ATSC 3.0: What will the “standard” look like?

Documentation Architecture for Next-Gen TV’s Suite of Standards

People have generally been referring to ATSC 3.0 as the next-generation broadcast television “standard.” But it actually will made up of a “suite” of standards.

When considering what the architecture for the ATSC 3.0 documents will be, think of standards like toolboxes. When you’re faced with a plumbing task, your ability to reach into a box containing plumber’s tools only is quite helpful, as opposed to a box containing a jumble of electrical, woodworking and plumbing tools.

Manageable Documentation

ATSC 3.0 will specify an entire next-generation broadcasting system, from the RF transmission through presentation to the viewer or listener and all the necessary items in between. All told, the documentation for ATSC 3.0 will easily be in excess of 1,000 pages. As you might imagine, a single monolithic document of this size would be very difficult to create, to manage and especially to read. This is one of the reasons it make sense to have a suite of standards, covering different aspects of the overall ATSC 3.0 system.

Standards need to be understandable and implementable. Typically, different groups of engineers (in one or many companies) develop products to implement different parts of the system. Readers often are looking to understand a particular aspect of the system. Organizing documents of the system around functional blocks will help meet this need.

Other benefits of modular standards for ATSC 3.0 include:

  • Maintainability: The ability to revise only the portion of the standard that requires maintenance.
  • Referencing: The ability to establish a reference structure between documents that makes sense. In particular, circular references must be avoided. A reader must be able to follow the trail of references to uncover the full specification of all of the technical elements.

ATSC3_Parent_Standard_AATSC 3.0 Suite of Standards

With all this in mind, ATSC 3.0 will be documented in a suite of standards. There will be the top level “parent” standard (mostly likely to be titled A/300), which describes the overall system, states what must be included to create an ATSC 3.0 system and in separate sections points to and includes each of the component standards.

The parent level ATSC 3.0 standard will define the system and point to the suite of around 20 standards for all of the core building blocks, including transmission, video, audio, captioning, watermarking, security and personalization to name just a few.

The illustration  below shows the likely structure of the ATSC 3.0 suite of standards. Please note that the names, numbers and organization are still being finalized as the various draft elements move towards Candidate Standard balloting.

Longtime ATSC volunteer leader and former ATSC Lechner Award honoree Dr. Richard Chernock is Chief Science Officer at Triveni Digital.