid scenarios for real-time broadcast and NRT delivery.

Foundation for ATSC 3.0 

Now, with the aggressive development of ATSC 3.0, why is ATSC 2.0 relevant?  NRT and interactivity are core components of ATSC 3.0. Since it is possible to deploy these over ATSC 1.0, valuable experience has been gained by prototype systems that have been built and demonstrated at trade shows, specifically triggers and widgets.

Equally significant, TG1’s introductory treatment in ATSC 2.0 of other advanced features –like service usage data gathering and reporting, second-screen capabilities, Internet connectivity, personalization, home networking and bookmarks – also provided groundwork for the feature development in ATSC 3.0.

I want to thank ATSC members for their long-time involvement in TG1 and strong contributions to ATSC 2.0 standards and related technologies. What’s next for TG1?  Having concluded our work on ATSC 2.0 and 3D, TG1 plans to “lay low” for a while as members focus on the ATSC 3.0 next-gen standard.