ATSC 3.0 Broadcast at CES

When ATSC 3.0 proponents ran a broadcast test of a UHD signal over-the-air during CES 2016, the results proved the viability of this new IP-based transmission technology. But did anybody understand the significance?

During CES 2016, two separate demonstrations transmitting a UHD HDR signal over-the-air using the current state of the ATSC 3.0 physical layer candidate standard to the latest generation of UHD Samsung and LG Electronics’ High Dynamic Range (HDR) TV screens turned out to be monumental events. In fact, conducted under an experimental broadcast license from the U.S. FCC, the two tests proved so monumental that many who witnessed them during the show didn’t appreciate their significance.

“What was seen wasn’t broadcast video as we have come to know it,” explained Mark A. Aitken, vice president, advanced technology, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, who was involved with the transmission to the Samsung sets. “Since ATSC 3.0 is based on IP Protocol, what we demonstrated was chunked video—little HTTP-based file segments in an adaptive streaming technique known as DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP). It’s all tied together in ATSC 3.0 by MPEG media transport (MMT), specified as ISO/IEC 23008-1 (MPEG-H Part 1).”

Mark A. Aitken,vice president of advanced technology, the Sinclair Broadcast Group

Mark A. Aitken,vice president of advanced technology, the Sinclair Broadcast Group

The broadcast that Samsung received in the first of these demos originated from local Sinclair Broadcast TV station Ch. 45 KSNV outfitted with a TeamCast VORTEX 3.0-enabled exciter. It was picked up by a Samsung 65KS9500 bezel-less curved screen set with ATSC 3.0 receiver at the Samsung booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center and also in a special demo suite at the Wynn Hotel.

Samsung ATSC 3.0 demo in Wynn Hotel

Samsung ATSC 3.0 demo in Wynn Hotel

This live demonstration from the Sinclair station was organized by Samsung, Sinclair Broadcast Group, ONE Media, Pearl TV and TeamCast, and the signal they broadcast was not only UHD, but also High Dynamic Range, or more specifically, HDR10 Media Profile which includes minimally 10-bit color, ITU-R BT.2020 color primaries (30% larger than Rec 709) and SMPTE ST 2086, MaxFALL, MaxCLL metadata.

Samsung 65KS9500 HDR screen

Samsung 65KS9500 HDR screen

Audio was not included in this experiment, but the competing camps of Dolby Laboratories’ AC-4 and the MPEG-4 Audio Alliance’s contending formats were audible at several other CES 2016 exhibits.

Another significant component of this ATSC 3.0 broadcast demonstration was that by setting up a WiFi Gateway, basically a router, the signal could also be received by any tablet or laptop. This may provide a way around the fact that ATSC 3.0 is not backward compatible with our current ATSC 1.0 signal and there won’t be any government subsidy for the transition. By offloading the ATSC 3.0 IP stream through the Gateway into Wifi, any “smart” HDTV or other wireless-savvy display could receive the ATSC 3.0 stream until we get the chance to replace our current gear with new ATSC 3.0-compatible equipment.

“That’s why the real headline of this CES demonstration is that now TV is all IP,” Aitken said. “The transitional home theater displays for Americans receiving ATSC 3.0 signals may be WiFi gateway devices like ATSC 3.0 hubs. We’ll need a lot of protection technologies to keep control of the signal, like various watermarking schemes, but the Samsung set we used in our demonstration had a WiFi hub built into it.”

LG Electronics' demonstration of ATSC 3.0 at CES 2016

LG Electronics' demonstration of ATSC 3.0 at CES 2016

The second over-the-air demonstration of 4K UHD via ATSC 3.0 at CES 2016 was conducted by LG Electronics. The signal received by the LG sets on the Las Vegas Convention Center show floor came from Las Vegas station KHMP's transmitter Ch.18 on Nevada’s Black Mountain.

John Taylor, vp of LG Electronics USA

John Taylor, vp of LG Electronics USA

“We’ve been conducting field trials of this ATSC 3.0 candidate standard over the past 18 months in Madison, Wisconsin and Cleveland, Ohio demonstrating early implementations of this next step in broadcasting,” said John Taylor, vp of LG Electronics USA. “At this demonstration, most of the work went into the receiving end and I’m glad to say the signal came through beautifully.”

It was a major step toward establishing the world’s first IP-based broadcast TV system, with its own WiFi component.

“The set we demonstrated this on was our latest, top-of-the-line OLED 4K display. It’s our first to be certified by the UHD Alliance as Ultra HD Premium,” Taylor said. “LG is also developing its own WiFi Gateway system, and we hope to be able to present it at the upcoming NAB Show 2016.”

Taylor is looking forward to a cooperative transition to ATSC 3.0.

“The stars are aligning for the implementation of ATSC 3.0 to coincide with a spectrum re-pack,” he said. “The standard is almost done, and should be finalized by the end of this year.”

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