ATSC Moves To `Enhance' 8VSB Specs

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Recognizing that its digital TV system does not go far enough to address the growing needs of broadcasters, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) said it will expand the Digital Television standard to address emerging applications, including mobile services.

The ATSC announced its executive committee voted unanimously to direct its key standards group to develop enhancements to the FCC-approved VSB transmission standard.

The new initiative "builds upon the work of the ATSC Task Force on RF System Performance," which was formed in March to examine technical issues related to DTV RF system performance, according to an ATSC announcement.

Other work of the Task Force will continue in parallel with the new standards activity.

"This effort responds to broadcaster requirements for more flexibility while ensuring the continuity and momentum of the DTV transition," said Mark Richer, ATSC executive director.

The ATSC will start the process with a detailed analysis of the market requirements. The findings will be used to "develop appropriate enhancements to its DTV standard."

Reacting to the news, Sinclair Broadcast Group, the chief supporter for changing or adding to the Federal Communications Commission approved 8VSB modulation format, said the ATSC action indicates it had "thrown in the towel" on its Digital Television system.

"It appears to be an acknowledgement by ATSC that the 8VSB does not support the broadcasters' requirements," said Mark Hyman, Sinclair Broadcast Group spokesman.

However, the ATSC said nothing about including the COFDM modulation system that Sinclair has fought to include in the standard.

Zenith Electronics, whose engineers developed the 8VSB modulation scheme, said it "applauded the ATSC's new VSB enhancement standards activity."

"We view this as a reaffirmation that the DTV transition is on track and that VSB is a standard with the flexibility and headroom to meet changing broadcaster needs," said Richard M. Lewis, Zenith senior research & technology senior VP.

Lewis said that with the 8VSB-transmission system "firmly established as the American standard, the transition to digital television can continue unabated while exploration of future VSB applications can proceed in parallel."

Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) are preparing new rounds of testing for the VSB and COFDM formats.

Addressing that test, the Consumer Electronics Association recently sent a letter to heads of both organizations urging an objective and impartial procedure, which, CEA said, is not the case with a recently issued draft of the proposed test.

"Particularly troubling is that it appears you intend to delegate exclusively to the COFDM working group responsibility for comparing COFDM and VSB performance," CEA said. "Instead, we believe that the VSB and COFDM working groups - together with others including consumer electronics manufacturers - cooperatively should draft any comparison or evaluation."

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