The real reason you’ll care about ATSC 3.0

If you read this blog a lot, you’ve heard me say over and over again that the next-generation TV standard in this country is coming. Eventually. Or so they say. It’s been a long hard climb so far for ATSC 3.0 (also known as the marketing-friendly NextGenTV.) While the standard enjoyed some support from the FCC in the past four years, its implementation was slowed greatly by global events.

Things are back on track for testing ATSC 3.0. Their official marketing hub lists 27 cities with test broadcasts. They expect 14 more this summer, and optimistically project 56 more by the end of the year. Hey, it could happen. They also list 19 televisions with NextGenTV-compatible tuners that you can buy now. It’s real, folks. That’s their message.

Why they tell you that you should care about NextGenTV

Eventually, if adopted by Congress, the ATSC 3.0 standard will allow for 4K live broadcasts and content that seamlessly shifts between over-the-air and internet-delivered. This will allow for interactive features and targeted advertising.

Wait, what? Targeted what?

Yes, a big selling point to the stations themselves is that they’ll be able to do a better job identifying you and deliver ads that are tailored to you. If you recently upgraded your iPhone, these are the things you’re deliberately telling your apps not to give you.

Why you should really care about NextGenTV

Buried behind the hoopla about 4K broadcasts that may never come is something you’ll actually care about. ATSC 3.0 brings back something you took for granted with television but lost with ATSC 1.0. You’ll be able to watch TV on your boat, in your car (as a passenger please) or in anything moving faster than 15 miles per hour.

This was never a problem with the old analog system, but the ATSC 1.0 system was designed without that ability. We all know we can get digital broadcasts while we’re moving. Cell phones do this all the time. TV doesn’t, and it’s meant that RVers and boat owners have all but given up on free live TV. If this standard goes forward, it will be easy to watch over-the-air television again. That’s worth celebrating.

When will NextGenTV be available?

It’s available now, sort of. You can get the most up-to-date list here. It will tell you if there are test broadcasts in your city. Remember, though, that these are test broadcasts. You’ll get the benefit of being able to watch while in motion, but you won’t get 4K.

In order to move to ATSC 3.0 completely, the US Congress would have to adopt the standard formally and then adopt a timetable. Right now the best hope for full adoption brings us to about 2026 but that’s still pretty optimistic.

It’s likely to be in the early 2030s before ATSC 3.0 is the only form of broadcasting in the US, but that will give manufacturers time to offer more and more products with these tuners built in.

That doesn’t mean you have to wait, if you’re just looking for a way to watch TV while in motion. You just need to wait until test broadcasts come to your home town, and have the right TV.

In the meantime. we at Solid Signal are always looking for a way to help you convert your old TV to use the new standard. Low-priced converter boxes are just around the corner and when they’re available, you’ll find them at Solid Signal!

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.