Worried that free-to-air could become obsolete? Worry not.
Not only is free-to-air here to stay, but 2020 sees the rollout of ATSC 3.0, and with it HEVC for video channels of up to 2160p 4K resolution, high dynamic range (HDR) content, and 3D multichannel sound. But first things first.
ATSC 3.0- What is it?
ATSC 3.0, also known as Next Gen TV, is the latest standard developed by Advanced Television Systems Committee, an international, non-profit organization developing voluntary standards and recommended practices for digital terrestrial broadcasting.
ATSC 3.0 is defined as “the next generation terrestrial broadcast system designed from the ground up to improve the television viewing experience with higher audio and video quality, improved compression efficiency, robust transmission for reception on both fixed and mobile devices, and more accessibility, personalization and interactivity.” In simple terms, it provides higher resolutions like 4K and possibly 8K, along with improved sound quality, and potential interactive features.
In addition, ATSC 3.0 is the world’s first Internet-Protocol-based television broadcast standard. It employs IP packets for delivery, rather than a DVB Transport Stream, and is arguably more aligned with online and mobile services. Keep in mind that ATSC standards are used mostly in the United States, Mexico and Canada, it is definitely something the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) standard in European countries will follow.
What happened to ATSC 1.0 and 2.0?
Let’s put it this way – if you are watching your TV with an HD antenna attached to it, you are already using ATSC 1.0. It’s a set of standards and recommendations that transitioned broadcasters from an analog to a digital signal more than a decade ago in the US.
And ATSC 2.0? Well, we don’t talk about it. It was outdated long before it had a chance to gain momentum, but all the advances it brought are inherited by ATSC 3.0. ATSC 3.0. creators assure us that this service will be more reliable than any previous.
What are the actual benefits for TV viewers?
A more efficient video format, called HEVC or H.265, will enable broadcasters to send data-heavy 4K video over the airwaves, along with other picture enhancements, such as HDR. In short, it means you will be able to watch 4K HDR channels for free.
Also, depending on content and your device, you might get higher-quality “immersive” audio— so-called 3D multichannel sound. ATSC 3.0 uses the newer Dolby AC-4, for broadcasts of up to 7.1.4 channel audio and support for object-based sound formats like Dolby Atmos.
What about interactive features? Since ATSC 3.0 is capable of delivering 4K, it comes as no surprise that the same bandwidth can be used to deliver a wide range of digital information, such as plot summaries or poster thumbnails. It’s just like online streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Disney+ offer.
Additionally, ATSC 3.0 will bring enhanced emergency alerts so that consumers will receive more specific, localized warnings during natural disasters or similar emergency events. It is planned to supply content from public sources, such as weather, traffic, or school closures. Once fully developed, geo-targeting should allow for fully localized alerts.
Do I need a new TV?
In short, no. You will need an OTA antenna and an ATSC 3.0-compatible tuner. All existing Digital HDTV OTA antennas are already capable of receiving ATSC 3.0 broadcasts. Also, several TV makers, including LG, Sony, and Samsung, started selling ATSC 3.0-compatible TVs for the US market this year.
When to expect ATSC 3.0?
It’s similar to 5G. ATSC 3.0 is already fully operating in several US cities, including Nashville, Pittsburg, and Las Vegas. According to NextTV, ATSC 3.0 should cover approximately 70 percent of the USA. For more specifics, check out this map provided directly by ATSC.
There is no doubt that online video usage is increasing. While ATSC 3.0 offers many newer technologies such as HEVC, support for HDR and wide colour gamut, the main attraction seems to offer additional services to mobile users and the opportunities for enhanced advertising.