FCC Considering Petition for Voluntary Adoption of ATSC 3.0 Transmission Standard

Tom Wheeler ATSC NAB 2016

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler tours the ATSC 3.0 Consumer Experience at NAB Show 2016

Powerful Coalition of NAB, CTA, APTS and AWARN

Tout ATSC 3.0’s Capabilities and Back ‘Next-Gen TV’

A broad coalition of consumer technology companies, commercial and public television stations and public safety advocates has filed a joint petition with the FCC requesting that the Commission adopt rules to allow local television stations and TV manufacturers to implement ATSC 3.0 on a voluntary, market-driven basis.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) and the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN) Alliance jointly filed the petition at the FCC in April, just days before the NAB show. The filing is timely as ATSC members are in the process of approving the Final Standard for the ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer transmission system this month.

Calling ATSC 3.0 “Next-Gen TV,” the joint petition asks the FCC to approve the core transmission technology for the new standard as an option for local broadcasters and receiver manufacturers. The petition requests the implementation of certain rule changes to permit local simulcasting, enabling the new standard to be deployed while broadcasts in the current ATSC 1.0 standard remain available without interruption to viewers.

The FCC process is moving relatively swiftly. Less than two weeks after the petition was filed, the FCC’s Media Bureau issued a notice seeking public comments. Comments are due May 27, and Reply Comments are due June 27

The petition explains how the industry plans to deploy Next-Gen TV in parallel with the current ATSC 1.0 standard to address compatibility issues. Under this approach, a temporary “host” broadcaster in a market would agree to simulcast on its airwaves the other DTV signals of those stations broadcasting with ATSC 3.0. The “host” station’s programming would reciprocally be carried as a programming stream by one of the stations deploying the Next-Gen TV standard.

No additional spectrum or government funds are required for the new standard, and consumers would have no equipment mandates, the petition states. Pay-TV providers’ carriage of broadcasters’ Next-Gen TV standard signals would largely be determined through business agreements.

“This is an exciting time for the broadcast industry. Next-Gen TV will provide broadcasters with the voluntary option of offering a higher-quality viewing experience, an IP-based infrastructure and greater interactivity with viewers,” said Sen. Gordon Smith, NAB president and CEO. “We believe our viewers will be the beneficiaries of new services ranging from breathtaking picture quality to in-depth emergency alerts and more personalized program content.”

“From 4K UHD TV to mobility and more, ATSC 3.0 offers consumers the most immersive viewing experience and more viewing options than ever before,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, Consumer Technology Association. “Our television manufacturers are excited to partner voluntarily with broadcasters, the public safety community and the ATSC to usher in this exciting new Golden Age of television technology and bring the benefits of this standard to devices throughout the home and beyond.”

“America’s Public Television Stations believe the Next-Gen broadcast standard will give us even greater opportunities to pursue our public service missions of education, public safety and civic leadership,” said Pat Butler, president and CEO of APTS. “The FCC’s timely adoption of the new standard may also help public television stations save money by combining some of the investments needed to deploy the new standard and to affect the repacking transition required by the broadcast spectrum auctions.”

“AWARN will provide a resilient and pervasive emergency communications system for a 21st Century America, a major upgrade to systems we have now,” said John Lawson, executive director of the AWARN Alliance. “In response to manmade and natural threats, AWARN can deliver rich media, geo-targeted, and multilingual content — including video, storm tracks, evacuation routes, flood maps, and earthquake early warnings. And these alerts can reach millions of people simultaneously, even when the cellular network overloads or the grid goes down. ATSC 3.0 makes all of this possible.”

The petition highlights the core capabilities of ATSC 3.0, the world’s first IP-based broadcast standard that specifies an entire next-generation broadcasting system, from the RF transmission through presentation to the viewer or listener. The coalition touts ATSC 3.0’s innovative technologies such as 4K Ultra HD TV, advanced emergency alerting,  increased programming streams and channels, mobile broadcast TV, immersive audio, interactivity features and datacasting.