Engineers to FCC: ATSC 3.0 Should Be Cleared for Takeoff

The Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers—whose members developed the original analog NTSC broadcast transmission standard, the current ATSC digital standard and the next-generation standard—has told the FCC it is fully behind broadcasters' petition to start rolling out that new ATSC 3.0 standard, which broadcasters say would give them a host of new digital competitive options.

"AFCCE fully supports the proposals set forth in the petition," it said in comments to the commission, adding: "[P]resent interference protections requirements are adequate to prevent interference among ATSC 3 users, between ATSC 3 and ATSC 1, and between ATSC and wireless LTE."

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CTIA, which represents wireless carriers, had told the FCC it was concerned about the interference impact on the wireless operators in the 600 MHz band, which they will be bidding on in the forward broadcast incentive auction starting next month. The engineers said that testing has showed that the interference potential of ATSC 3.0 "is likely to be no greater than that of ATSC 2.0.

On April 13, the National Association of Broadcasters, Consumer Technology Association (representing receiver manufacturers and other consumer tech companies), America's Public Television Stations (noncoms) and the AWARN Alliance (broadcasters and others advocating for advanced emergency alerts) filed the joint petition to deploy the new ATSC 3.0 transmission standard while still simulcasting their DTV broadcasts in the current standard—the new standard is not compatible with existing sets—so service to viewers would not be interrupted.

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The next-gen system would allow for interactivity, ultra high-definition, advanced emergency alerts (where AWARN comes in), more channels in the same bandwidth, mobile broadcast TV, and datacasting, all ways for broadcasters to remain competitive in a multi-platform world.

Broadcasters have asked the FCC for a ruling by Oct. 1, but FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has not pledged to meet any specific timetable.

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The association signaled there was no reason to tarry, at least from an engineering standpoint.

"AFCCE finds no technical reason to delay the continued processing of the authorization of the ATSC 3 transmission standard, and urges the commission to take the requisite actions necessary for expedited consideration."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.