What does the new ATSC 3.0 standard mean for RVers?

It finally means some relief, that’s what.

ATSC 3.0 is the new potential broadcast standard. In the very near term future, broadcasters will start testing it throughout the country. It promises on-demand content, 4K programming, and addressable advertising. In an unprecedented move, the FCC is allowing these broadcasts even though your current TV can’t receive them and there’s no timetable for requiring ATSC 3.0 tuners in televisions. If it all comes to pass though, it’s going to be a real boon for RVers.

One of the things that RV enthusiasts gave up when television went all digital in 2009 was the ability to watch in a moving vehicle. The digital standard just wasn’t designed for that, and as a result you lose all TV reception in a car, boat, or RV once you’re going about 15mph. A generation RVers who put antennas on their roofs were pretty upset about that.

Given the opportunity to try again, the ATSC, the people who created both the old standard and the new standard, borrowed a trick or two from the European broadcast standard that makes it possible for you to get reception in something that’s moving. After all, it probably wasn’t so hard considering you can get fast internet in a moving car, right?

Along with 4K, the ATSC 3.0 standard will bring enhanced features if you have a smart TV. Over-the-air broadcasters have felt left behind for years when it comes to all the “other” things that you watch besides live TV. There are quite a few people in the broadcast community who believe that this new system will drive people back to antennas.

Personally I think that’s a pretty tough sell. I think these broadcasters are probably stuck in the days when you had only three channels. When you only had three, you were always watching one of them. The ratings from those days reflected that. All of these broadcasters would love to go back to those days, of course. The problem is that it’s not going to happen. The internet is here and it’s not going away.

I do agree that people should use TV antennas more. There’s a lot of great content out there that you can’t find anywhere else. For baby boomers and generation X, antenna TV is the place to find all that great programming from when you grew up. Low ratings for subchannels mean you won’t find them on cable or satellite, so the only place to find them is broadcast TV.

Will ATSC 3.0 bring the goods?

I can’t say for sure that the ATSC 3.0 standard will ever succeed. I’ve spent about 6 years telling you that it probably won’t. I don’t think there’s a real demand for broadcast 4K out there. Other than one fairly large contributor, there aren’t too many companies that want to go through the trouble. But if it does come to pass, parents in RVs will breathe a collective sigh of relief.  Finally the kids will once again be able to watch TV while on the way to the next destination. They won’t use up the entire data plan allowance for the month. Next challenge: deciding who gets the remote.

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.