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13 January 2022

India demands traffic offload in ATSC 3.0 rollout, as Brazil commits

Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) President Madeleine Noland used much of her time on stage at CES 2022 explaining the basic principles of ATSC 3.0 to an audience of a younger average demographic than your typical ATSC crowd. It wasn’t until Nick Colsey, VP of Business Development for Sony Electronics, asked how many people in the audience were from outside the US that things got interesting.

“Wow, that’s a lot,” exclaimed Colsey, as hands sprung up across the Las Vegas Convention Center conference hall. This question was of course asked in the context of marketing ATSC 3.0 as an international hybrid video delivery standard, which is a tough job as ATSC 3.0 is seen as a technology intrinsically embedded in the US and South Korea.

This emphatic show of overseas hands prompted Noland to divulge that Jamaica is the most recent country to adopt ATSC 3.0, becoming the third country to do so a year after the Caribbean island first revealed plans. Noland noted that Jamacia is effectively skipping the first-generation of digital TV and going straight to NextGen TV, with Television Jamaica (TVJ) becoming a full ATSC member in the process.

On a much bigger scale, it was also revealed that India is very keen on ATSC 3.0. Every new country brings a different set of technical challenges, with India’s being a market of some 1.2 billion smartphones, with a tiny penetration of TV sets compared to markets like the US. Direct-to-mobile is an interesting conversation that crops up whenever we return to ATSC 3.0, because we have not forgotten (as many would like us to) that the standard originally set out mobile handset delivery as a top priority. It turned out that discussions with mobile manufacturers about installing ATSC 3.0 receivers in their devices was a lot trickier than the same conversations with TV manufacturers like Sony Electronics, which is the first and only firm to have ATSC 3.0 tuners built into every TV model made from 2021 onwards.

Now, with the mobile-first video boom in India, the country’s broadcasters and mobile operators are pushing for broadcast traffic offload to be a key feature of this country-specific iteration of ATSC 3.0. This would bring the capability to start a program on a mobile network and then shift it seamlessly to broadcast delivery, much like smartphones can shift seamlessly between WiFi and cellular networks without users noticing the switch, or caring for that matter.

Again, for those with their ears closest to the ground, you will know that the India news isn’t explicitly new news, as last year we heard about the Telecom Standards Development Society of India agreeing to enable adoption of ATSC standards for broadcast services on mobile devices in the country.

But hold up, there was a third, less-publicly known country mentioned during the conference session. Brazil is currently in the middle of testing ATSC 3.0, according to Noland, as part of its separate SBTVD 3.0 digital terrestrial television system (which we have covered in greater detail in a separate story this week). Noland reiterated that details are not public yet, but preliminary test results are enough for her to saw confidently say that parts of ATSC 3.0 will “definitely” be part of the picture in Brazil, “soon” (we believe from 2023).

NextGen TV’s scope isn’t stopping at TVs and smartphones, however, as the automotive sector offers a sizable opportunity for the standard. Many have observed how CES is becoming equally as much of a car show as it is a consumer electronics show and ATSC 3.0 does not want to miss that boat.

Fortunately for anyone involved with ATSC 3.0, vendors won’t have to exhaustively chase the automotive sector, as existing electronics partners like Sony are already embedded as suppliers. Sony has a lot of component relationships with auto manufacturers for things like cameras and lidars, while Colsey cited the Motown 3.0 Open Test Track as an important part of the ATSC 3.0 automotive strategy. This is Pearl TV’s in-vehicle infotainment initiative in Detroit, where broadcasters have agreed to share some of their 3.0 spectrum with the auto sector to test TV delivery as well as software updates for the vehicle itself.

This means transmitting huge volumes of data while moving at highway speeds in some cases, as well as factoring in moving from one city’s transmitters to another city’s transmitters seamlessly. These tests are using IP multicast type delivery of software updates which Colsey says are more efficient than hogging 5G bandwidth.

“It takes a lot of bandwidth and maybe cellular networks aren’t the best way to deliver that. The wide availability of OTA signals with IP is an attractive proposition for auto manufacturers,” continued Colsey.

These two ATSC 3.0 use cases, entertainment and automotive, have been blended by Fox in a broadcast of Nascar via ATSC 3.0, with interactive dash came features. Here, the main program was delivered OTA, while features such as selecting the view of a favorite driver were available via the IP backbone.

“The most interesting receiver type is the car. Sony has been exploring this and has a steady stream of data designed just for cars,” added Noland.

One ATSC 3.0 target market less spoken about is what Noland calls distance education. While home schooling was very much a pandemic trend, the hybrid way of life is sticking around for good. Unfortunately, lockdowns emphasized the brutal reality of broadband inadequacy across the US, as millions of kids struggled to keep up with homeschooling via poor home internet connections.

The idea with ATSC 3.0 is to send all the heavy data, including class videos and study materials, over broadcast to the home, while lighter data such as completed homework can be sent back via the cellular network, using only a small amount of data. It isn’t clear how far along plans are in this philanthropic regard, however, as more lucrative market opportunities await ATSC 3.0’s attention.