TELE-audiovision International — The World‘s Largest Digital TV Trade Magazine
— 01-02/2013
Digital Terrestrial TV - 2nd Level
A Marriage of Broadcast TV with
the Internet and Mobile Devices
Jacek Pawlowski
Nowadays all TV is digital, but with
different standards in different regions.
In North America, the first standards
for digital terrestrial TV were published
in the 1990s. Since then, these stand-
ards have been updated a few times
and their recent versions are from
2009, 2010 or 2011. The set of stand-
ards that we usually refer to as “ATSC”
actually consists of several tens of har-
monized norms. The most fundamental
one is “A/53: ATSC Digital Television
Standard”. You can find the list of all
currently published A/xx standards on
the ATSC web site:
However, advances in technology
are so fast and the end user require-
ments change that quickly that a mo-
ment comes when the standardization
body (in this case ATSC) comes to the
conclusion that it is better to establish
a new set of standards rather than in-
troduce small enhancements in the cur-
rent norms. There are simply too many
new things to be covered.
A new set of standards by ATSC is
now being released. This new suite is
called simply ATSC 2.0. We will focus in
a moment on the novelties that are to
be covered by ATSC 2.0 but please note
that that does not mean that all the
present standards will be thrown out.
ATSC 2.0 will use some of the features
that are already present in ATSC 1.0
but are not normative but optional. For
example: Advanced video codecs A/72
and A/73, Software download A/97 or
Conditional access A/70. Why is a new
standard needed? The simple answer
is: because the traditional simple lin-
ear broadcasting model “one-to-many”
becomes more and more obsolete to-
day. Although it is still the most effec-
tive in moving the common content to
very large numbers of viewers, there
are too many alternatives that attract
the end user‘s attention. Today‘s cus-
tomer wants to watch what they want
and when they want. They require the
technology to be as flexible as possible.
How many times you felt an impulse
to check something on the Internet
when watching TV? How old is this
actor? In what film did I see him be-
fore? Are you among those ones who
watch TV and surf Internet or chat with
friends at the same time? If so, imag-
ine a system that in parallel to the nor-
mal news coverage or political discus-
sions, sends additional data that you
might be interested in to your mobile
device (smartphone/tablet). You are of-
fered the links you can click to to dig
into more details on what is currently
presented on your flat screen TV. It is
sometimes called “Tell me more” ser-
vice. Such extended information will be
downloaded from the broadcaster‘s site
on the Internet and displayed either on
your smartphone, Wi-Fi connected tab-
let/laptop or on your TV-screen if you
prefer to.
So now assume that a ATSC 2.0 en-
abled TV-set is by matterr of course
connected to the Internet – this is in
fact one of the very basic assumptions
of the new system. But the additional
content you might be interested in will
not necessarily be downloaded from
the Internet after you demand it. The
TV-set will be equipped with a storage
device (HDD, or flash memory) and the
broadcaster can send some content
before you might think of downloading
it. Imagine that you are interested in a
new movie just advertised on TV. Your
clever provider has already sent it to
the HDD of your TV-set. A new movie
is just a click away from you. Can you
resist it?
Who knows, maybe a future premi-
um movie channel will consist of the
stream of advertisements offering you
movies to watch but not actually broad-
casting them at a fixed schedule. It will
be completely up to you what to watch
and when to watch. And because the
Internet connection is a two-way com-
munication, after some time the system
will “learn” what kind of movies you like
most and even the advertising will be
adjusted to your preferences. Sounds
a bit terrifying but it already works this
way on the Internet.
But the new ATSC 2.0 standard is not
only about integrating TV broadcasts
and the Internet. Why not watch a con-
tent stored on your phone on a large
TV screen? It will not be a problem with
the new standard. And the other way
around: your smartphone will be able
to act as a secondary screen providing
supplemental information to the cur-
rently transmitted video and audio. It
can also be used for other purposes like
voting, buying and so on.
We focused so far on the ways of
watching TV but there are also exciting
technical improvements like: advanced
video compression allowing transmit-
ting even 1080P/60 Hz video over a 6
MHz channel (MPEG4), advanced audio
codecs, reception of ATSC M/H content
(normally dedicated for mobile devices)
on a fixed receiver, 3D television and
advanced interactive services.
You might say that all these things
are already implemented here and
there but remember that when propri-
etary solutions get standardized, more
and more producers start to implement
them in their products. You do not have
to reinvent the wheel or pay a fortune
to the original pioneer. When the stand-
ards are out, the new features become
popular and affordable for a wide pub-
Today‘s modern digital TV receivers
already combine TV channels delivered
in various ways: satellite, cable, ter-
restrial, Internet. The normal user does
not even know, or care, what the trans-
mission media is. However, there is
no significant integration between the
world of digital TV and many services
typical for the Internet domain. ATSC
2.0 is a significant step toward combin-
ing these two worlds.
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