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  A T S C  3   ( Next Gen TV)   broadcast standards coming to a TV near you

ATSC 3.0 is a set of digital TV broadcast standards that combines Over-the-Air (OTA) TV broadcast signals with the internet.

In English the above means that ATSC 3 TV signals will be available to television sets, smartphones and internet connected devices. For television it brings an internet connection along with greatly enhanced audio and video to your television.

For smartphones, it brings free over-the-air (OTA) television directly to the smartphone without using a cellphone data plan.

These new ATSC 3 (ATSC = Advanced Television Systems Committee) broadcast standards are not backward compatible with today's TV and cellphones. Current (November 2019) USA televisions and smartphones do not have the electronics to receive this new format, so yes, a new smartphone and television is in your future, though not necessarily soon.

To clarify, this only affects viewers that receive their TV programs over-the-air with an antenna. Cable and satellite connected TV viewing won't be affected, as those companies will make the technical standards change for your TV, just as they did when TV technology changed from analog to digital some years back.

Features in new technology often are looked at guardedly. This will certainly be the case with ATSC 3 as it becomes more of a mainstream topic in 2020 as the public understands that the internet connection is two-way. The local TV broadcasters will know what channel the TV set is tuned to and what commercials have been presented. This is similar to Google and Facebook targeted advertising where commercials are based on which websites you visit.

The new standards allow local TV stations to target TV commercials based upon a family's TV and internet viewing. Targeted TV commercials viewed by Mr. T Viewer's family could be different than what their neighbors are watching, even when both families are viewing the same program.

Some people see this as an attack on privacy. Others believe the commercials will be of more interest to the family since the commercials could reflect their lifestyle choices.

Looking at the technology side, features also include 4K Ultra HD with High Dynamic Range (HDR). TV today presents a display of 1080 pixels on average. The new standard is double that number (Ultra High Definition). The range of different shading between pure black and pure white is enhanced (HDR). This will allow better contrast and ensure subjects in shadows and darker scenes are more clearly presented. There will be better reception and more TV channels per city providing more programs without cable or satellite connections. You will also be able to watch TV on your smart phone, tablet, and computer.

Next Gen TV (ATSC 3) can provide a signal to moving cars enhancing car navigation systems and rear-seat entertainment.

The new specifications call for the TV program audio to meet Dolby AC-4 standards providing high-quality audio and multiple language choices (SAP).

We mentioned better TV reception from Over-The-Air TV stations. ATSC 3 provides a signal that is stronger than today's broadcast transmission. The TV signal will travel farther than today's format allows and will reach deeper into your home for a better, more stable picture with a small antenna.

Of course, the programs will have to be produced with these specifications for the TV stations to broadcast these signals. Some shows today are being produced in 4K, as streaming channels can already send this format to viewers. TV manufacturers have begun selling 4K TV sets so viewers may enjoy the new format.  8K video standards are also discussed within the ATSC 3 structure.

The Advanced Emergency Alerts feature will provide live video updates, weather warnings, escape route maps, and other detailed location-based information

Unlike the transition from analog to digital TV we experienced a dozen years ago, there is no specific date set by the FCC for TV broadcasters to switch to ATSC 3. A few TV stations have already begun broadcasting in ATSC 3, with other locations converting during late 2019 and in 2020. The FCC requests all US TV stations to be using this Next Gen technology by the year 2023.

Fortunately, the FCC, requires any TV station changing to ATSC 3, to also continue broadcasting in todays current ATSC 1 format for at least five years. This means Over-The-Air TV viewers won't have to purchase any new TV sets or associated equipment until, say, 2024 or 2025. Though, without a new ATSC 3 TV set, DVR, and any associated equipment, the home viewer won't be able to experience all the new features broadcast by TV stations using ATSC 3.

We'll have to wait and see how the broadcast TV station owners respond to ATSC 3. This will be another expensive investment for them. Some station owners might delay, others may charge forward.

Ultimately this is all about local broadcast stations being edged out of the market by other viewing options. First it was cable TV bringing in oodles of stations to compete with local TV stations. Now the internet is providing a new source of TV viewing that is even taking cable TV out of the picture - so to speak.

Thousands of cable/satellite subscribers each year cancel their subscriptions and join the movement of people using a housetop TV antenna and streaming their TV programs through the internet.

Many television station owners believe ATSC 3 will bring their local stations back into the TV game, by allowing consumer-based advertising and more channels providing more programs - all for no monthly fee to the viewer.

My suggestion is that if a person needs to buy home TV equipment now, do not spend more money than you find reasonable on equipment that will be a bit out of date in five years or so.

When consumer ATSC 3 equipment becomes widely available, you'll find prices lower and stability higher.  I would expect ATSC 3 (Also known as Next Gen TV) consumer equipment to begin showing up in stores later in 2020.

Whether you should purchase early-adopter Next Gen TV equipment would be based on how many stations in your town have switched to ATSC 3, whether you receive TV over-the-air (OTA) or through your local  cable company, and if you wish to pay the highest prices for the first wave of consumer Next Gen components and sets.

For now, just sit back, grab your remote and enjoy your TV. Your old friend will be with you for a while more.

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Interested in seeing what cities are the first to have one or more TV stations that are currently switching or planning to switch to ATSC 3 within the next year?  SCROLL DOWN for the latest list that I can find as of September 2019.

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A group of stations has announced 40 U.S. television markets would see ATSC 3.0 stations launched either in 2019 or by the end of 2020, starting in these cities:

Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX

Houston, TX

San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA

Phoenix, AZ*

Seattle-Tacoma, WA

Detroit, MI

Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, FL

Portland, OR

Pittsburgh, PA

Raleigh-Durham, NC

Baltimore, MD

Nashville, TN

Salt Lake City, UT

San Antonio, TX

Kansas City, KS-MO

Columbus, OH

West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL

Las Vegas, NV

Austin, TX

To help the transition, ATSC 3.0 stations in these cities will switch off their ATSC 1.0 channels and relocate programming to one or more other local stations’ digital sub channels, allowing viewers with older sets to continue watching until a 5-year transition period ends.

 The second, and likely larger wave of stations to switch on ATSC 3.0 will come in these cities:

 New York, NY

Los Angeles, CA

Chicago, IL

Philadelphia, PA

Washington, DC

Boston, MA

Atlanta, GA

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota, FL

Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN

Miami – Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Denver, CO

Cleveland-Akron, OH

Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA

St. Louis, MO

Charlotte, NC

Indianapolis, IN

San Diego, CA

Hartford-New Haven, CT

Cincinnati, OH

Milwaukee, WI

Greenville-Spartanburg, SC – Asheville, NC

 

The third wave of stations, still expected to complete a transition to ATSC 3.0 by the end of 2020, are located in:

 

Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, VA

Oklahoma City, OK

Albuquerque – Santa Fe, NM

Grand Rapids – Kalamazoo, MI

Memphis, TN

Buffalo, NY

Providence – New Bedford, RI

Little Rock – Pine Bluff, AR

Mobile, AL – Pensacola, FL

Albany-Schenectady – Troy, NY

Flint-Saginaw – Bay City, MI

Omaha, NE

Charleston – Huntington, WV

Springfield, MO

Rochester, NY

Syracuse, NY

Chattanooga, TN

Charleston, SC

Burlington, VT – Plattsburgh, NY

Davenport, IA – Moline, IL

Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – San Luis Obispo, CA

A faster transition to ATSC 3.0 may be possible in cities where station owners own more than one full power local station. It will make it easier for programming on one station to be temporarily shared on another. There is no forced transition to ATSC 3.0, so consumers can make their own choices about whether they want to invest in new televisions or converters. Broadcasters understand that, and many are planning to launch a host of new channels and networks that could benefit cord-cutters and convince them to upgrade.

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