When I harshed your buzz about ATSC 3.0

Think back for a minute to April, 2015. First, think about the phone you were carrying in your pocket. Think about the music that was on the radio at the time. Then, think about how you probably listened to the radio for your music because you hadn’t signed up for Spotify yet.

Think about how 2015 seems like twenty-five lifetimes ago, for a lot of reasons. That ought to put you in the frame of mind to review an article I wrote back then.

ATSC 3.0 is coming and you should not care

That was the title of my May, 2015 article. In it, I took issue with the blog coverage being given to the brand-new ATSC 3.0 standard. Several of my fellow bloggers were gushing about the next-generation standard, even though it hadn’t been formally adopted by Congress. Come to think of it, it still hasn’t.

5 years later: Not a lot of progress

So where are we now? Well, three years ago, broadcasters in Phoenix were given provisional approval for test ATSC broadcasts. This followed a rule change by the FCC which allowed these test broadcasts in a way they were never allowed before. And then, we heard nothing for a while.

Another two years went by and there wasn’t any real news. The Consumer Technology Association, the people behind CES, decided to start marketing it aggressively, calling it NextGen TV for some reason. They kind of bungled the rollout at CES by advertising a booth that didn’t exist, as I noted in my (possibly last ever) CES report from the show floor.

There was a lot of buzz about that booth once people found it, and then… nothing.

Recently Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the companies that’s been pushing ATSC 3.0 very hard, announced that they had a plan for the first regular broadcasts using the standard. And, earlier today Jake Buckler told you that they started up.

How can you receive these transmissions anyway?

To date, there is one company that sells ATSC 3.0 hardware and it’s not priced for consumer use at all. If you have a few grand to spend you might get one but it could become obsolete at any time.

Recently SiliconDust, a longtime vendor to Solid Signal, announced a Kickstarter campaign for a device to stream ATSC 3.0 broadcasts to your computer and some streaming boxes.  It’s likely that the hardware will come, but by then it’s expected that a real ATSC 3.0 converter box will be available at a lower price. Finally.

So should you care, now, 5 years later?

I think you should probably care about ATSC 3.0 now more than you did five years ago. But, let’s be honest, the timetable here isn’t exactly great. It’s still probably five years or more before ATSC 3.0 broadcasts are common in every market. There were supposed to be a couple of hundred broadcast stations throughout the country by the end of 2020, but then again we really didn’t think 2020 would go the way it has. So I’m sure those plans are on hold like everything else.

If I had to forecast, I’ll be writing another Throwback Thursday article in May, 2025 or so. I’ll be saying, “Hey, remember when we all thought 4K broadcasts would be here by now?” I guess you’ll just have to keep reading this blog to see if I’m right or wrong.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.