On Sept. 6, 2011, ATSC announced the formation of a new Technology Group (TG3), under the leadership of Jim Kutzner of PBS, to develop ATSC 3.0. The ATSC Board of Directors defined the TG3 Scope of work as follows:
“The ATSC 3.0 Technology Group (called TG3) will develop voluntary technical Standards and Recommended Practices for the next-generation digital terrestrial television broadcast system. ATSC 3.0 is likely to be incompatible with current broadcast systems and therefore must provide improvements in performance, functionality and efficiency significant enough to warrant implementation of a non-backwards-compatible system. Interoperability with production systems and non-broadcast distribution systems should be considered.”
In its development process, the ATSC Board of Directors has asked TG3 to consider the following:
- Increase efficiency of service. “Efficiency” has many definitions and can be achieved and measured by many means (e.g., increased bits per Hertz, and improved audio and video compression). At a minimum, coverage and service must be maintained, but ideally service would be improved over conventional ATSC service. Any new system must be highly robust for both fixed and mobile service. Also, a new system must account for the differences of the three television bands, how possible implementations within each band are similar and how they differ.
- A new system should consider the substantial difference in operating parameters between fixed and mobile service. Services for mobile and fixed receivers may or may not have different physical layers or different operating modes, but should be optimized for each service.
- A new system should consider other distribution media and services now in use or possibly in use in the future. This will require a consideration of broadcast system architectures and how they integrate with other media. One consideration could be the development of an independently layered system with standardized interface points among the layers.
- A new system should consider the inclusion of return channel capabilities for user interactions, service usage measurement and other uses.
- A new system should also consider accessibility features from the beginning.
- Other considerations for a new broadcast TV system should include the impact of white space devices, a higher upper limit on audio and video quality, additional audio channels and perhaps separate radio services, and guaranteed correct audio and video synchronization.
- Most of all, a new broadcast system should bring greater value to broadcasters and viewers. This may include the consideration of new system architectures, such as aggregating broadcast spectrum.
The initial work of TG3 has been focused on the development of use cases that define potential functions that a new DTV system could provide to consumers. Ultimately, these scenarios will be used to develop the technical requirements for ATSC 3.0.
Work is also under way within TG3 on plans for development of the physical layer of ATSC 3.0. A preliminary list of target attributes has been created, and a draft Call for Proposals (CFP) is under development with a planned release in the first quarter of 2013. As work moves forward on the physical layer, efforts to define the transport and application layers will begin.
Regardless of what transmission methods and technical details are made part of ATSC 3.0, it’s a certainty that mobility will be a centerpiece. This is given the exponential growth in the number of smart phones and tablets carried by people each month. At the same time, broadcasters are increasingly interested in the possibility of providing Ultra High Definition services to the home for 4K and higher resolution.