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ATSC Getting Closer to 2.0 Broadcast Standard

The Advanced Television Systems Committee holds its annual meeting May 7-8 in Washington D.C., and the standards group is pushing forward on what may well be its most ambitious effort in recent years to develop new standards and technologies for broadcast TV.

Some of this work—notably the development of the ATSC 3.0 next-generation broadcast standard and its involvement in the Future of Broadcast TV initiative—will take years to complete. But some other major projects, such as a standard for nonreal time delivery of content, the new ATSC 2.0 and the first version of a 3D standard for terrestrial 3D broadcasts are expected to be wrapped up this year.

The most immediate impact from this work is the proposed non-real time (NRT) standard, which is currently being voted on by ATSC members. “This is a big deal,” says ATSC president Mark Richer, because it would allow broadcasters to send out fi les—news clips, weather reports or even whole newscasts, full TV episodes or movies—onto TVs, smartphones, tablets or any other device capable of getting a DTV signal.

“Linear TV is a great service and isn’t going away, but the ability to download content as files as part of NRT is really going to enhance the capabilities of broadcasters and change the way broadcasting is done around the world,” he says.

First implementations of non-real time broadcasts are already under way as part of the mobile DTV launches. Those features will be included in the mobile DTV system being tested this summer by two members of the Mobile500 Alliance.

Getting TV sets, mobile devices or accessories that are capable of receiving the signals into the market will take some time, however. “The next step will be for broadcasters to work with consumer electronics manufacturers,” Richer says.

The NRT is also an important component of the ATSC 2.0 standard that Richer expects to be completed in the late third quarter or early fourth quarter of this year.

ATSC 2.0 also opens up a number of major opportunities for broadcasters. Besides NRT, it will include MPEG-4 compression, which cuts spectrum needs in half and offers broadcasters a way to integrate broadcasts and broadband services. Triggers in live TV broadcasts would prompt the receiver use in the broadband connection to display additional online content for interactive TV, second screen or social TV experiences.

Like NRT, ATSC 2.0 is backwards-compatible with existing receivers, but new ATSC 2.0 receivers and devices will need to come into the market before a number of its features, including MPEG4 compression, can be used.

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