Last night I got to experience something just as amazing as the first television broadcast signal in 1928. Ultra HD content broadcast from a tower only a few miles away. With the new ATSC 3.0 format was a technology developed by LG and Zenith called FUTURECAST. I sat down and talked with industry professionals to find out more about this concept.
What is ATSC 3.0
It stands for Advanced Television Systems Commitee. Currently, DTV runs on ATSC 1.0, which pushes a MPEG-2 or H.264 video across airwaves. This is a one-way signal that can get easily interrupted if you have poor line-of-sight with your TV tower.
I live less than a mile from towers and my signal was always poor-to-moderate.
ATSC 3.0 is the newest revision that improves greatly on performance and bandwidth. In order to do so, it is not as backwards compatible as some would like. However, ATSC 3.0 can support UHDTV at 3840×2160 – 60fps.
What is FUTURECAST
FUTURECAST is a physical layer used with ATSC 3.0 to not only send a signal but also make sure you get a more robust experience. Co-developed by LG Electronics, Zenith, and GatesAir, FUTURECAST can deliver a 4K Ultra HD signal and two mobile TV streams to a single 6 MHz channel (which broadcast television is currently using).
FUTURECAST also uses an IP core network topology. This means that not only can a signal be eventually sent to a mobile device to watch a TV show, it can also help with a more intuative and interactive experience.
For example: Imagine watching a baseball game and wanting to get the stats of a player. You can press a button and get a robust amount of information. On the same token: you are watching the game and want to see a different camera angle. Press a button and you have a completely different view.
Signal Interruption may be a Thing of the Past
This idea can also send show information and video to the TV before it plays. This allows a show to pre-buffer, so if there is any interruption in signal you are not missing out on a touchdown or climactic ending to your favorite show.
Signal Wherever You Need It
We traipsed all around Madison WI from Midnight to 3 AM, visiting the Kohl Center and Pro Video because these concrete and steel buildings make it tougher for signal to get in. In fact, when we entered into Pro Video and the door closed, Everyone’s cell phone signals dropped completely.
The idea was to show how FUTURECAST and ATSC 3.0 signal can still penetrate these fortresses so you can watch your favorite shows or events. Each location had a simple antenna, TV and signal analyzer showing the broadcast TV signal getting through.
Over the Air UltraHDTV Pay Per View?
This new process can also send encrypted signals over the air. While a FCC license is still necessary, TV stations could create a Pay-Per-View channel for sporting events, concerts and more. You will no longer need a cable or satellite connection to consume these events.
FUTURECAST is one of a few physical layers being developed in hopes to become the standard in broadcast television. It was exciting to be a part of a test that could ultimately change the terrestrial TV landscape. As WKOW switched the signal back at 3 AM to their standard HD connection, you could see a major difference from the LG TV that was displaying it.
Truely a great experience.