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Reinvention of Broadcast TV: 10 Things to Know

Broadcasters bet its future on ATSC 3.0
10/23/2014 02:00 PM EDT
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Bert22306
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Re: LTE Advanced vs. ATSC 3.0
Bert22306   10/25/2014 6:12:47 PM
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The idea is, in essence, collaboration with wireless companies, which would allow them to offload heavy video traffic for delivery to mobile devices by terrestrial television transmission

Thanks, Junko. I did understand this concept, it's just the implementation that needs to be clearly spelled out. If broadcasters want to only play the part of offloading live broadcast, i.e. real time streams, from the cell network, to feed those streams directly to the smartphones, they will (1) need a wireless network much more optimized for mobile service, and (2) convince themselves that such a much  more optimized-for-mobile infrastructure will be in demand.

A network optimized for mobile service costs a lot more to build and maintain than a network more optimized for fixed service. And it is less spectrally efficient. For example, an LTE network set up for LTE broadcast service (which would be the best solution for mobile reception) requires many small sticks, and if you want to approach the spectral efficiency of ATSC 1.0, these sticks have to be densely arranged. On the order of 2 Km spacing. Which means, it makes it that much more difficult to afford free over the air service. Of course, these broadcasters may expect some sort of compensation from the cell networks.

The same general case occurs even for systems like DVB-T2, when they are set up optimized for mobility. Spectral efficiency is reduced, and/or the spacing between towers, when SFNs are deployed, is reduced. So, more expense for similar or reduced capacity.

And, any system that time-divides the RF signal into different time slots for different modulation types results in its own set of compromises. Modulation types such as LTE broadcast require a dense mesh of sticks. That same arrangement will be more expensive than required for, say, DVB-T2. And not to forget, any time divided scheme like that naturally limits the amount of capacity you can support for each individual modulation type.

I have my doubts that real-time broadcast to mobile devices will be so generally in demand that optimizing the broadcast RF infrastructure for mobile will pay great dividends. My bet is that mobile users mostly want on-demand content, with few obvious exceptions, such as major league sports  events. And at the same time, if the broadcasters do follow this path, they will be decimating the capacity of their fixed or even vehicular mobile service.

On the other hand, it makes a lot of sense (to me) for wireless telcos to implement LTE broadcast for those special occasions only, somewhat cutting back their unicast capacity, then revert back to optimized unicast service after the game is over. And I also think that broadcasters have to carve out a role for themselves in MORE THAN just broadcasting. Like, making their content available, both live and on demand, within the wireless and wired ISP networks. Any on-demand service requires a two-way infrastructure, not a pure broadcast infrastructure.

So bottom line, I'm seeing broadcasters looking to a future of pure broadcasting still, which I think may be a problem. And I'm seeing a confused set of ideas as to how this purely broadcast network, optimized for mobility, will be cost effective. Cord cutters are making FOTA broadcast TV more popular lately, strange as that might seem. Changes that reduce the choice of programs on FOTA TV, such as all of these would, may just end up doing more harm than good.

junko.yoshida
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Re: LTE Advanced vs. ATSC 3.0
junko.yoshida   10/25/2014 9:23:29 AM
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Hi, Bert. Great to see so much of your input here. Much appreciate it.

As for LTE vs. ATSC 3.0, Sinclair Broadast Group, for examle, has been calling for development of a broadcast overlay network. The idea is, in essence, collaboration with wireless companies, which would allow them to offload heavy video traffic for delivery to mobile devices by terrestrial television transmission. 

Similarly, Prof. Reimer at te Univ. of Braunschweig, former chairman of the technical module of DVB, is discussing a proposal on the collaboration between a high-tower, high-power network and a low tower, low-power network. The combination of the two (the broadcast network along with the cellular network), supposedly, could bring advantages to both sides -- especially in mobile reception.

Pryderi
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Re: Better be compatible
Pryderi   10/25/2014 6:13:12 AM
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Cable bundles indeed ad costs that not everybody wants to pay. But some of the classes of channel that you mention are not part of the problem, because they are not contributing to the price of your bundle.

Religious channels are offered to cable companies for free. Once they carry the channel at all, there is no reason not to give it to every subscriber, and so they do. Shopping channels PAY your cable company to carry them.

The channels in "languages you don't understand" are often local broadcasters. Broadcasters can end up on a cable system in two ways. The one that has been in the news lately involves the payment of rights fees by the cable system, and that has occasionally led to channels going dark while the cable company and the broadcast network fight over the price. But the other way, "must carry", is still on the books. If a broadcaster offers a channel to cable with no fee, any cable company in the primary broadcast area of the broadcaster is REQUIRED by law to carry it, and make it available to every subscriber who has a service that includes local broadcasts.

Bert22306
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CEO
Re: Some things never change, but maybe old dogs can learn new tricks
Bert22306   10/24/2014 6:52:58 PM
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So in one sense, nothing has changed in 15 years.

AZskibum, I totally agree that the words haven't changed, but the technology has. However, even debating supposedly "more robust" modulation schemes today, with the ubiquitous Internet in place, seems oh so 20th Century.

I simply do not believe that a more robust one-way broadcast service is going to carry the day for broadcasters. Signal robustness is not the only issue here, or even the major issue. ATSC 1.0 receivers have gotten considerably better over the years, and it seems clear to me that this ain't enough!

Bert22306
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Re: Better be compatible
Bert22306   10/24/2014 6:34:02 PM
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Junko, you miss the point as so many do. It has nothing to do with computing power. It's about cost. Unless you watch broadcast TV over the air, you have to buy a subsciption, be it cable, internet access and Hulu/Netflix on top of that. You pay and pay.

That is a common misconception, perpetrated in part by vendors of the popular Internet TV platforms, such as Roku and AppleTV.

There is actually an abundance of TV available free over the Internet, including from sites such as cbs.com, abc.com, nbc. com, fox.com, hulu.com, etc. (Did you know there is tons of TV material on free Hulu, not to be confused with Hulu Plus?) You need the flexibility of a PC to get to these sites, and who knows why. Not any live TV from these sites, but you can watch all the prime time shows, on demand, in many cases with just a few hours of delay from when the show was broadcast.

And if you're into international TV, there are thousands of TV channels to watch, over the portal w w w dot w w itv dot com. Many live streams and on demand streams. In fact, use your search engine, and you can find lots of other sources.

Bert22306
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Re: 4K
Bert22306   10/24/2014 6:19:05 PM
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ATSC-MH is ATSC with some extra forward error correction, layered on top of basic ATSC 1.0. It was meant for mobile handheld devices. But it requires a dedicated receiver, because naturally, the cellcos have no incentive to include ATSC-MH reception in their smartphones, right? They'd much rather sell you their own TV service.

Plus, TV broadcast to mobile devices is questionable in my mind. It didn't work in Europe either (DVB-H). I have to believe that traditional broadcast, i.e. TV by appointment, won't be all that popular for mobile users MOST of the time. People on the go aren't likely to worry about some TV program about to start.

And indeed, like you say, some of the words we see about ATSC 3.0 have already happened. ATSC-MH also carried TV content with it IP overhead. But let's get real: to what end? IP headers are used for routing packets through a routed network. If you broadcast packets to all receivers within range, what exactly do you gain from the IP overhead?

tb100
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Re: 4K
tb100   10/24/2014 6:07:26 PM
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Yes, with RF it always depends on the location, terrain, etc. This is also a complaint from cell phone customers.

When I was in an apartment, the switch to digital basically eliminated most broadcast television for me no matter what kind of antenna I tried to put up in the apartment, and I was less than 40 miles from the broadcast antennas in San Francisco.

What most people don't realize is that there already is an alternative digital broadcast format in the US. It is called Mobile TV (originally ATSC M/H), and it applies a number of fixes to the original broadcast format including better compression and graceful degradation. It was meant for portable, mobile televisions, for which the original digital broadcast format didn't work at all.

It didn't catch on (has anyone here even heard of it?), yet it is actually being broadcast on several channels in several cities in the US.

So adding a new digital broadcast format has already happened!

We can do it again, this time for improved home digital viewing. Broadcasting 4K movies and shows would make broadcast television relevant again.

Bert22306
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Re: 4K
Bert22306   10/24/2014 5:42:28 PM
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Unless you have a tall antenna on your roof, which pretty much eliminates everyone living in apartments, you are lucky to get a good signal, and unlike the old analog television, a poor signal means you receive nothing at all.

I think it's more complicated than that. Digital TV CAN be far easier to receive well than analog TV was, as long as you live within the echo tolerance of the receiver. In my case, I could get rid of the tall outdoor antenna I was using, and get by much better with indoor antennas, downstairs and upstairs. "Perfect" image, all the time, no ghost at all, none of which was possible with analog.

And this is for signals that come from as far as 46 miles (as the crow flies). So it all depends.

As to apartment buidlings or complexes, in the analog days, most apartment dwellers had to depend on a centralized building antenna system, to get half way reasonable pictures. That same arrangement would work perfectly well for terrestrial DTV too! Too bad that many apartment complexes grabbed that coax infrastructure and handed it over politely to a cable company or other. I'm not sure how that is even legal, but that's why terrestrial DTV is not easily available to apartment dwellers.

The easy hint is, if you have apartment windows that look generally in the direction of the broadcast towers in your market, use of a decent antenna, such as those from Antennas Direct, placed close to a window, should allow straightforward reception of DTV signals.

Bert22306
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CEO
Re: LTE Advanced vs. ATSC 3.0
Bert22306   10/24/2014 5:29:30 PM
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Junko, I watch most of my TV, by far, streaming over the Internet. From the web sites of the broadcast networks. For live TV, which really means news for me, I watch over the air.

The era of one-way broadcast TV signals, i.e. continuous stream determined by the broadcaster, which mandates either a PVR at the user end or watching TV by appointment, may not be over yet. But it sure is not the only way of getting your TV anymore. And there are now online sources of TV content that are not even duplicated in your cable or satellite TV.

To answer your question, IMO, the role of the broadcasters, i.e. the local stations, has to be upgraded. They have to become involved somehow in distributing TV content over the Internet. I'm afraid that any supposed IP packaging of TV, if these packets are broadcast over any one-way broadcast network, won't amount to much. IP overhead is essentially useless UNLESS the packets are routed over a two-way infrastructure. IP packets that are broadcast to all receivers out there, over a one-way infrastructure like ATSC, pretty much defeat the purpose of IP. The overhead is only usable to identify the packet, and you don't need IP for that.

This is why the leased LTE service is truly where it's at, in my book, if you want TV from broadcasters to appear more like the Internet TV some of us have grown accustomed to over the past several years. But for that, the broadcasters would have to make their content available, on demand as well as live, from servers located at the edges of the LTE network. So this is really a different setup from what you'd expect for broadcast TV over ATSC. I frankly do not understand what any "pairing" of ATSC 3.0 and LTE even means, in a technical sense.

In short, I do not see merely using LTE broadcast service, for access to mobile devices, as being enough. Mobile users are rarely intrigued by live TV streams, except in special cases such as the Superbowl. That's why systems like DVB-H and ATSC-MH failed in the marketplace. So IMO, the LTE infrastructure has to be used also in two-way mode, unicast rather than broadcast, to provide mobile users with the on-demand service they are accustomed to!

tb100
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CEO
4K
tb100   10/24/2014 1:34:07 PM
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I saw a 4K television in a showroom the other day and it was breathtaking. I know you read how 'you can't really tell the difference if you are sitting across the room', but I was 5 feet away and it was very noticable.

We'll never get 4K over the network without a lot of compression, and there's no 4K BluRay (yet, I've heard it is coming next year).

Digital television pretty much killed off broadcast television. Unless you have a tall antenna on your roof, which pretty much eliminates everyone living in apartments, you are lucky to get a good signal, and unlike the old analog television, a poor signal means you receive nothing at all.

As AZskibum mentions, we didn't know enough to do it right. But now we do. I think this is great. It doesn't have to replace all channels and be incompatible with what we have now, but a handful of UHD channels would be a boon to broadcasters, television manufacturers, and customers like me who would love to watch uncompressed 4K over the air.

I don't think it is too late to fix our mistakes and create something better.

 

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