Futurecast Broadcast System Tested at WKOW

As the Advanced Television Systems Committee works on the next generation ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard, proponents of the new Futurecast Universal Terrestrial Broadcasting System conducted the second round of testing of their system in the early morning hours of Oct. 22 at WKOW in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Futurecast system was codeveloped by LG Electronics, its U.S. R&D subsidiary Zenith, and GatesAir as the foundation of next-generation terrestrial broadcasting system and is one of a number of proposals the ATSC is considering for the 3.0 standard.

Like the earlier tests in August, the broadcasts delivered 4K Ultra HD content and two robust mobile TV streams in a single 6-Megahertz channel.

Backers of the system note that it optimizes indoor reception and offers better spectrum efficiency while increasing throughput and offering broadcasters a great deal of flexibility in the kinds of services they could offer in the future.

Brady Dreasler, chief engineer for Quincy Group, parent company of WKOW-TV in Madison, explained in an interview that during the summer field test in Madison they were able to receive signals in hard to reach places inside buildings and in mobile devices in fast-moving vehicles. “We’re very excited about this because the new standard will enable exciting new business models for broadcasters and exciting new services for viewers,” Dreasler said.

The three-hour Oct. 22 test began at 1 a.m. and was attended by outside observers, including representatives of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

Key elements of the system include data throughput increases of 30 percent and improved multipath performance (compared with the current DTV standard) for fixed and mobile TV reception; enhanced indoor TV signal penetration for mobile reception; advanced modes for delivery of very high data rates and very robust transmission capabilities; state-of-the-art error correction coding and signal constellations; and improved single frequency network service. 

Developers of the Futurecast system also stress that the increased payload capacity of the physical layer and the use of HEVC encoding will provide broadcasters in the future more flexibility in the types of broadcast services they offer.

LG, Zenith and GatesAir were also the co-inventors of the transmission system behind the ATSC A/153 Mobile Digital TV Standard, adopted by the industry in 2009.

In addition, Zenith invented the core transmission system at the heart of today’s ATSC A/53 Digital Television Standard, approved by the Federal Communications Commission in 1996.