ATSC 3.0—aka “NextGen TV”—remains irrelevant to most cord-cutters
For years now, the broadcast TV industry has been talking up plans to overhaul over-the-air TV with a new standard called ATSC 3.0.
Also known as NextGen TV, ATSC 3.0 can deliver 4K HDR video, enhanced dialog, on-demand viewing options, and potentially better reception, all for free with an antenna. Stations in 46 U.S. markets are now broadcasting in the new standard, covering nearly half the United States, with dozens more markets to come throughout 2022.
But before you buy into the hype and shop for compatible TVs or tuner boxes, keep in mind that NextGen TV is still bleeding-edge technology, and broadcasters have yet to realize its biggest benefits. As I wrote last year and the year before, most antenna users can safely leave ATSC 3.0 out of their cord-cutting plans for now, even if it’s something to keep an eye on for the future.
NextGen TV’s 2022 updates
ATSC 3.0 is currently top of mind thanks to CES, the annual tech industry trade show where major TV manufacturers announce new products. This year’s big ATSC 3.0 news is that Hisense will include ATSC 3.0 tuners in most of its upcoming ULED TVs, becoming the fourth TV maker to support the new standard, and the first that wasn’t an original sponsor of the standard.
“We’re really excited about Hisense being a new entrant, because that’s a vote of confidence,” said Anne Schelle, the managing director of Pearl TV, a broadcast industry trade group.
Hisense is bringing ATSC 3.0 tuner support to many of its 2022 ULED TVs.
Still, ATSC 3.0 remains concentrated in mid- to high-end TVs. While Sony has brought NextGen TV tuners all its televisions, LG and Samsung reserve it for their premium OLED and Neo QLED TVs respectively. Hisense, meanwhile, is omitting ATSC 3.0 from its least-expensive U6H ULED TVs and from its lower-budget non-ULED sets. Other value-oriented TV vendors, including Vizio, TCL, Toshiba, and Insignia, haven’t announced NextGen TV support at all.
A new agreement between Pearl TV and chipmaker MediaTek could help bring ATSC 3. 0 to cheaper televisions by streamlining development, but Schelle said that won’t happen until next year at the earliest.
“I think the hockey stick environment starts in 2023, and really ramps in 2024, and we think by 2025 it’ll be really hard to buy a TV without NextGen on it,” she said.
What about external ATSC 3.0 tuners?
In lieu of buying a new TV with ATSC 3.0 support, you’ll need an external tuner to take advantage of the new broadcast standard, but those don’t come cheap, either.
Right now, the most inexpensive option is SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun Flex 4K, which costs $200 and doesn’t plug directly into your TV. Instead, it streams video over Wi-Fi to the HDHomeRun app on streaming hardware such as Roku players and Amazon Fire TV devices.
This week, Nuvyyo also announced an ATSC 3.0 version of its Tablo Quad HDMI over-the-air DVR coming this spring; but at $300, it’s $100 pricier than the ATSC 1.0 version. Unlike Tablo’s existing HDMI models, it’s also unable to stream video onto other devices around the house due to technical complexities, though Nuvyyo says it might add that capability in the future.
Nuvyyo plans to release an ATSC 3.0 version of its over-the-air DVR this spring.
Nuvyyo CEO Grant Hall said he doesn’t want to discourage cord-cutters from buying Tablo’s ATSC 1.0 DVRs. The company is launching an ATSC 3.0 model largely to satisfy some early adopters and get first-hand experience with the technology as it emerges.
“We weren’t feeling a lot of heat that we had to have a product in the market,” Hall said. “It was more from a thought-leadership position.”
As for cheaper hardware, akin to the cheap converter boxes that helped usher in the digital TV transition more than a decade ago, Pearl TV’s Anne Schelle said those are also another year away. When they arrive, she expects them to cost less than $60.
“One of the issues that’s plaguing us isn’t so much the ability to enable them, it’s the supply-chain issues,” she said. “We’re predicting those to free up in 2023.”
Waiting for more features
If you do pick up an ATSC 3. 0-compatible TV or tuner, don’t expect to get 4K HDR video or Dolby Atmos audio at the outset. Those features depend on support from the broadcast TV networks, which have only offered 4K event coverage on streaming devices and cable boxes so far. Even with more 4K HDR content available, broadcasters will need to make additional investments in their own infrastructure to support it over-the-air, Schelle said.
For now, early adopters will get some more modest benefits. Options for dialog enhancement and volume leveling are available with any ATSC 3.0 broadcast, and stations also have the ability to switch on 1080p video support as an upgrade from 1080i (interlaced) or 720p.
As for interactive components, such as on-demand news clips or live weather tickers, Schelle said roughly 20 stations have started dabbling in these kinds of features. Still, she said this will be a year of experimentation as broadcasters figure out what works with viewers.
“Right now, we’re getting what we call the basic set of features out there to start, and over time they get upgraded,” Schelle said.
ATSC 3.0 also has some ability to improve reception, as broadcasters can decide whether to increase signal strength at the expense of capacity. In theory, that would allow a station to dial down video quality so the content can more easily reach viewers.
But again, that kind of benefit might not avail itself right away, as broadcasters still have to conserve bandwidth for their current ATSC 1.0 broadcasts. (More on that below.)
“As ATSC 1.0 takes up less of the overall spectrum availability in a marketplace, you can devote more and more to a 3.0 signal, which can allow you to make the signal stronger or send more data,” said ATSC President Madeleine Noland.
No rush to upgrade
One important thing to note is that ATSC 3.0 isn’t a mandatory upgrade like the analog-to-digital transition was. Even in markets with ATSC 3.0 stations, broadcasters continue to air their channels in the current ATSC 1.0 standard, so you can continue to use your existing TV tuner or over-the-air DVR without issue. That’s not going to change for many years.
For one thing, the FCC currently requires stations to simulcast their main channels in both ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 through February 2023, and the commission might decide to stretch that deadline further. With 15 percent of U.S. homes currently watching over-the-air TV with the current standard, broadcasters are also wary of chasing viewers away with new hardware requirements.
“There’s nothing more important to the broadcaster than their audience, and they’re not going to do something that’s going to disenfranchise their audience,” Noland said.
My advice, then, is similar to what it was a year ago: If you’re already planning to buy a new TV or over-the-air TV, and an ATSC 3.0 model fits within your budget, there’s little harm in future proofing. But don’t go out of your way to upgrade to a standard that’s still in its infancy. Your current over-the-air TV setup will remain viable for years to come.
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Winegard Elite 7550 review: A great-performing antenna
At a Glance
- Good reception of strong to medium level signals on UHF and VHF-High
- Inline amplifier helps boost signals
- Suitable for attic or outdoor mounting
- Plastic mounting bracket feels a little cheap
The Winegard Elite 7550 is a sensitive TV antenna suitable for areas with strong to medium strength signals.
The Winegard Elite 7550 is a compact TV antenna that can be mounted inside or outside your house and is suitable for areas with medium to weaker broadcast signals. In TechHive tests the antenna scored better than any others in its class.
The Elite 7550 is suitable for both VHF-High and UHF broadcasting bands, which covers the vast majority of TV stations in the U.S., and it comes with an amplifier to give weak signals an extra boost.
One of the things that sets the Elite 7550 apart from other compact models is its use of reflector elements behind the antenna. These six elements sit behind the main antenna and help reflect signals back to the antenna body. It makes the antenna more directional, so it favors signals coming from the direction it’s pointing rather than from all around. This means its even more essential to point the antenna at your closest TV tower.
An antenna inside the main plastic body handles UHF reception, while VHF High is handled by a dipole antenna behind the main body.
Inside the antenna is an amplifier for boosting signals and an LTE filter to cut out powerful 4G cellular signals that could be transmitting close to local TV stations and affecting reception.
The Winegard Elite 7550. The main UHF antenna is the large plastic body, the VHF-High antenna is the long tube and the six flat metal strips is the reflector.
TechHive tests antennas by performing a number of scans to see how many channels are received. Over the course of the scans a pattern emerges and we get to see how well an antenna pulls in the various strong and weak channels on air in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas.
The Elite 7550 successfully locked on to more channels than other antennas we tested and in all cases the signal level was either the same or better than with others.
In all, the Elite 7550 managed to lock 13 broadcast channels. Each of those broadcast channels carries a number of digital TV stations and in total we got 75 stations. The antenna found another five broadcast channels but the signal wasn’t quite strong enough for glitch-free viewing, so we ignored those.
The Winegard Elite 7550
Parts and installation
Winegard supplies an angled “J-pole” mounting tube and bracket for the antenna. This can be used to install the antenna on the side of a house or a sloped roof. The bracket is made from plastic and might be strong enough for general use, but it’s a surprising choice as most are metal.
There’s also a power inserter and adapter to feed the amplifier that is built into the antenna. Because it’s intended to be mounted in the attic or on the roof, Winegard doesn’t supply coaxial cable. You can easily find coax cable at your local electronics store or online. You should also pick up a weather-proof connector sleeve—a small rubber protector that sits over the coax connector on the back of the antenna and keeps the water out.
Installation requires a minimum of tools and isn’t difficult to accomplish. You’ll need a Phillips screwdriver and a 7/16-inch wrench for installing the mounting pole.
The power unit for the amplifier in the Winegard Elite 7550
The Winegard Elite 7550 is a sensitive antenna that should do well in areas with strong to medium strength signals. It’s well built and outperformed competing attic and outdoor mount antennas in our tests. The additional amplifier and 4G filter help with reception problems and make it TechHive’s current top pick in the class.
Digital TV cable antenna in 5 minutes
Super simple and super fast to make a coaxial cable antenna for receiving digital television channels can be made with your own hands in about 5 minutes. For this, you will need absolutely nothing but the cable itself. And this is the main plus of this antenna.
No TV now.
This design will definitely help you out, for example, when you have just moved into your home and have not yet managed to stretch the cable or install a stationary antenna. Of course, this is not the only example where this truly simple loop antenna can help.
Now in the comments someone will definitely write that there are antennas even simpler, such as a whip. For the manufacture of which it will be enough just to remove two insulations from the cable and everything will work. Of course, I agree with this, but the loop antenna that I will make from a coaxial cable will have much more gain, due to its directivity and resonantly closed circuit.
Antenna made from coaxial cable
This is what the version made from black cable looks like.
And now the manufacture of the antenna in order. All we need is less than half a meter of coaxial cable of any color. I took white.
We retreat 5 cm from the edge of the cable and remove the top insulation.
Next, remove the insulation from the central core.
Now carefully and tightly twist everything together.
Then, from the edge with the removed insulation, we retreat 22 cm and cut a piece of 2 cm of the upper insulation and screened wire with a halyard, without touching the insulation of the central core.
Now measure another 22 cm from the end of the cut and make a 1 cm wide cut only with the top insulation removed. We do not touch the cable screen.
Next, take the end of the cable from which we started. And we wrap it very tightly at the last cut, forming a circle of the antenna.
With this our antenna is ready to go. Of course, this is not necessary, but if you hang the antenna on the street, then it is better to insulate all the bare places of the cable with electrical tape. You can also add a rigid frame, but this is optional.
We direct the antenna to a repeater or TV tower. The direction can also be chosen empirically by rotating the antenna.
The best option would be if you place it outside the window, since the walls of the house jam the high-frequency signal very strongly.
The test showed an excellent result of work
Watch the video instructions for making the antenna
If you still don’t understand how to make an antenna from a cable, then be sure to watch the video below or ask questions in the comments.
How to test a television antenna
A television antenna is a device designed to receive a signal on transmitting equipment. And, depending on which device is used and a certain number and quality of channels are received. Now, in most cases, satellite dishes are used. They are equipped with a certain set of equipment: a plate, a cable, a converter, a receiver, and so on.
How to check the performance and technical potential of a television antenna?
But, like any other technique, this device can fail not only with mechanical damage, but also with improper connection. In such situations, you need to know how to check the television antenna without resorting to the services of specialists.
There are a number of reasons why the satellite dish on the TV does not work:
- No power circuit in the receiver-converter stream (both scales are zero, which means there is no contact).
- The antenna is not tuned (there is a signal strength scale, but no quality scale).
- Faulty converter (signal strength may be present, but no quality scale).
- The memory in the receiver settings has expired (during a long “rest”).
How to check the antenna with a tester (multimeter)
First of all, you should pay attention to the TV cable. It should be intact, and without any pinches.
- If this is a multi-storey building, then only the operability of one end of the cable (with a plug) will have to be checked. For this, a multimeter (tester) is used, which measures the resistance between the braid and the central core wire. A value of several tens of ohms is considered a normal indicator. If it is greater than or close to “0”, an open or short circuit has occurred. In this case, it is better to find out if the neighbors have a signal and, if so, the problem is in the junction box or in the area from it to the plug.
- If this is a private house, then you can check the resistance of both ends of the TV cable. First you need to turn off all the equipment from the outlet. Then disconnect the wire from the antenna and from the TV. And in the same way, check the braid and the central core for a short circuit with a tester. Here, the health of the cable shows an infinite value of resistance. But, if you close the central core and the braid, the multimeter should show a value close to “0”.
When the instrument detects a problem, you must first find the weak spot in the cable. This usually occurs in places of sharp bends, connected segments or swayed by the wind. If everything is in order with the TV wire, the cause of the problem should be looked for elsewhere.
How to check the head (converter) of a satellite dish
The most common problem with satellite devices is the failure of the antenna head (LNB) or DISEQC (switch). This is usually understandable if some TV channels suddenly stopped showing. The converter can fail due to precipitation, short circuits and sudden power surges.
To check if this problem is really due to a converter or disk failure, you need to:
- Turn on the channel that stopped working.
- Unscrew the LNB head from the cable.
- Disconnect the center wire from the receiver and connect to the LNB.
- If in this situation the channel began to show, then the disk (switch) is faulty. Otherwise, the converter is broken.
But, if there is no connection even when replacing the LNB head, then you should look for the reason in the equipment settings.
How to check the TV antenna signal
This is a very common error in satellite systems. It seems that the equipment was working normally, but at one fine moment, when you turn on the TV, a window appears on the screen with the inscription “No signal”.
To check the satellite signal level, go to the receiver settings:
- Open “Menu” – “Settings” – “Password” – “0000” – “Manual search”.
- 2 scales should appear: signal strength and signal quality.
- If both are shown in color and percentage, it means that the broadcast is temporarily unavailable or the subscription is terminated.
- A zero value for both options means there is a problem.
- The device must be rebooted (switch off for 1-2 minutes and then on again).
- If nothing has changed, take the dish with your hands and turn it, looking for a satellite, horizontally. The dish should be moved at intervals of 1-2 degrees (if necessary, loosening the fasteners) with breaks of 3-5 seconds to process the digital signal. For such a procedure, you need an assistant who will monitor changes in the signal scale on the TV.
- If everything is unchanged, you should catch the signal vertically. To do this, the plate must be bent up and down, according to the same principle as horizontally.
- If a signal appears in one or another plane, loosen the fixing screws and adjust the antenna.
IMPORTANT. When installing new equipment, you can visually inspect the neighboring TV antennas, that is, find out the provider and in which direction they are turned. So you don’t have to find out the location of the settlement, the name and coordinates of the satellite in orbit and make calculations.
How to test a satellite dish receiver
Before you try to test your antenna again, it’s best to try the previous steps again. Perhaps there was a mistake somewhere. If all else fails, you can check the receiver for serviceability.
- First you should enter the manual settings and write down the parameters for the satellite of this provider.