Sinclair Broadcast’s ATSC 3.0 chipset may change the game for mobile TV

Chipsets don’t generally take center stage at January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), let alone those dedicated to broadcast TV. But new silicon offering the first mobile-ready implementation of the ATSC 3.0 standard got a grand unveiling.

The SL4000 chip was launched by Sinclair Broadcast subsidiary One Media 3.0. ATSC 3.0 is a next generation standard for US digital terrestrial TV (DTT) but has risked being so slow to come to market, that it would be rendered redundant by the growth in Internet viewing.

This launch may be the kick the technology needs. Initially, several broadcast players were pinning their hopes onn pervading the mobile space, but in the past year, our sister service, Faultline Online Reporter – which covers digital video markets and technologies – says there has been back-tracking on mobile plans.

That may change with the One Media 3.0 launch. Working with Indian software-defined radio (SDR) developer Saankhya Labs, silicon R&D outfit VeriSilicon and Samsung Foundry, One Media 3.0 claims to have launched the world’s most advanced multi-standard demodulator SoC supporting ATSC 3.0, in two flavors. The second, after the SL4000, is the Demod-only SL3000, designed for linear TV applications such as reception in HDTV set tops and home gateways, whereas the SL4000 is a Demod-plus Tuner variant.

One Media 3.0, Sinclair’s dedicated next-gen platform development arm, says it aims to accelerate the adoption of ATSC 3.0 across markets with direct-to-mobile TV capabilities and broadcast/broadband convergence systems. “These have the very real potential to disrupt the mobile broadband and broadcast industries,” states One Media 3.0, expecting the combined IP-broadcast backbone which comprises the standard to win over a growing market of cord nevers.

As the first to market, the mobile-targeted SL4000 chipset is a critically important step towards adoption of the standard in a future 5G world, and Sinclair Broadcast recently committed to a nationwide roll-out of ATSC 3.0 and to fundms of chipset giveaways for wireless operators.

To achieve this, you need supporting receiver modules to receive the hybrid broadcast-IP signals within an ATSC 3.0 signal, on an ATSC 3.0 capable phone (which to our knowledge still don’t exist, yet). Getting a handset maker on board is therefore the ultimate frontier in our eyes and when we have pressured prominent broadcast figures in the past, the response has simply been that the focus of ATSC 3.0 is on the big screen via set tops, and nothing else for the next few years at least. These opinions have probably changed this week.

Saankhya Labs has supplied its patented SDR platform to the universal demodulator and supports 12 standards including ATSC 3.0, DVB-T2, ISDB-T, plus satellite and cable standards for TV, set tops, home gateways, mobile and automotive applications.

VeriSilicon supplied its ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) turnkey design and manufacturing services, while Samsung Foundry contributed its fully depleted silicon on insulator process technology, called 28FDS, for quality process production.

Other ATSC 3.0 initiatives in the US include the Phoenix Model Market, a collaborative effort between 8 large US broadcasters and the technology vendor community, which came about due to concern about live news broadcasts migrating cross platform. It has signed test agreements with Sony, Samsung and LG to supply electronics equipment.

LG was first on board the Phoenix Model Market, after marketing dual reception ATSC 3.0 and 1.0 TV products in South Korea (where the first terrestrial ATSC 3.0 broadcast network launched in October 2017), supplying its integrated ATSC 3.0 TV receivers for evaluation and monitoring. Sony will supply TVs, demodulators and application developments tools, as well as collaborate with Pearl TV – the broadcast partnership group and founding member of the project – in developing the EPG and service models. Samsung has also sold ATSC 3.0 TVs in South Korea, now in the US it plans to bring technologies for HDR and immersive audio evaluation.

Perhaps the main attraction of ATSC 3.0 to broadcasters is the targeted advertising capabilities at their fingertips thanks to the combination of a live broadcast with an IP back channel. This allows broadcasters to collect data to better understand viewer behavior, thereby enhancing their targeted advertising business cases. ATSC 3.0 can achieve this through the convergence of content identification and advertising identification, according to Chief Growth Officer of Ad-ID Harold Geller, the company which supplies codes for Trackable Asset Cross-Platform Identification (TAXI), a 2013 standard for identifying ad assets across all media platforms.

One Media 3.0 President Mark Aitken said: “These mobile 3.0 chips validate the ‘sea change’ in over-the-air distribution of, not only television, but all digital data.  Broadcasters are doing their part by deploying the NextGen transmission facilities, and now there will be devices enabled to receive that data – personalized and in mobile form.  This chip is the key to that disruptive future in a 5G world.”