Canada and ATSC 3.0

Dear Minister Joly,

A number of small Canadian television broadcasters have recently submitted requests to renew their licences.  As part of their applications, the CRTC has asked each broadcaster to share their plans (if any) for the new ATSC 3.0 television broadcast standard. The Commission has also asked if broadcasters will use ATSC 3.0 to broadcast programs in “Ultra High-Definition 4K and High Dynamic Range”.

The CRTC describes the new standard (currently in use in the U.S. and South Korea) as follows, “ATSC 3.0 aims to provide improvements in performance, functionality and efficiency compared with the current standard (ATSC A/53) so that video and data content can be viewed on any device (e.g. tablets, cellphone) and delivered using various platforms (e.g. over-the-air (OTA), Internet)”.

If OTA television broadcasting is going to have a future in Canada, where powerful wireless cell phone/internet providers are hungry to exploit valuable electromagnetic radio spectrum (owned by Canadians),  the approval and use of a new IP-based OTA TV standard capable of 4K/UHD TV delivery, mobile delivery, and interactive features will be key.

Here’s an edited, non-exhaustive list of the plans for ATSC 3.0 and 4K delivery shared by small (non-vertically integrated) Canadian television broadcasters. In summary, no ATSC 3.0 testing has been reported by the following broadcasters and all (other than CHEK in Victoria, B.C.) are waiting until the CRTC finalizes the ATSC 3.0 standard.

Thunder Bay Electronics Limited (CHFD-DT)

“We have no plans at this time to transition to ATSC 3.0. As such there will be no impact on our conventional television station and the station’s viewers.”

RNC Média inc. (CKRN-DT/CJDG-DT)

“CKRN-DT does not intend at the moment to invest in the new ATSC 3.0 standard, especially as we mention in response to the 600 MHZ question, CKRN-DT will have to make changes to five retransmission transmitters.”

2190015 Ontario Inc. (CHCH-DT)

“Once the ATSC 3.0 standard is finalized, we will evaluate it and see how it
would benefit the communities that we service. With mobile viewing considered a fundamental aspect of the specification, we are excited by the prospect of our viewers having more options to view CHCH. Currently, our HD sites are not equipped to broadcast the ATSC 3.0 signal.”

“There would be as-yet-unknown costs to upgrade these sites once hardware is available. The type of programming that we currently broadcast does not have a lot of
4K inventory available on the market. We would also need to upgrade our news production facilities to 4K. These facilities were just recently upgraded to HD, and until that investment is amortized it would not make a great deal of sense to replace it.”

0859291 BC Ltd dba CHEK Media Group (CHEK-DT)

“Since we will be required to transition to a new frequency as part of the 600 MHz
repurposing, we expect to upgrade our transmission equipment so that we will be ATSC
3.0. The impact to our station will be capital investment for the associated transmission
equipment, antenna and our ATSC local encoders which will need to support the
HEVC/H.265 video compression. Signal transport capabilities from our broadcast centre
to our transmit site will also likely require modification. We believe that the impact of
ATSC 3.0 on our current viewers would be positive as we would be able to expand the
access to our programming and enhance its offering by utilizing all of the advancements
that that the technology provides.”

“4K is of interest to our organization and in our opinion even more so HDR as it offers
dramatic enhancements to current picture quality. As we continue to upgrade EOL
hardware, where possible, we are upgrading our technology to support 4K. Continued
trajectory of our upgrades will put us in a likely future position to support and launch in
4K, as long as there are no unforeseen associated costs that are out of scope for our


“CKES/CKCS/CITS will be closely watching market uptake and regulatory conditions for
opportunities to take advantage of capability of Next-Generation OTA technology to
provide a superior audience viewing experience. ATSC 3.0’s versatility would allow
us to explore new business models to give consumer new ways to consume digital
content in a manner more in tune to how they wanted it. There would also be the
opportunity to provide content that supplement the main broadcast, bringing even
more value to the consumer.”

“Yes, where the content is available, CKES/CKCS/CITS would pass [4K programming] through to our ATSC 3.0 transmitter. Broadcast Distribution Undertakings (BDUs) should also be encouraged to develop the technology required to properly handle this picture
quality and pass it on to their subscribers for the must carry OTAs on their


For the time being, over a three to five year horizon, we do not expect to migrate to ATSC 3.0. We will start the analysis in about 3 years. Several advanced features will be put forward. The ATSC 3.0 standard allows a flexible and robust distribution system. Greater data transmission capacity per channel and greater flexibility for the allocation of these data. When Télé-Québec makes the transition, we intend to deploy the Ultra High Definition associated with high definition audio. The two handsets will give the television experience a level of immersion never equaled in television distribution. The other feature we will be highlighting is the ability of a point-to-multipoint high-speed IP Internet broadcast. This feature will allow the exploitation of new value-added interactive applications for our audiences.

Jim Pattison Broadcast Group LP (CHAT-TV)  *Still broadcasting in analogue

“We support the concept but have no short-term plans to implement ATSC 3.0.
Implementing ATSC 3.0 would be a significant capital investment at the same time as we
must make substantial investments because of the 600 MHz spectrum changes.
Current television sets are not compatible with ATSC 3.0 so consumers must first replace
their television sets which are not readily available in the market. Plus there is no incentive
for consumers to consider purchasing an ATSC 3.0 compatible television in Canada.
Both the current system and ATSC 3.0 systems would have to be maintained for a
considerable length of time effectively doubling costs. Once ATSC 3.0 becomes an official standard, JPBG will place more effort on realizing its full potential on our existing platform.”

Southshore Broadcasting Inc. (CFTV)

“Our play out system currently is encoding our signal via an AVWELLDMP 900 we can provide multicast IP compressed or uncompressed signal MP2 or MP4 and are currently testing a streaming application from our server for Android and Apple devices.”

“No, [4K OTA] will not be leveraged.”

Newfoundland Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (CJON-DT)

“CJON-DT has no immediate plans to upgrade its facilities to ATSC 3.0. The upgrade from analog to HD saw all of our older NTSC studio plant completely replaced. Further, a complete new transmission facility was installed to accommodate the upgrade to HD. Beyond those upgrades required to maintain operational efficiency, the financial resources required would not yield any benefit to NTV, especially with conventional TV revenues declining. We prefer to adopt a wait and see attitude to this new standard since standards have a nasty habit of changing especially in their infancy. We also note that new television sets will be required and while consumers are likely to buy these newer sets once their existing sets fail we maintain that the public will be slow to adopt new sets when their existing digital TV’s are working just fine. The transition is unlike the requirement
to switch to digital from analog. Further, programming is slow to respond to newer formats, even today, we find old programs which are not HD. This is especially true of any archival footage we may have and certain programs which are simply not available in HD. Increasing resolution beyond current levels will only make these programs look worse to the viewers. We note that despite our efforts to make CJON-DT HD which was completed on August 3, 2011, Bell Satellite have not yet seen fit to establish a spot in their HD offerings for NTV. Our over the air picture quality on Ch21 -1 is pristine. The cable companies and Shaw direct have upgraded their services, but Bell satellite has not.”

“CJON-DT has no immediate plans to distribute the latest Ultra High-Definition 4K and High Dynamic Range picture quality and as we have stated in the question answered above, this would require substantial upgrades to our studio and transmission equipment. We believe at this time since conventional broadcast revenues are generally on the decline, this has caused many smaller conventional broadcasters pause on further technological upgrades beyond those that are absolutely required. Newfoundland Broadcasting shares this view. ”


“The transition to ATSC 3.0 standards involves significant impacts because it will lead to changes, such as equipment replacements, both on the broadcaster side and on the viewer side (set-top box, television). As the standard is not completed to date and equipment is not yet available, it is difficult to quantify the costs and benefits, both at the broadcaster and at the viewer level.

We do not intend for the moment to invest in the new ATSC 3.0 standard. Currently, all transmitters and rebroadcasters in CKRT-DT (total of 7) have been converted to HD digital broadcasting. This important investment was made in 2011, it is still very recent and meets the needs of our audience.

We believe that television viewing in our regions through the Internet is still very marginal, but we concede that there is some upward trend.

It would cost about $ 20,000 per transmitter to convert our 7 transmitters to the new ATSC 3.0 standard.”


Same response as CKRT-TV but with the following changes:

Some BDUs, including Videotron, offer certain television channels, including the CIMT-DT signal, to their subscribers via the Internet, including mobile phones and mobile phones. But, at the latest news, the results of listening to this service were far from expectations.”

“It would cost about $ 20,000 per transmitter to convert our 8 transmitters to the new ATSC 3.0 standard.




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3 Responses to Canada and ATSC 3.0

  1. Terry Harvey says:

    The misinformation about ATSC 3.0 amongst Canadian broadcasters is interesting. There appears limited Canadian interest in the technology due to a lack of information. It was no different with ATSC 1.0.

  2. Peter Gerrard Flynn says:

    I receive some local stations by antenna and would welcome the change to ATSC 3.0 as I read about the benefits of the change. There is some incorrect info being spread as there are some new tvs with the ATSC 3.0 tuner built in. My local channel looks quite a bit clearer with antenna then with cable or satellite. It is similar to the differences between watching a show in 4K on a Ultra 4K bluray player and watching the same 4K show on netflix. I have seen the picture with sharper colour and clearer on a 4K bluray disc. I know some people like my older sister says she doesn’t see any difference. I do see the difference but everyone has their own opinion. Interference from buildings, trees, hills and electrical is corrected with the new format. On Youtube, “The Antenna Guy” has good info about the new format. Some areas has enough TV channels over the air that can take the place of cable and save that money each month.

    • Thanks for your comment, Peter. LG announced TVs with ATSC 3.0 (now called NextGenTV) tuners built in at CES this year but it’s unclear when they might be available in North America. I’m most interested in claims that ATSC 3.0 is better for reception via moving mobile devices (like a mobile phone in a moving car). A potential concern of ATSC 3.0 is that the signal can be encrypted/pay-walled. I agree that the Antenna Guy YouTube channel has good info. Take care, Steven

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