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ATSC 3 right behind ATSC 2

By PETER WHITE

Published: 9 February, 2012

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What exactly is the point of updating US ATSC broadcasting technology at breakneck speed you may ask? This week ATSC 3.0 was defined, even though ATSC 2.0 is not yet in production.

ATSC 3.0 will support hybrid services, with interim hybrid support built into ATSC 2.0, with scope left for final tuning in ATSC 3.0.

Is it a race to provide the same hybrid TV technologies that are being enjoyed by the rest of the world? Well if any major part of the world had yet to decide whether or not to adopt ATSC, other than the US, Canada, Mexico and Korea, then that might be a motive, but most of the other regions are taken.

Perhaps it's just that now US companies are producing the equipment in anger, since the analog switchover in 2009, they are keener to see it add new features. Whatever the reason, there is one effect. To put more pressure on pay TV services, and bring some credibility back to simply using an antenna for free TV in the US.

ATSC 2.0 is currently being prepared for final acceptance as a standard later in 2012. Meanwhile DVB-T2, the second generation of the DVB-T terrestrial standard from Europe, has already been deployed in a number of European countries, including the UK, Italy, Finland and Sweden, while India is committed to it.

Another story that we also carried in this week's Faultline (the longer, analytical, paid version of Rethink TV) is that these same TV stations who are broadcasting free to air signals in the US, suddenly offer double the number of channels they produce across all US territories from 2,518 at the end of 2010 to 4,552 a year later, according to research group SNL Kagan.

This is taking advantage of the potential in ATSC for sub-channels in a single 6 MHz slice of spectrum - which can support in total over 19 Mbps of video delivery, cut any way the station wants it. The Open Mobile Video Coalition also reports that some 120 stations have now launched ATSC-MH sub-channels, suitable for delivery to handheld devices, in the same spectrum -this means more TV targeted channels as well as more mobile targeted TV broadcasts.

This is another idea that pushes the free to air broadcasting community back towards credibility, and if it later adds online TV for catch up services, it could once again become a force in the US TV landscape, offering free TV at a time when the economy is at its lowest ebb.

One trend notes Kagan is to produce a duplicate of the initial channel, but in Spanish, so that it can reach a potential audience of around 36 million people who use Spanish as their first language. This could pull tons of Spanish targeted advertising and take some future oxygen away from many pay TV efforts which have been targeting the US Spanish speaking population

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