Do you enjoy watching free over the air television? Some changes may be coming soon. Most broadcasters will be upgrading to a new broadcast standard called ATSC 3.0 or NextGen TV. This will allow OTA TV signals to be broadcasted in 4K. It will be an upgrade from the current 1080p (ATSC 1.0). This is not a mandatory switch for broadcasters. So it will be a slow transition and give viewers plenty of time to make the switch. It will require some equipment changes. Most people should be able to use their existing OTA antennas with the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast. All aspects of the new standard have not been hashed out. So some things may change. In this article, I will explain what this new broadcast standard will offer, what changes you will likely need to make, and what to expect.
What is ATSC 3.0?
ATSC 3.0 is the latest version of the Advanced Television Systems Committee standards. This committee defines how television signals are broadcast and received. Currently, OTA television is being broadcasted using ATSC 1.0. This standard was implemented in 1996 and finalized in 2009.
If you want to take advantage of the new broadcasts it will require a converter box or a new 4K TV with an ATSC 3.0 tuner. There are rumors that new 4K TVs will soon be available with ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 tuners. This would resolve backward compatibility. This new equipment will likely not be available until 2020.
ATSC 3.0 has many new improvements like 4K UHD broadcasts. Picture quality upgrades that include high dynamic range, wide color gamut, and frame rates up to 120 frames per second. This will give the viewer a clearer and crisper image. To broadcast in 4K, it will require the use of the H.265 codec which means higher quality. Using this codec, higher resolution signals can then be broadcasted without an increase in bandwidth, which is good news for broadcasters. It allows them to keep their current 6MHz band.
Better Antenna Reception
ATSC 3.0 will have better reception indoors and use OFDM broadcast technology. This could require a smaller antenna for some viewers.
There are audio improvements as well. ATSC 3.0 will allow for Dolby AC-4 broadcasts of up to 7.1.4 channel audio surround sound and support object-based sound formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The current audio standard is limited to just 5.1 channel surround.
This new standard will also have an online component that will allow for broadcast viewing on modern connected devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers. There will also be an option for video on demand. Separate content will also be sent over IP and then integrated before being displayed. This will allow for more tailored content like ads and emergency alerts geo-targeted to your area.
Slow Roll Out
Again this is not a mandatory switch like the previous analog to digital upgrade. It is being done on a voluntary basis. This new standard is still a few years away and broadcasters are required to keep broadcasting using the old ATSC 1.0 for the foreseeable future. The rollout will likely be a slow one.
Since the publication of this article, many changes have happened in the NextGen TV rollout. See our updated article here.
Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I have a feeling the 4K switch will take a lot longer than FCC anticipates. Ultimately, it will depend on the broadcasters and consumers to foot the bill. Time will tell if this transition gains much ground. As of now, there are not many broadcasters making the switch, just a few test markets. I am going to wait and see how this new transition plays out before upgrading any of my equipment. If you are excited about receiving this new format be patient, this could take some time! Please consider subscribing to this website to stay up to date on the switch to ATSC 3.0.