MADISON, Wis. — As US consumers grow more comfortable with streaming video on mobile devices while continuing to watch cable and satellite TV, terrestrial broadcasters find themselves fighting, as a matter of survival, to redefine an over-the-air digital broadcast system that's now almost 20 years old.
Broadcasters, their future hanging in the balance, hope to prove that they can become friends, rather than foes, of mobile broadband.
Their big bet in this high-stakes game is a new standard -- still in the making -- called ATSC 3.0.
At 1:00 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 22, WKOW-TV in Madison, Wis., briefly shut off its digital TV signals and transmitted 4K UHDTV, 720P HD, and 480P SD signals simultaneously. Witnesses were a group of industry expert viewers, broadcast engineers in the region, and a few reporters, including EE Times.
This real-world broadcast field test used the Futurecast universal terrestrial broadcasting system -- co-developed by LG Electronics, its US R&D subsidiary Zenith, and GatesAir, the former Harris Broadcast RF division.
Futurecast is one of 10 proposals under industry consideration as the physical layer of ATSC 3.0. Once competing physical layer technologies are evaluated and turned into “candidate standards,” the industry group plans to generate a “proposed standard” by the end of 2015.
Wayne Luplow, vice president at Zenith R&D Lab, says Futurecast thus far is the only physical layer proposals for ATSC 3.0 to pull off real-world trials. “Others are still paper systems,” he says. The Futurecast team carried out in August its first round of field testing in Madison -- outward from downtown more than 50 miles -- reportedly collecting nearly 50,000 pieces of data while demonstrating the proposed system's ability to mix diverse services in a single RF channel with robust mobile transmission.
Speaking of the team's field testing, Luplow says, “We're not trying to do an end-run here. We are supportive of ATSC's process.”
To understand the significance of the Futurecast overnight trials, one must put the event and the emerging ATSC 3.0 standard into context.
Why broadcast now? Let's start with why 3.0 now.
Zenith R&D Lab VP Wayne Luplow explains Futurecast.