STANDARDS UPDATE A/300 – “One Ring to Rule them All”

By MADELEINE NOLAND, LG Electronics
TG3 Technology Group Chair

The ATSC 3.0 suite of standards is a living, breathing body of work. As implementations gain momentum, opportunities for refinements of the documents emerge. And as the Next Gen TV industry continues to grow and evolve, the standards will need to evolve over time, too.  At the same time, broadcasters and equipment makers need stability and predictability to support implementation efforts and ensure ongoing interoperability.

ATSC processes are in place to assure that each standard within the suite can be updated as needed. In some cases, there are interdependencies between documents to be considered; a change in one document may “ripple” into another document. For example, recently some material from the A/337 Application Signaling Standard was moved to the A/331 Signaling, Delivery, Synchronization, and Error Protection Standard, and so it was important to update both documents in parallel to maintain interoperability.

We recognize that keeping track of revisions of each individual document can be challenging for implementers. As the standard evolves, it’s important for implementers to be able to easily identify a given document set. The “umbrella” standard – A/300: ATSC System – provides this mechanism.

A/300 is considered the “One Ring to Rule Them All” (as you Tolkien aficionados will appreciate).  This umbrella standard normatively references a specific version of each of the standards that comprise the full suite. Care is taken to ensure that all the documents referenced in A/300 are an interoperable set. And it’s beneficial to create a predictable pattern of revision cycles, such as annually, and A/300 can be the mechanism for this.

As updates are required, each individual standard progresses at its own pace per the ATSC’s procedures. As a given revision is approved by TG3, and then by the full ATSC membership, it becomes publicly available to the industry, although the revision may not be incorporated immediately into A/300. Before updating A/300, we evaluate the overall pace of change and interoperability of the various individual document revisions.

The suite of approved ATSC 3.0 standards (including A/300) was released in early 2018. Since then, several individual standards have been revised, and a few more key document revisions are currently close to final approval by the ATSC membership.  The ATSC expects that once these additional revisions are fully approved, a 2019 update of A/300 will be forthcoming. A/300:2019 will likely be the version of record for the remainder of the calendar year. 

The bottom line is that the ATSC is focused on balancing the need for stability and interoperability with opportunities to fine tune various standards and recommended practices over time to best meet broadcaster and viewer requirements.