ATSC 3.0 ‘Instruction Book’ A/300 Standard Approved

Any complicated product needs a good instruction book to explain how things go together.  And while ATSC 3.0 isn’t exactly a furniture project from IKEA, the framers of ATSC 3.0 think the suite of standards does need a road map to show how the various parts of the new standard can work together. 

This approach is unique to ATSC 3.0, and driven by the early decision that the next-generation TV standard should be developed in component parts, with each part described by a separate standard.  That kind of architecture will make future updates easy to accomplish, but it also means that a decent road map is needed to help navigate the whole of ATSC 3.0.  The result is an ATSC document numbered “A/300” (entitled “ATSC 3.0 System”), which was just approved by ATSC members as a final standard.

Multiple Standards Working Together

“Most features of ATSC 3.0 involve multiple standards, working together,” explains Skip Pizzi, chairman of the TG3/S31 Specialist Group on System Requirements and Program Management, which drove the development of A/300.  “A/300 gives the reader an introduction to ATSC 3.0, and presents an overview of the entire suite of 20-plus standards, showing how they are to be used to create various services.”

“A good example of how elements of ATSC 3.0 can work together is Emergency Alerting, which hits on a number of areas.  There’s a device wake-up protocol in the Physical Layer of ATSC 3.0, along with rich media capability in the Applications Layer, and more.  There’s a piece here and there across the individual standards, and A/300 provides a guide about how these various elements work in concert within ATSC 3.0,” says Pizzi, whose day job is the NAB’s VP of Technology Education and Outreach. 

“Even something as straightforward as the ATSC 3.0 Audio standard has three different parts, which are used differently depending on what region of the world you are trying to serve.  So A/300 serves as the road map that explains what goes where.”

‘Instruction Book’ a Unique New Approach

Pizzi says the S31 Specialist Group has been working since the very earliest days of ATSC 3.0 to develop initial system requirements that were then fulfilled by other Specialist Groups who are subject matter experts in the Physical Layer, Transport Layer and the Application Layer.

“The one standard that the S31 Group developed itself is the A/300 instruction book.  And we had to wait for most of the other standards to reach maturity before the instruction book could be written and published.  But now we’re to the point where most of the elements of the standard are done, and the overall guide to ATSC 3.0 could be assembled,” according to Pizzi, who received the 2017 Bernard J. Lechner Outstanding Contributor Award earlier this year.

The ATSC 3.0 documentation approach is a departure from previous ATSC standards, which were generally written as single, omnibus documents.

“Evolution is an essential part of the process for Next Gen TV, so we wanted a more deconstructed, layered, or almost ‘atomic’ approach here.  This is a method that easily enables future updates, allowing independent development on particular areas of the system, or the addition of wholly new capabilities.  And in the latter case, we’ll add another chapter to the instruction book,” Pizzi says.