Over-the-air (OTA) television has been around for a very long time, but Next Gen TV is breathing new life into an old standard. For generations, Americans have used antennas – from big rooftop setups to rabbit ears – to see local news, sports, and programming on the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, etc.). Currently, broadcasters beam digital signals with an OTA technology called ATSC 1.0. This signal standard was developed in the 1990’s, and back then it was revolutionary. These days, antenna-based TV is almost unheard of in many places, as it’s been replaced by cable, and more recently, streaming services.
But that is about to change, because OTA broadcasting has been reborn with a faster, clearer, stronger, and overall better than ever before. The speed and quality is beating out Internet-based streaming in many markets. Evoca uses the latest standard of digital OTA technology, ATSC 3.0, or simply Next Gen TV. This standard is so new, it hasn’t even rolled out to American markets as of 2020, but it is poised to change OTA broadcasting forever.
So, what is this new standard and why is it so important? First, let’s take a look at why ATSC 1.0 is being phased out over the coming years.
The First Digital OTA Signals – 1990s – 2000s
You might remember when analog OTA signals were retired in the early 2000’s, and with them the old bunny ear antennas wrapped in aluminium foil. This new digital signal required a new digital tuner, which made millions of older televisions obsolete for OTA broadcasting. But, they also offered a ton of great features. More channels, high definition picture, and 5.1 surround sound.
If you grew up in a house that used these new digital antennas, you probably remember your TV signal cutting out, turning into a blocky Minecraft-style mosaic of garbage. That is because the first iteration of digital OTA suffered from poor multipathing.
Poor multipathing means that signal strength is too weak to be useful if you are too close to the broadcast antenna, too far from the broadcast antenna, or if you’re surrounded by buildings such as in an urban setting. Basically, the signal can’t reliably find your antenna if you have the nerve to live in a city. Or in the country.
Sadly, this version of OTA signal is still what’s being broadcast by local stations across the country right now. There were plans for an ATSC 2.0 signal but it never came to pass. Why not? Well, someone else came along first.
The Netflix Era
Chances are, you have a Netflix account. Or you share one in your family. Maybe you have Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, or any other of the dozens of streaming services. In the late 2000’s, streaming video hit the scene and it quickly proved how outdated old OTA formats had become.
In just a few years, streaming services were offering 4K video streams – at far greater clarity than a regular high definition. Then HDR video technology arrived on the scene, allowing for depth of color and detail in video that could never be seen before. New sound formats arrived as well, such as Dolby Atmos, which turns cinema sound into a 3D experience.
Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon rolled this technology out fast, but streaming services can suffer from buffering issues. This happens when the Internet connection slows down, even for a moment, and the video stream stalls out, glitches, or the sound falls out of sync. Sometimes the issue lies with a homeowner’s Internet connection being taxed, but it could be an issue on the provider’s end.
OTA broadcasting has resigned to deliver choppy, blocky local news and live events. If you haul your antenna out to watch the SuperBowl every year, you aren’t alone. But for many viewers, there isn’t reliable or fast Internet access to stream programming and current generation digital OTA signals are too weak to be usable. Their only choice is paying for cable or satellite services.
Next Gen TV aka ATSC 3.0
Blow the dust off your antennas and get ready for a new wave of digital, over-the-air television. ATSC 3.0, also called Next Gen TV, is the brand new iteration of the ATSC signal. And it is wildly different from the current version.
Here’s what that means.
Next Gen TV uses orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) technology to broadcast its signal.
Instead of broadcasting on a single, large, frequency band, it uses lots and lots of narrow bands that broadcast at the same time. This means the signal is both stronger – reaching much further away from a tower – and more reliable. Poor multipathing is a thing of the past – these signals will find your antenna. If you are in a dense urban area, or in a remote rural area, you will have the same access to a quality signal. No more blocky garbage and squealing audio, no more dropped channels in the middle of the playoffs.
Big Data Means Big Picture and Bigger Sound
The new standard allows more data to be moved around. We mean orders of magnitude more data – can fit into these signal bands. Because there is so much more data, Next Gen TV can broadcast 4K signals with advanced colors such as HDR. Modern sound formats such as Dolby Atmos are no problem. The quality of streaming services like Netflix can be achieved using just OTA technology.
The biggest advancement of all is Next Gen TV’s ability to broadcast signals back to the main tower. This means you can have interactive TV, DVR services, streaming shows like on Netflix, video on demand – all of these features are possible with Next Gen TV.
All of this happens using only a fraction of Internet bandwidth. Large data loads are moved through Next Gen antennas and tuners. In the future, it is likely Next Gen TV antennas and tuners will even be in your smartphone – major smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and Apple have had a hand in developing this new standard. It is only a matter of time until they start strapping these antennas into their devices.
Right now, this means that once NextGen TV hits your area, you can watch TV on demand, without taxing your Internet service, and without giving up 4K video and high end audio.
Who is Evoca?
Evoca is leading the charge in rolling out Next Gen TV to local markets. We offer both national and local channels in packages that are vastly cheaper than traditional cable, all beamed to your house using advanced Next Gen TV. This is coming faster than you think.