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3 May 2022

NAB: ATSC 3.0 seeks opportunities in IoT and mobile

The NAB event, the huge US-based TV and video conference, was held last week in physical format again, providing an update to the progress of the ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard. Also known as NextGen TV, this has a heavy focus on hybrid and mobile-first TV.

In the run-up to NAB, the ATSC organization put out a teaser announcement, updating the world on its progress. The headline claim is that the NextGen TV coverage in the USA has hit 50% population coverage – now available in almost 60 markets. Some 120 receivers (set-tops and USB-based dongles) have been designed, and the ATSC reckons 4.5m compatible devices will be sold in 2022.

Some rudimentary modelling suggests that TVs have an average lifecycle of around seven years, as they are shuffled through the house until they die or become intolerable. At the 4.5m sets per year rate, this suggests an installed base of around 31.5m units in seven years.

The ATSC is going to be disappointed if a penetration rate of about 10% is not sharply improved soon, though the body also points to Brazil and Jamaica as encouraging new markets.

Nonetheless, the network infrastructure is being rolled out, although there is no public completion date for 100% coverage, but there are also opportunities in convergence, datacasting and IoT. BitPath has announced plans to launch a service that will attempt to piggyback on this infrastructure – this entails a position, navigation and timing (PNT) offering, which essentially uses the ATSC 3.0 network to determine where a connected device is, in both space and time.

BitPath points to PNT being a market growing by 22% annually, and as ATSC 3.0 is a broadcast data network, it should have a lot of bandwidth for other such initiatives.

There have been impressive demonstrations of positioning offerings for IoT devices, over the years, and being able to manipulate the ATSC 3.0 broadcast architecture should be a win-win for the network owners and companies like BitPath that can leverage the deployment.

And speaking of additional functions, Evoca TV demonstrated an industry-first, in the run up to NAB, which saw the Idaho-based broadcaster transmit the first content to use the cross-polarization functions of ATSC 3.0 in the USA. This is MIMO, a staple of LTE for many years, which is now being used to increase the carrying capacity of the ATSC 3.0 spectrum.

Evoca TV’s CEO, Todd Achilles, said that “MIMO has the potential to dramatically increase the available payload for TV broadcasts, possibly even doubling the amount of data that a broadcaster can sent to improve choice and robustness. That could mean many more standard and high-definition channels for viewers, the potential of more than one UHD 4K service, or even the possibility of 8K video delivered over-the-air.”

On the mobile side, a smartphone from Saankhya Labs is the first ATSC 3.0-compatible device from the Indian start-up, which has now been acquired by Tejas Networks, part of the huge Tata Group. Saankhya was founded in 2007, and developed its own software-defined radio (SDR) silicon, amassing a portfolio of some 73 patents. Tata plans to integrate Saankhya into its 4G and 5G RAN offerings, as well as tackle Open RAN and 5G broadcast opportunities. ATSC 3.0 may take a back seat, as Tata pursues more lucrative avenues, but Tata may want to corner the ATSC 3.0 market entirely, and certainly boasts the scale to do so.