HOT POTATO: Edge Networks Boise Stations Light Up ATSC 3.0

Todd Achilles is a “longtime wireless guy” who has lived through multiple generations of mobile phone technology.  Now based in Idaho, the Edge Networks President & CEO applied and won approval from the FCC to launch two ATSC 3.0 stations in the Boise market a few months ago, and the stations are already on-the-air with test signals.

“We’re not commercial at this point – we plan to officially launch in 2020.  Right now, we’re airing content for testing purposes,” Achilles explains.  Edge Networks is a new ATSC member, working on a planned service that would be aimed at secondary and tertiary markets where there is little competitive choice for TV programming and Internet access.

“I think we have 100 percent of the ATSC 3.0 receivers now in the Boise, Idaho market!  We have a couple of prototype sets and are working on a custom set-top box that will support ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 signals,” Achilles explains.  “We are broadcasting over two channels and plan to combine the capacity to offer a ‘skinny bundle’ of attractive programs for viewers.

“We believe there will be a market for services with a set-top receiver and several dozen channels – including 4K content – delivered over-the-air via ATSC 3.0. We want to make the most of the new encoding capabilities of the new standard, so that we can offer a compelling, new service for consumers, whether they are cord-cutters or not.”

Achilles says his aim is for Edge Networks to offer a competitive double-play service of live, linear, VOD and Internet access in the home. 

“Really, there’s a huge opportunity because there is so little competition – particularly if you bundle Internet service with popular channels.  Boise is a very high over-the-air reception market.  And it’s a lot like several cities around the country where there is little to no competition for broadband.  More than 80 percent of U.S. households are ‘under-served’ with high-speed broadband.  In many places, there’s only one provider fast Internet service.  We believe this is a compelling opportunity,” says Achilles.

Edge Networks has been following the development of ATSC 3.0 for about two years and is working behind-the-scenes to put together a service offering that would provide more choices for rural and suburban customers.

“I also think there’s tremendous opportunity for 4K broadcasting.  We’ve been transmitting 4K test content in Boise and it looks absolutely fantastic.  And I think viewers in markets throughout the West will jump at the opportunity to have a better television and Internet service,” said Achilles.

While details are still confidential, Achilles sees the opportunity for a double-play offering that would include a curated grouping of channels along with Internet access.

“We’ve all lived through the hype of the ‘G’s’ through the years,” Achilles explains.  “In the wireless industry, everything changed with 3G, which is when mobile networks finally supported IP and open operating system smartphones could connect directly to the Internet.     

“There’s always a ton of hype the precedes the actual service but ATSC 3.0 is to broadcast what 3G was to mobile networks,” he concludes.  “As a result, I think that ATSC 3.0 will provide a great way for us to reach viewers and give them new choices and the channels that they want.”