ATSC standards

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Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) standards are an American set of standards for digital television transmission over terrestrial, cable and satellite networks. It is largely a replacement for the analog NTSC standard and, like that standard, is used mostly in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and South Korea. Several former NTSC users, in particular Japan, have not used ATSC during their digital television transition, because they adopted their own system called ISDB.

Contents

The ATSC standards were developed in the early 1990s by the Grand Alliance, a consortium of electronics and telecommunications companies that assembled to develop a specification for what is now known as HDTV. The standard is now administered by the Advanced Television Systems Committee. It includes a number of patented elements, and licensing is required for devices that use these parts of the standard. Key among these is the 8VSB modulation system used for over-the-air broadcasts. ATSV[ clarification needed ] technology was primarily developed with patent contributions from LG Electronics, which holds most of the patents for the ATSV standard. [1]

ATSC includes two primary high definition video formats, 1080i and 720p. It also includes standard-definition formats, although initially only HDTV services were launched in the digital format. ATSC can carry multiple channels of information on a single stream, and it is common for there to be a single high-definition signal and several standard-definition signals carried on a single 6 MHz (former NTSC) channel allocation.

Background

The high-definition television standards defined by the ATSC produce widescreen 16:9 images up to 1920×1080 pixels in size more than six times the display resolution of the earlier standard. However, many different image sizes are also supported. The reduced bandwidth requirements of lower-resolution images allow up to six standard-definition "subchannels" to be broadcast on a single 6  MHz TV channel.

ATSC standards are marked A/x (x is the standard number) and can be downloaded for free from the ATSC's website at ATSC.org. ATSC Standard A/53, which implemented the system developed by the Grand Alliance, was published in 1995; the standard was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in the United States in 1996. It was revised in 2009. ATSC Standard A/72 was approved in 2008 and introduces H.264/AVC video coding to the ATSC system.

ATSC supports 5.1-channel surround sound using Dolby Digital's AC-3 format. Numerous auxiliary datacasting services can also be provided.

Many aspects of ATSC are patented, including elements of the MPEG video coding, the AC-3 audio coding, and the 8VSB modulation. [2] The cost of patent licensing, estimated at up to $50 per digital TV receiver, [3] has prompted complaints by manufacturers. [4]

As with other systems, ATSC depends on numerous interwoven standards, e.g., the EIA-708 standard for digital closed captioning, leading to variations in implementation.

Digital switchover

ATSC replaced much of the analog NTSC television system [5] in the United States [6] [7] on June 12, 2009, on August 31, 2011 in Canada, on December 31, 2012 in South Korea, and [8] on December 31, 2015 in Mexico. [9]

Broadcasters who used ATSC and wanted to retain an analog signal were temporarily forced to broadcast on two separate channels, as the ATSC system requires the use of an entire separate channel. Channel numbers in ATSC do not correspond to RF frequency ranges, as they did with analog television. Instead, virtual channels, sent as part of the metadata along with the program(s), allow channel numbers to be remapped from their physical RF channel to any other number 1 to 99, so that ATSC stations can either be associated with the related NTSC channel numbers, or all stations on a network can use the same number. There is also a standard for distributed transmission systems (DTx), a form of single-frequency network which allows for the synchronised operation of multiple on-channel booster stations.

Audio

Dolby Digital AC-3 is used as the audio codec, though it was standardized as A/52 by the ATSC. It allows the transport of up to five channels of sound with a sixth channel for low-frequency effects (the so-called "5.1" configuration). In contrast, Japanese ISDB HDTV broadcasts use MPEG's Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) as the audio codec, which also allows 5.1 audio output. DVB (see below) allows both.

MPEG-2 audio was a contender for the ATSC standard during the DTV "Grand Alliance" shootout, but lost out to Dolby AC-3. The Grand Alliance issued a statement finding the MPEG-2 system to be "essentially equivalent" to Dolby, but only after the Dolby selection had been made. Later, a story emerged that MIT had entered into an agreement with Dolby whereupon the university would be awarded a large sum of money if the MPEG-2 system was rejected. Dolby also offered an incentive for Zenith to switch their vote (which they did); however, it is unknown whether they accepted the offer. [10]

Video

The ATSC system supports a number of different display resolutions, aspect ratios, and frame rates. The formats are listed here by resolution, form of scanning (progressive or interlaced), and number of frames (or fields) per second (see also the TV resolution overview at the end of this article).

For transport, ATSC uses the MPEG systems specification, known as an MPEG transport stream, to encapsulate data, subject to certain constraints. ATSC uses 188-byte MPEG transport stream packets to carry data. Before decoding of audio and video takes place, the receiver must demodulate and apply error correction to the signal. Then, the transport stream may be demultiplexed into its constituent streams.

MPEG-2

There are four basic display sizes for ATSC, generally known by referring to the number of lines of the picture height. NTSC and PAL image sizes are smallest, with a width of 720 (or 704) and a height of 480 or 576 lines. The third size is HDTV images that have 720 scan lines in height and are 1280 pixels wide. The largest size has 1080 lines high and 1920 pixels wide. 1080-line video is actually encoded with 1920×1088 pixel frames, but the last eight lines are discarded prior to display. This is due to a restriction of the MPEG-2 video format, which requires the height of the picture in luma samples (i.e. pixels) to be divisible by 16.

The lower resolutions can operate either in progressive scan or interlaced mode, but not the largest picture sizes. The 1080-line system does not support progressive images at the highest frame rates of 50, 59.94 or 60 frames per second, because such technology was seen as too advanced at the time. The standard also requires 720-line video be progressive scan, since that provides better picture quality than interlaced scan at a given frame rate, and there was no legacy use of interlaced scan for that format. The result is that the combination of maximum frame rate and picture size results in approximately the same number of samples per second for both the 1080-line interlaced format and the 720-line format, as 1920*1080*30 is roughly equal to 1280*720*60. A similar equality relationship applies for 576 lines at 25 frame per second versus 480 lines at 30 frames per second.

A terrestrial (over-the-air) transmission carries 19.39 megabits of data per second (a fluctuating bandwidth of about 18.3  Mbit/s left after overhead such as error correction, program guide, closed captioning, etc.), compared to a maximum possible MPEG-2 bitrate of 10.08 Mbit/s (7 Mbit/s typical) allowed in the DVD standard and 48 Mbit/s (36 Mbit/s typical) allowed in the Blu-ray disc standard.

Although the ATSC A/53 standard limits MPEG-2 transmission to the formats listed below (with integer frame rates paired with 1000/1001-rate versions), the U.S. Federal Communications Commission declined to mandate that television stations obey this part of the ATSC's standard. In theory, television stations in the U.S. are free to choose any resolution, aspect ratio, and frame/field rate, within the limits of Main Profile @ High Level. Many stations do go outside the bounds of the ATSC specification by using other resolutions – for example, 352 x 480 or 720 x 480.

"EDTV" displays can reproduce progressive scan content and frequently have a 16:9 wide screen format. Such resolutions are 704×480 or 720×480[ citation needed ] in NTSC and 720×576 in PAL, allowing 60 progressive frames per second in NTSC or 50 in PAL.

ATSC Standard A/53 Part 4:2009 (MPEG-2 Video System Characteristics)
ResolutionAspect ratio Pixel aspect ratio ScanningFrame rate (Hz)
VerticalHorizontal
1080192016:91:1progressive23.976
24
29.97
30
interlaced29.97 (59.94 fields/s)
30 (60 fields/s)
720128016:91:1progressive23.976
24
29.97
30
59.94
60
4807044:3 or 16:910:11 or 40:33progressive23.976
24
29.97
30
59.94
60
interlaced29.97 (59.94 fields/s)
30 (60 fields/s)
6404:31:1progressive23.976
24
29.97
30
59.94
60
interlaced29.97 frames/s (59.94 fields/s)
30 frames/s (60 fields/s)

ATSC also supports PAL frame rates and resolutions which are defined in ATSC A/63 standard.

ATSC Standard A/63:1997 (Standard for Coding 25/50 Hz Video)
ResolutionAspect ratio Pixel aspect ratio ScanningFrame rate (Hz)
VerticalHorizontal
1080192016:91:1interlaced25 (50 fields/s)
progressive25
720128016:91:1progressive50
5767204:3 or 16:9 SMPTE 259M progressive25
50
interlaced25 (50 fields/s)
5444:3 or 16:9 SMPTE 259M
three quarters
progressive25
interlaced25 (50 fields/s)
4804:3 or 16:9 SMPTE 259M
two thirds
progressive25
interlaced25 (50 fields/s)
3524:3 or 16:9 SMPTE 259M
half
progressive25
interlaced25 (50 fields/s)
2883524:3 or 16:9 CIF progressive25

The ATSC A/53 specification imposes certain constraints on MPEG-2 video stream:

The ATSC specification and MPEG-2 allow the use of progressive frames coded within an interlaced video sequence. For example, NBC stations transmit a 1080i60 video sequence, meaning the formal output of the MPEG-2 decoding process is sixty 540-line fields per second. However, for prime-time television shows, those 60 fields can be coded using 24 progressive frames as a base – actually, an 1080p24 video stream (a sequence of 24 progressive frames per second) is transmitted, and MPEG-2 metadata instructs the decoder to interlace these fields and perform 3:2 pulldown before display, as in soft telecine.

The ATSC specification also allows 1080p30 and 1080p24 MPEG-2 sequences, however they are not used in practice, because broadcasters want to be able to switch between 60 Hz interlaced (news), 30 Hz progressive or PsF (soap operas), and 24 Hz progressive (prime-time) content without ending the 1080i60 MPEG-2 sequence.

The 1080-line formats are encoded with 1920 × 1088 pixel luma matrices and 960 × 540 chroma matrices, but the last 8 lines are discarded by the MPEG-2 decoding and display process.

H.264/MPEG-4 AVC

In July 2008, ATSC was updated to support the ITU-T H.264 video codec. The new standard is split in two parts:

The new standards support 1080p at 50, 59.94 and 60 frames per second; such frame rates require H.264/AVC High Profile Level 4.2 , while standard HDTV frame rates only require Levels 3.2 and 4, and SDTV frame rates require Levels 3 and 3.1.[ dubious ]

ATSC Standard A/72 Part 1:2008 (Video System Characteristics of AVC)
ResolutionAspect ratio Pixel aspect ratio ScanningFrame rate (Hz)Level
VerticalHorizontal
1080192016:91:1progressive23.976
24
29.97
30
25
4
progressive59.94
60
50
4.2
interlaced29.97 (59.94 fields/s)
30 (60 fields/s)
25 (50 fields/s)
4
144016:9HDV
(4:3)
progressive23.976
24
29.97
30
25
4
progressive59.94
60
50
4.2
interlaced29.97 (59.94 fields/s)
30 (60 fields/s)
25 (50 fields/s)
4
720128016:91:1progressive23.976
24
29.97
30
59.94
60
25
50
3.2, 4
4807204:3 or 16:9 SMPTE 259M
(10:11 or 40:33)
progressive23.976
24
29.97
30
59.94
60
25
50
3.1, 4
interlaced29.97 (59.94 fields/s)
30 (60 fields/s)
25 (50 fields/s)
3
7044:3 or 16:9 SMPTE 259M
(10:11 or 40:33)
progressive23.976
24
29.97
30
59.94
60
25
50
3.1, 4
interlaced29.97 (59.94 fields/s)
30 (60 fields/s)
25 (50 fields/s)
3
6404:31:1progressive23.976
24
29.97
30
59.94
60
25
50
3.1, 4
interlaced29.97 (59.94 fields/s)
30 (60 fields/s)
25 (50 fields/s)
3
5444:3 SMPTE 259M
three quarters
(40:33)
progressive23.976
25
3
interlaced29.97 (59.94 fields/s)
25 (50 fields/s)
5284:3 SMPTE 259M
three quarters
(40:33)
progressive23.976
25
3
interlaced29.97 (59.94 fields/s)
25 (50 fields/s)
3524:3 SMPTE 259M
half
(20:11)
progressive23.976
25
3
interlaced29.97 (59.94 fields/s)
25 (50 fields/s)
2403524:3 SIF
(10:11)
progressive23.976
25
3
1201764:3 SIF half
(10:11)
progressive23.976
25
1.1

Transport stream (TS)

The file extension ".TS" stands for "transport stream", which is a media container format. It may contain a number of streams of audio or video content multiplexed within the transport stream. Transport streams are designed with synchronization and recovery in mind for potentially lossy distribution (such as over-the-air ATSC broadcast) in order to continue a media stream with minimal interruption in the face of data loss in transmission. When an over-the-air ATSC signal is captured to a file via hardware/software the resulting file is often in a .TS file format.

Modulation and transmission

ATSC signals are designed to use the same 6 MHz bandwidth as analog NTSC television channels (the interference requirements of A/53 DTV standards with adjacent NTSC or other DTV channels are very strict). Once the digital video and audio signals have been compressed and multiplexed, the transport stream can be modulated in different ways depending on the method of transmission.

The proposals for modulation schemes for digital television were developed when cable operators carried standard-resolution video as uncompressed analog signals. In recent years, cable operators have become accustomed to compressing standard-resolution video for digital cable systems, making it harder to find duplicate 6 MHz channels for local broadcasters on uncompressed "basic" cable.

Currently, the Federal Communications Commission requires cable operators in the United States to carry the analog or digital transmission of a terrestrial broadcaster (but not both), when so requested by the broadcaster (the "must-carry rule"). The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in Canada does not have similar rules in force with respect to carrying ATSC signals.

However, cable operators have still been slow to add ATSC channels to their lineups for legal, regulatory, and plant & equipment related reasons. One key technical and regulatory issue is the modulation scheme used on the cable: cable operators in the U.S. (and to a lesser extent Canada) can determine their own method of modulation for their plants. Multiple standards bodies exist in the industry: the SCTE defined 256-QAM as a modulation scheme for cable in a cable industry standard, ANSI/SCTE 07 2006: Digital Transmission Standard For Cable Television. Consequently, most U.S. and Canadian cable operators seeking additional capacity on the cable system have moved to 256-QAM from the 64-QAM modulation used in their plant, in preference to the 16VSB standard originally proposed by ATSC. Over time 256-QAM is expected to be included in the ATSC standard.

There is also a standard for transmitting ATSC via satellite; however, this is only used by TV networks [ citation needed ]. Very few teleports outside the U.S. support the ATSC satellite transmission standard, but teleport support for the standard is improving. The ATSC satellite transmission system is not used for direct-broadcast satellite systems; in the U.S. and Canada these have long used either DVB-S (in standard or modified form) or a proprietary system such as DSS or DigiCipher 2.

Other systems

Digital broadcast standards.svg

ATSC coexists with the DVB-T standard, and with ISDB-T. A similar standard called ADTB-T was developed for use as part of China's new DMB-T/H dual standard. While China has officially chosen a dual standard, there is no requirement that a receiver work with both standards and there is no support for the ADTB modulation from broadcasters or equipment and receiver manufacturers.

For compatibility with material from various regions and sources, ATSC supports the 480i video format used in the NTSC analog system (480 lines, approximately 60 fields or 30 frames per second), 576i formats used in most PAL regions (576 lines, 50 fields or 25 frames per second), and 24 frames-per-second formats used in film.

While the ATSC system has been criticized as being complicated and expensive to implement and use, [13] both broadcasting and receiving equipment are now comparable in cost with that of DVB.

The ATSC signal is more susceptible to changes in radio propagation conditions than DVB-T and ISDB-T. It also lacks true hierarchical modulation, which would allow the SDTV part of an HDTV signal (or the audio portion of a television program) to be received uninterrupted even in fringe areas where signal strength is low. For this reason, an additional modulation mode, enhanced-VSB (E-VSB) has been introduced, allowing for a similar benefit.

In spite of ATSC's fixed transmission mode, it is still a robust signal under various conditions. 8VSB was chosen over COFDM in part because many areas are rural and have a much lower population density, thereby requiring larger transmitters and resulting in large fringe areas. In these areas, 8VSB was shown to perform better than other systems.

COFDM is used in both DVB-T and ISDB-T, and for 1seg, as well as DVB-H and HD Radio in the United States. In metropolitan areas, where population density is highest, COFDM is said to be better at handling multipath propagation. While ATSC is also incapable of true single-frequency network (SFN) operation, the distributed transmission mode, using multiple synchronized on-channel transmitters, has been shown to improve reception under similar conditions. Thus, it may not require more spectrum allocation than DVB-T using SFNs. A comparison study found that ISDB-T and DVB-T performed similarly, and that both were outperformed by DVB-T2. [14]

Mobile TV

Mobile reception of digital stations using ATSC has, until 2008, been difficult to impossible, especially when moving at vehicular speeds. To overcome this, there are several proposed systems that report improved mobile reception: Samsung/Rhode & Schwarz's A-VSB, Harris/LG's MPH, and a recent proposal from Thomson/Micronas; all of these systems have been submitted as candidates for a new ATSC standard, ATSC-M/H. After one year of standardization, the solution merged between Samsung's AVSB and LGE's MPH technology has been adopted and would have been deployed in 2009. This is in addition to other standards like the now-defunct MediaFLO, and worldwide open standards such as DVB-H and T-DMB. Like DVB-H and ISDB 1seg, the proposed ATSC mobile standards are backward-compatible with existing tuners, despite being added to the standard well after the original standard was in wide use.

Mobile reception of some stations will still be more difficult, because 18 UHF channels in the U.S. have been removed from TV service, forcing some broadcasters to stay on VHF. This band requires larger antennas for reception, and is more prone to electromagnetic interference from engines and rapidly changing multipath conditions.[ citation needed ]

Future

ATSC 2.0

ATSC 2.0 was a planned major new revision of the standard which would have been backward compatible with ATSC 1.0. The standard was to have allowed interactive and hybrid television technologies by connecting the TV with the Internet services and allowing interactive elements into the broadcast stream. Other features were to have included advanced video compression, audience measurement, targeted advertising, enhanced programming guides, video on demand services, and the ability to store information on new receivers, including Non-realtime (NRT) content. [15] [16] [17]

However, ATSC 2.0 was never actually launched, as it was essentially outdated before it could be launched. All of the changes that were a part of the ATSC 2.0 revision were adopted into ATSC 3.0. [18]

ATSC 3.0

ATSC 3.0 will provide even more services to the viewer and increased bandwidth efficiency and compression performance, which requires breaking backwards compatibility with the current version. On November 17, 2017, the FCC voted 3–2 in favor of authorizing voluntary deployments of ATSC 3.0, and issued a Report and Order to that effect. ATSC 3.0 broadcasts and receivers are expected to emerge within the next decade. [19]

LG Electronics tested the standard with 4K on February 23, 2016. With the test considered a success, South Korea announced that ATSC 3.0 broadcasts would start in February 2017. [20]

On March 28, 2016, the Bootstrap component of ATSC 3.0 (System Discovery and Signalling) was upgraded from candidate standard to finalized standard. [21]

On June 29, 2016, NBC affiliate WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, a station known for its pioneering roles in testing the original DTV standards, launched an experimental ATSC 3.0 channel carrying the station's programming in 1080p, as well as a 4K demo loop. [22]

ATSC 3.0's multiple layers. The standards within ATSC 3.0 are rolled into each of the layers. ATSC 3.0 layers.png
ATSC 3.0's multiple layers. The standards within ATSC 3.0 are rolled into each of the layers.
Structure/ATSC 3.0 System Layers [23]
  1. Bootstrap: System Discovery and Signalling
  2. Physical Layer: Transmission (OFDM)
  3. Protocols: IP, MMT
  4. Presentation: Audio and Video standards (to be determined), Ultra HD with High Definition and standard definition multicast, Immersive Audio
  5. Applications: Screen is a web page

ATSC 3.0 advantages

  1. Better image quality. ATSC 3.0 allows 4K UHD transmission, including high-dynamic-range imaging (HDRI), wide color gamut (WCG), and also high frame rate (HFR).
  2. Reception upgrades. ATSC 3.0 allows the same aerial to receive more channels with better quality.
  3. Portable devices as mobile phones, tablets, car devices can perceive TV signals.
  4. Emergency alerts. Emergency signals can be geographically oriented and inform about evacuation plans to areas where are required.
  5. Audience measure. The audience data gathering can be easily taken by telecommunication companies.
  6. Targeted advertising.
  7. Content variety and diversification.

Countries and territories using ATSC

North America

South America

Asia/Pacific

Patent holders

The following organizations hold patents for the development of ATSC technology, as listed in the patent pool administered by MPEG LA. Actual in July 2021 there are about 75% expired.

Organizations [35] Active patentsExpired patents (07-2021)Total patents [1]
LG Electronics 127227354
Zenith Electronics 15354
Panasonic 34750
Samsung Electronics 02525
Columbia University 01616
Mitsubishi Electric 11314
JVC Kenwood 066
Cisco Technology, Inc. 044
Vientos Alisios Co., Ltd.101
Philips 011

See also

Related Research Articles

Digital television television transmission using digital encoding

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Video Electronic moving image

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8VSB is the modulation method used for broadcast in the ATSC digital television standard. ATSC and 8VSB modulation is used primarily in North America; in contrast, the DVB-T standard uses COFDM.

Digital Video Broadcasting open standard for digital television broadcasting

Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) is a set of international open standards for digital television. DVB standards are maintained by the DVB Project, an international industry consortium, and are published by a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) and European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

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Single-frequency network

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A digital television adapter (DTA), commonly known as a converter box or decoder box, is a television tuner that receives a digital television (DTV) transmission, and converts the digital signal into an analog signal that can be received and displayed on an analog television set. Some also have an HDMI output since some TVs with HDMI do not have a digital tuner. The input digital signal may be over-the-air terrestrial television signals received by a television antenna, or signals from a digital cable system. It normally does not refer to satellite TV, which has always required a set-top box either to operate the big satellite dish, or to be the integrated receiver/decoder (IRD) in the case of direct-broadcast satellites (DBS).

ATSC-M/H is a U.S. standard for mobile digital TV that allows TV broadcasts to be received by mobile devices.

High-definition television (HD) describes a television system providing an image resolution of substantially higher resolution than the previous generation of technologies. The term has been used since 1936, but in modern times refers to the generation following standard-definition television (SDTV), often abbreviated to HDTV or HD-TV. It is the current de facto standard video format used in most broadcasts: terrestrial broadcast television, cable television, satellite television and Blu-ray Discs.

References

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Further reading