NextGen TV is starting to roll out to a number of countries including the US and UK. It’s already a reality in others, particularly in Asia. What does this mean for you now?
What is NextGen TV?
ATSC 3.0 is the technical name of what’s been branded as NextGen TV. The headline feature of NextGen TV is the picture quality. In short it will bring higher quality 4K video as well as clearer Dolby audio.
For the technically-minded, live TV broadcasts until now maxed out at either 720p or 1080i resolution, but ATSC 3.0 can take things up to 2160p 4K in HDR, with wide color range. That’s due in part to a boost in the amount of data in the broadcast signal from 19.4 Mbps to a variable bitrate of up to 57 Mbps.
Now back to the rest of us…that means at least a four-fold increase in detail, better contrast control and improved color reproduction for films and TV.
The technology can also deliver television to your phone, tablet or car (depending on your manufacturer).
Do I need to buy a new TV?
You will need an ATSC 3.0 tuner to be able to watch NextGen TV, but that won’t necessarily mean buying a new TV set. Two of the biggest TV makers, Samsung and LG, are both South Korean and, given their home nation’s early adoption, are on point with ATSC 3.0 tuners.
Along with Sony, many of their recent TV sets already come future-proofed with an ATSC 3.0 tuner. Check the specs of your model to find out whether it has one.
Even if your set doesn’t have one, then you’ll be able to buy just the ATSC 3.0 tuner as an external set-top box that you can attach to your TV. Theoretically, you’ll only need one such tuner for your entire home, which could then split the signal to all of your TVs. A TV tuner that you attach to an existing TV set should cost under $300.
If you are planning to buy a new TV anyway, be sure to look for the NextGen TV logo on the box before purchase.
What else can NextGen TV do?
ATSC 3.0 is also designed for mobile use, and there are already mobile chipsets available that include tuners. So next time you buy a phone, tablet or in-car device with one of those inside, you’ll be able to watch live broadcast TV wherever you are…. yea.
A more useful connected feature of NextGen TV is the emergency alert system. With geo-tagging your viewing location, there will soon be the ability to use TVs, mobiles, tablets and everything else with an ATSC 3.0 tuner to deliver emergency information, with the potential to save lives with benefits such as geo-dependent evacuation plans.
Perhaps more of interest, NextGen TV is also designed for interactivity. Imagine being able to push a button on your remote to access more information on the topic being broadcast. For instance, a map or general info on the area where a news story is taking place or more content around someone being interviewed.
The timing will be driven by a combination of the take-up by consumers and the content providers (broadcasters). The higher the percentage of enabled TVs, the more confidence broadcasters will have to put out NextGen-enabled films and TV programs.
To put this into perspective, in South Korea, the country leading the way, ATSC 3.0 services were deployed in 2017 now reach over 70% of the population. If the pattern of technology roll-out follows that of other services, the pace for countries following the leader should accelerate dramatically.
In the United States, the roll-out varies by city. As of this writing, ATSC 3.0 is currently on the air in more than 50 markets with another 17 markets readying to launch. The overall picture is below, where if at least one city is up and running, the state is marked with the “on air” or “readying” status. You can check your city’s current status on this site.
In the United Kingdom, the timing is less clear. As of end-2021, all receivers that are NextGen TV-enabled should bear the logo. That’s a start. As the Chief Technical Officer for the National Association of Broadcasters has said, “This new expanded set of tests for 2022 products will increase confidence from broadcasters to provide more services, from TV set manufacturers to implement more features, and from consumers to look for products with the NEXTGEN TV logo.” Stay tuned for updates.
If you’d like to automatically receive the weekly post into your email inbox, subscribe below for free.