The ATSC 3.0 revolution: From transforming broadcasting to changing lives

November 15, 2023 by Mary Crebassa, VP Major Accounts

ATSC 3.0 is a transformation powertrain moving full steam ahead. NEXTGEN TV is the new IP standard that continues to revolutionize broadcasting and has recently celebrated an important milestone, the 60th US market launch. More exciting launches are upcoming, including the largest Designated Market Area (DMA) in the US.

In a previous blog, we explored the revenue and innovation opportunities that ATSC 3.0 brings to US broadcasters and TV manufacturers that can drive new business models and harness the monetization potential of datacasting. On the other hand, consumers can enjoy unparalleled personalized and interactive viewing experiences powered by 4K and HDR picture resolution, advanced Dolby audio, new camera angles, sports stats, and more relevant content.

However, aside from broadcasting and the advantages for TV stations and consumers, the new broadcasting standard is delivering a lot more benefits outside of media. These include:

  • Broadcast Positioning System (BPS)

  • Advanced emergency alerting

Powering nation-critical systems with ATSC 3.0

Broadcast Positioning System

A key area that is positively transformed by ATSC 3.0 is geolocation services. Underpinned by the new standard, BPS is emerging as a reliable and accurate backup to the Global Positioning System (GPS). The ATSC 3.0 NEXTGEN TV standard defines a precise timestamp of the emission time of each broadcast frame. The time stamp, along with the transmitting antenna location, can be used to determine the distance of the receiver from the transmitter. Having at least three ATSC 3.0 transmissions available in an area enables these broadcasts to be used as a precise positioning system.

There are several benefits when using BPS. This positioning system delivers an independent geolocation system that uses NEXTGEN TV broadcast signals and doesn’t require any other form of connectivity (Global Positioning System (GPS), cellular, or broadband).

BPS is cost efficient as the infrastructure is already in place and is free to use. Due to the ATSC 3.0 standard’s multicast nature, BPS can handle an unlimited number of users at once with a very wide coverage. Overall, BPS is a mission-critical alternative to GPS, especially if the latter is unavailable or its security is compromised.

Advanced emergency alerting

Another key emerging ATSC 3.0 use case is powering the next generation of public emergency messaging to help authorities alert the public about natural disasters and civil emergencies.

The ATSC 3.0 standard’s multicast nature is again revolutionizing how public authorities can approach a nation-critical system like emergency alerting at a specific scale. The system that is currently developed sees public authorities leveraging ATSC 3.0 to issue geo-targeted alerts and warnings to an unlimited number of ATSC 3.0-enabled devices, including TVs, connected cars, mobile phones, etc., even when cellular connectivity fails. Users will benefit from media-rich public alerts which can include multimedia content, and assets like maps, images, graphics, and videos that give a better picture of the type and scale of emergency and clearer recommended courses of action. Most importantly, the standard will enhance the accessibility of these alerts providing critical features and capabilities like multi-lingual support.

As the ATSC 3.0 ecosystem grows with more TV sets, set-top boxes, vehicles, and smart devices containing ATSC 3.0-enabled receiver chips, the geotargeting, resiliency, and redundancy of public alerts increase, reaching more people in specific locations and playing a critical public safety role.

Emergency information distribution also facilitates the work of specific groups like first responders who can contact members of the public to convey important, potentially life-saving geo-targeted information very quickly and ‘on the move’. This means that the state or local responders will not need access to data like individual personal numbers or require people to sign up to receive messages.

ATSC 3.0 transforms industries and communities

ATSC 3.0 is not just shaping the future of television but has a bigger societal impact — we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of the innovation that the new standard unlocks. Its multicast nature with a powerful data flow ‘from one to many’ means that ATSC 3.0 can reach anything from millions of people to very specific geo-targeted groups with high geolocation accuracy. This becomes a critical capability in emergency scenarios when important information needs to be shared with location-based groups of people very quickly and reliably.

ATSC 3.0 also provides the platform to form more partnerships and collaborations among industry and public sectors, from broadcasting to the tech world and public safety organizations. As ATSC 3.0 rolls out in more markets, we will see more of its potential unroll with further use cases becoming possible — boosting innovation and transforming our lives.