ATSC 3.0 Next-Gen TV Field Tests Show Positive Results

Under a FCC experimental broadcast license, Tribune Broadcasting’s WJW-TV is providing a DTV transmitter, tower and 6-MHz channel for ATSC 3.0-related field testing in Cleveland. Field tests of key elements of ATSC 3.0 have been underway since mid-May by a collaboration of LG Electronics, Zenith R&D Lab and GatesAir.

Test results verify improved reception, simultaneous transmission of mobile, handheld and 4K Ultra HDTV signals. These real-world field tests are a significant milestone in the collaborative efforts of LG, GatesAir and Zenith to develop core technologies behind the new ATSC 3.0 Standard.

The collaboration is a leading contributor to the effort to develop a next-generation ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard, as defined by the Advanced Television Systems Committee. Their innovations are expected to be used in the majority of the baseline Physical Layer transmission system, which is moving toward ATSC Candidate Standard status this summer.

The more robust TV system will attract mobile viewers, connect viewers with Internet content, reach those in difficult reception locations, and satisfy owners of future 4K Ultra High-Definition TV sets. Pristine 4K content can be delivered over-the-air using the new ATSC 3.0 standard.

The system in the Cleveland test has been dubbed “Futurecast” by proponents GatesAir, LG and Zenith. The real-world field Futurecast tests are a significant milestone in the collaborative efforts of LG, GatesAir and Zenith to develop core technologies behind the new ATSC 3.0 Standard. Their innovations are expected to be used in the majority of the baseline Physical Layer transmission system, which is moving toward ATSC Candidate Standard status this summer.

Expert viewers visited a number of Cleveland locations.

Zenith's Tim Laud demonstrates mobile reception to expert viewers on a 8 July 2015 field trip. AP photo courtesy LG Electronics USA.

Zenith's Tim Laud demonstrates mobile reception to expert viewers on a 8 July 2015 field trip. AP photo courtesy LG Electronics USA.

Wider Coverage, More Viewers

Similar to successful field tests held last fall in Madison, Wis., the Cleveland results show promise. More than 75,000 additional pieces of data collected by engineers in the North Coast tests show how ATSC 3.0 will be able to deliver 4K Ultra HD content and two robust mobile TV streams in a single 6-Megahertz channel, while optimizing indoor reception and offering unparalleled spectrum efficiency.

Experts report that Cleveland results are even more encouraging than the previous Wisconsin tests, with improved signal acquisition for mobile TV reception in fast-moving vehicles and at locations ranging from downtown’s concrete canyons to suburban and rural areas 50 miles from the transmitter.

The Futurecast physical layer technologies are designed to provide the optimized combination of broadcasting capabilities for fixed, portable and mobile use. Flexible parameters allow broadcasters to mix diverse services – from fixed 4K reception to deep-indoor handheld reception to high-speed mobile reception – in a single RF channel with maximum efficiency.

“We’re pleased to play an integral role in the future of TV broadcast technology, putting an unused transmitter and vacant channel to use so that the proposed transmission system could be tested throughout the day and night. These initial field test results show that ATSC 3.0 technologies are real and can deliver real benefits to broadcasters and viewers alike,” said John Cifani, WJW-TV chief engineer. WJW-TV is the local Fox TV affiliate.

Expert viewers were provided nearby displays to observe mobile reception. AP photo courtesy LG Electronics USA.

Expert viewers were provided nearby displays to observe mobile reception. AP photo courtesy LG Electronics USA.

Reception and Revenue Potential Improved

“Our technology is designed to fully meet broadcaster requirements for ATSC 3.0 and advance the goal of moving rapidly to next-generation broadcasting. Whether watching from deep inside a building or along the Lake Erie lakefront, field test results show that our ATSC 3.0-enabling technology performs exactly as expected,” said Dr. Skott Ahn, President and Chief Technology Officer, LG Electronics.This gives broadcasters confidence to reach even more viewers with traditional television, new Internet-based content, and with new money-making interactive services and advertising potential.

The key benefits of the LG/GatesAir/Zenith ATSC 3.0 technologies being field tested in Cleveland are many. Data throughput increases by 30 percent. Multipath performance for fixed and portable TV reception is improved compared with the current DTV standard. Indoor TV signal penetration for mobile reception in enhanced due to flexible system parameter choices. It also improves single frequency network service.

Advanced modes provide for delivery of very high data rates and very robust transmission capabilities, with state-of-the-art error correction coding and signal constellations. Future Extension Frames support evolution of future broadcast systems.

Advanced Emergency Alerting with ATSC 3.0

Rich Redmond, Chief Product Officer for Gates Air, said, “Not only will reception be improved, but the advanced IP-based distribution and mobile broadcasting capabilities of ATSC 3.0 will shine through in times of emergency. Our collaborative innovations will support industry-wide efforts to evolve over-the-air business models, support next-generation warning systems and extend the reach of digital TV across greater populations.” Redmond adds that this includes leveraging AWARN (the Advanced Warning and Response Network) to deliver broadcast emergency announcements to TV sets and mobile devices containing rich media, maps, graphics, video, text, and audio.”

In addition to field testing ATSC 3.0 enabling technologies, expert viewers witnessed advanced emergency alerting capabilities thanks to a demonstration hosted by local CBS affiliate WOIO-TV, a Raycom Media station and member of the Pearl TV broadcast technology partnership. AWARN will capitalize on the robust transmission and improved mobile and fixed reception promised by ATSC 3.0, according to WOIO-TV General Manager Dominic Mancuso.

“Local broadcasters are vital links to our viewers here in Cleveland and across the country. Our viewers know that they can trust us to have the latest information in times of public safety emergencies. With ATSC 3.0 and AWARN, the public won’t be dependent on Internet or local phone service,” he said.

Redefining Broadcasting’s Future

Designed to redefine TV broadcasting for decades forward, the next-generation broadcast television standard will require higher capacity to deliver 4K Ultra-High-Definition services, robust reception on mobile devices and improved spectrum efficiency. The increased payload capacity of the physical layer combined with HEVC encoding will provide broadcasters many more options when investigating and planning new broadcast services.

The LG/GatesAir/Zenith solutions optimize efficiency for the most-used data formats (Internet Protocol, Transport Stream) with customized stream compression. The system supports single-frequency networks and/or multiple transmitters, and its use of a single RF transmission’s flexible physical layer profile assures optimum QoS. The system is designed to support evolution to future broadcast systems beyond ATSC 3.0. Equally significant, the superior RF approach of the proven Futurecast system addresses the co-channel and adjacent-channel interference challenges related to the anticipated UHF spectrum repacking.

Development of ATSC 3.0 technologies represents the latest collaboration among LG, Zenith and GatesAir, co-inventors of the transmission system behind the ATSC A/153 Mobile Digital TV Standard, adopted by the industry in 2009.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.

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