From 4K Ultra High Definition to mobile viewing, there are plenty of reasons why TV fans should be excited about the NextGenTV (NGTV) standard called ATSC 3.0. The technology gives local broadcasters the ability to mix both broadcast content and data together into new hybrid experiences. What does that mean? In terms of innovation, local broadcast TV is about to leapfrog the Internet and make cable TV less relevant. It will be a couple years before the full potential of #NextGenTV and ATSC 3.0 is realized, but here are some things to look forward to:
- Mobile Viewing: In addition to TVs, ATSC 3.0 can deliver OTA (over the air) content to smartphones too. You’ll be able to take a new phone out of the box and start enjoying NextGen TV content for free without going online first. ATSC 3.0 receivers will be built-in to all new smartphones.
- In-Car Viewing: NextGen TV isn’t limited to just TVs and smartphones. Any ATSC 3.0 screen can receive NextGen TV content, including cars. Starting in 2019, GM is deploying driverless cars that no longer include a steering wheel or pedals. Future car models will include NextGenTV screens for passengers to enjoy during their rides.
- 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD): Ultra-high definition video is amazing. UHD has 4x the pixel detail of your current HD 1080p TV. It creates picture so realistic that it’s like looking out a window. HDTV is 1920 x 1080 pixels but UHD is 3840 x 2160. And UHD is just slightly smaller than Cinema 4K, what you currently experience in movie theaters 4096 x 2160 pixels.
- High Dynamic Range (HDR): HDR increases the difference between whites and blacks. For example, when you turn on your TV now, a black screen will glow slightly to a dark grey, not a full black. HDR will make blacks really black, not dark grey. Whites will also look less dirty and instead be very, very bright.
- Wide Color Gamut (WCG): Where HDR increases the black and whites on your screen, WCG does the same for colors. HDTV can display about 16 million colors. But WCG is capable of over 1 billion colors. With WCG, lifelike colors are now possible.
- High Frame Rate (HFR): Most movies are filmed at 24-frames per second. If you’ve ever paused a movie before, then you’ve probably noticed some blurriness in the image. But higher frame rates will create much sharper images in video content. In 2012, Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit trilogy was the film to be released in 48fps. But most theaters couldn’t display 48fps so the films were down converted to 24fps.
- 3D-TV: Part of the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard includes 3D-TV technology. But in addition to being able to deliver regular 3D content, ATSC 3.0 also allows for two additional types of 3D:
- Hybrid-Delivery 3D: One image is delivered via a broadcast signal and the other through another medium, like the Internet.
- Service compatible 3D: A 3D-TV broadcast service composed of two or more compressed video images, where at least one of them is the legacy 2D TV image having the same resolution as the production resolution.
- Immersive Audio: Complimenting ATSC 3.0’s visual features (UHD, HDR, WCG, and HFR) is a new enhanced audio standard called Immersive Audio. No longer limited to stereo left and right speakers, ATSC 3.0’s audio capabilities will make the content sound more lifelike. NextGenTV audio will feel like it surrounds the listener.
- Hybrid Broadcast-Broadband (HbbTV): Some technology companies, like TiVo, have experimented with adding interactive elements to TV content. But there hasn’t been a standard until now. HbbTV will give broadcasters the ability to create interactive on-screen companion apps to accompany their TV content. Interactive ads, polls, weather and more are all possible. The days of having to text your vote to a shortcode number are coming to an end. NextGenTV viewers will see their votes in real time on their NGTV.
- Ultra-Robust Transmissions: Audiences who traditionally had trouble receiving OTA content should see a dramatic improvement with ATSC 3.0. Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) will help signals reach users with more strength, even indoors.
My Internet Can Barely Handle HD, How Is NGTV Possible?
Good news if you have a slow Internet connection at home or weak cellular connectivity. ATSC 3.0 is a broadcast. Like listening to AM/FM radio, ATSC 3.0 does NOT use the Internet to deliver NextGen TV content like 4k UHD video to you. It’s an over-the-air broadcast. As consumers embrace NextGen TV content, ATSC 3.0 technology should help relieve some of the world’s Internet traffic that’s currently being dominated by Netflix.
How ATSC 3.0 Devices Send & Receive Data
ATSC 3.0 is a hybrid television delivery system. You still need an Internet connection to take full advantage of ATSC 3.0’s features. Video, audio and other types of content can be transmitted from a broadcast tower. But user or location specific content must be sent through the internet and then integrated on the local device. The same is true for the return path. ATSC 3.0 can’t directly receive data. The return path for data must still go through the internet.
ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV Trials In South Korea
The first country to test ATSC 3.0 on a national scale was South Korea. The new next-gen TV standard debuted there in May 2017. But the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics will go into the record books as the first major event that was broadcast using 4K UHD OTA. To help the audience make the transition, the next-gen TV sets sold in South Korea before the Olympics included both an ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 tuner. At CES 2018, LG Electronics announced it would participate in U.S broadcast trials of ATSC 3.0 and utilize knowledge the company gained from the South Korean deployment.
Frank Wilson is a retired teacher with over 30 years of combined experience in the education, small business technology, and real estate business. He now blogs as a hobby and spends most days tinkering with old computers. Wilson is passionate about tech, enjoys fishing, and loves drinking beer.