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
, 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
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 patent
ed 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 technology was primarily developed with patent contributions from LG Electronics
, which holds most of the patents for the ATSV standard.
ATSC includes two primary high definition video formats, 1080i
. 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.
The high-definition television standards defined by the ATSC produce widescreen 16:9
images up to 1920×1080 pixel
s in sizemore 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
format. Numerous auxiliary datacasting
services can also be provided.
Many aspects of ATSC are patent
ed, including elements of the MPEG
video coding, the AC-3 audio coding, and the 8VSB
modulation. The cost of patent licensing, estimated at up to per digital TV receiver, has prompted complaints by manufacturers.
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.
much of the analog NTSC
television system in the United States
on June 12, 2009, on August 31, 2011 in Canada
, on December 31, 2012 in South Korea
, and on December 31, 2015 in Mexico
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 channel
s, 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 system
s (DTx), a form of single-frequency network
which allows for the synchronised operation of multiple on-channel booster stations
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
) allows both.
audio was a contender for the ATSC standard during the DTV
" 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.
The ATSC system supports a number of different display resolutions, aspect ratio
s, and frame rate
s. The formats are listed here by resolution, form of scanning (progressive
), 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 demultiplex
ed into its constituent streams.
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
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 megabit
s 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
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.
" displays can reproduce progressive scan content and frequently have a 16:9 wide screen format. Such resolutions are 704×480 or 720×480 in NTSC and 720×576 in PAL, allowing 60 progressive frames per second in NTSC or 50 in PAL.
ATSC also supports PAL frame rates and resolutions which are defined in ATSC A/63 standard.
The ATSC A/53 specification imposes certain constraints on MPEG-2 video stream:
* The maximum bit rate value in the sequence header of the MPEG-2 video stream is 19.4 Mbit/s for broadcast television, and 38.8 Mbit/s for the "high data rate" mode (e.g., cable television). The actual MPEG-2 video bit rate will be lower, since the MPEG-2 video stream must fit inside a transport stream.
* The amount of MPEG-2 stream buffer required at the decoder (the vbv_buffer_size_value) must be less than or equal to 999,424 bytes.
* In most cases, the transmitter can't start sending a coded image until within a half-second of when it's to be decoded (vbv_delay less than or equal to 45000 90-kHz clock increments).
* The stream must include colorimetry information (gamma curve, the precise RGB colors used, and the relationship between RGB and the coded YCbCr).
* The video must be 4:2:0 (chrominance resolution must be 1/2 of luma horizontal resolution and 1/2 of luma vertical resolution).
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.
In July 2008, ATSC was updated to support the ITU-T H.264
video codec. The new standard is split in two parts:
* A/72 part 1: Video System Characteristics of AVC in the ATSC Digital Television System
* A/72 part 2 : AVC Video Transport Subsystem Characteristics
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.
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.
* Terrestrial (local) broadcasters use 8VSB
modulation that can transfer at a maximum rate of 19.39 Mbit/s, sufficient to carry several video and audio programs and metadata
* Cable television
stations can generally operate at a higher signal-to-noise ratio
and can use either the 16VSB
as defined in ATSC or the 256-QAM
defined in SCTE
, to achieve a throughput of 38.78 Mbit/s, using the same 6 MHz channel.
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
as a modulation scheme for cable in a cable industry standardANSI/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 network
s. 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
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, 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
. 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 transmitter
s 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 area
s, 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
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
, and a recent proposal from Thomson
; 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
. 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
s and rapidly changing multipath
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.
. (PDF) . Retrieved on May 11, 2014.
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.
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.
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.
On March 28, 2016, the Bootstrap component of ATSC 3.0 (System Discovery and Signalling) was upgraded from candidate standard to finalized standard.
On June 29, 2016, NBC
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.
;Structure/ATSC 3.0 System Layers
# Bootstrap: System Discovery and Signalling
# Physical Layer: Transmission (OFDM
# Protocols: IP
# Presentation: Audio and Video standards (to be determined), Ultra HD
with High Definition
and standard definition
multicast, Immersive Audio
# Applications: Screen is a web page
ATSC 3.0 advantages
# 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)
# Reception upgrades. ATSC 3.0 allows the same aerial
to receive more channels with better quality.
# Portable devices as mobile phones, tablets, car devices can perceive TV signals.
# Emergency alerts. Emergency signals can be geographically oriented and inform about evacuation plans to areas where are required.
# Audience measure. The audience data gathering can be easily taken by telecommunication companies.
# Targeted advertising
# Content variety and diversification.
Countries and territories using ATSC
* On December 14, 2011, the Bahamas' national public broadcaster ZNS-TV
announced that it would adopt ATSC, in line with the United States and its territories.
* adopted ATSC
, with full-power analog stations in specified "mandatory markets" (which included provincial capitals, and cities with a population of 300,000 or higher) shutting down on August 31, 2011. The CBC
only converted its originating stations to digital; it was given permission to operate its repeaters in mandatory markets (such as CBKST
) for an additional year, but later announced that it would shut down all of its analog repeaters on July 31, 2012—citing budget issues and their distribution network as being obsolete.
* The Dominican Republic announced its adoption on August 10, 2010, completing the transition on September 24, 2015, but most companies were not able to meet the deadline and the government had to move it forward to the year 2021.
* began converting
to ATSC in 2013;
a full transition was scheduled for December 31, 2015,
but due to technical and economic issues for some transmitters, the full transition was extended to December 31, 2016.
* Full-power television stations in the United States
ended analog television service on June 12, 2009. Analog low-power
stations and translators are expected to shut down by July 13, 2021.
* Suriname is currently transitioning from analogue NTSC broadcasts to digital ATSC broadcasts. Channel ATV
started with ATSC broadcasts in the Paramaribo
area in June 2014, which was followed by ATSC broadcasts from stations in Brokopondo, Wageningen and Albina. The stations in Brokopondo, Wageningen and Albina broadcast both the channels of ATV
(i.e., ATV and TV2) and STVS
, while the station in Paramaribo currently only broadcasts the ATV channels.
The Telecommunication Authority of Suriname was originally aiming at a full digital transition by June 2015,
but this was criticized by broadcasters as being unfeasible.
* South Korea completed its transition to ATSC on December 31, 2012, although it still operates some analog signals along its northern border for reception in North Korea
* United States territories in the Pacific, including American Samoa
, and the Northern Mariana Islands
have adopted ATSC, as with the mainland.
The following organizations hold patent
s for the development of ATSC technology, as listed in the patent pool
administered by MPEG LA
* Advanced Television Systems Committee
* ATSC tuner
* List of ATSC standards
* Broadcast flag
* Broadcast safe
* Digital terrestrial television
* Digital Video Broadcasting
– Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting
– South Korean terrestrial mobile digital broadcasting system
Chinese terrestrial digital broadcasting system
* Ultra high definition television
(UHDTV) – Digital video formats with resolutions of 3840×2160 and 7680×4320
* Joel Brinkley
(1998), ''Defining Vision: The Battle for the Future of Television'', New York: Harcourt Brace
External links ATSC websiteATSC standards download pageATSC-MH Platform for testing and deploying Mobile TV in the USATSC Mobile DTV (ATSC-MH) Analysis, Monitoring, MeasurementATSC Mobile DTV (ATSC-MH) Mobile DTV ViewerATSC 3.0 Overview
Category:Television transmission standards