Breaking News: ATSC 3.0 Broadcast Standard

ATSC 3.0 Broadcast Standard
HDTV, Off Air Transmission, 21th Century Broadcast Standard

Well, Well...truly a very deep subject.

In the distant past, I have waxed poetic about all manner of things associated with Digital TV including:

  • HDTV Displays
  • HDMI Protocol (various versions)
  • STB (Set Top Boxes)
  • 4K Ultra HDTV
  • Dolby Atmos
  • HDR & Dolby Vision

Briefly, the transition from "Old School" Analogue TV Programming to HDTV Programming has taken a significant amount of time to become fully baked.  It actually started approximately 25 years ago. The group principally responsible for designing and paving the way for that eventual outcome is known as ATSC or the Advanced Television Systems Committee.

One of the very first things decided upon was the inclusion of an OFF-AIR Digital Tuner, which provides for in-market Local TV Programming.  Said differently, your local market channels are the Networks...ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS as well as other locally based stations. Perhaps more importantly, the mandated inclusion of an ATSC Digital Tuner (in every new HDTV) provided for free over-the-air reception.  OFF-AIR programming is non-compressed and provides for Dolby 5.1 Digital Audio.  Wow! That is a mouthful when you look back from where we started. Our most-bestest friends, at the Cable Providers, commonly compressed their programming to stack more channels into the same bandwidth.  Great for the revenue stream...not so much for the quality of the video presentation.  Compared side by side, Off-AIR broadcasts signals were far superior to most Cable broadcasts even a few short years ago.  Clearly, much has transpired since then.

New School or 21 Century HDTV:     

My earlier comments about the deep subject matter simply refers to the new sherrif in town.  The ATSC folks have been hard at work conjouring up the latest broadcast standard and in a somewhat surprising move, they have totally skipped Gen 2 rollouts and have instead moved directly to ATSC 3.0!

ATSC 3.0 will provide for and support True 4K content (and beyond), HDR, 3D and newer Immersive Audio codecs in a far more efficient manner. Moreover, it will be based on Internet Protocol (IP), which will extend those services to Mobile devices. According to the Chairman of the ATSC Group, most of the heavy lifting has already been completed and they are expecting to codify the new standard perhaps as early as this very month?

Caution Will Rogers:

Once the standard has been fully tested and approved, the transition will begin in earnest. This is daunting process as the FCC is in the midst of selliing off available "Spectrum" to all manner of users.  Additionally, the required Spectrum RePak will begfin this year and it will affect the 1200 TV Stations nationwide.  Older HDTV ATSC 1.0 Tuners will not be compatible with the newer ATSC 3.0 standard.  It is highly likely that next gen STB's will begin to appear at retailers near you to support the new broadcast protocol?  

As a long-time industry veteran, I would fully expect this next transition to play out over a several year period.  If we look at the recent 4K technology rollout, we can clearly see that it is quite easy to purchase a 4K enabled TV Display. That said, actually being able to watch true 4K programming is an entirely different matter...there simply isn't a plethora of 4K material out there presently.  Make no mistake, it is in the works and it will be forthcoming.


  • ATSC 3.0 will be a monumental shift and advancement in technology
  • It will be a multi-year transition
  • Don't jump out of any windows just yet!