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ATSC vs DVB-T: Where is ISDB?

The adoption of a digital television system has been a topic of discussion for several years. Find in this 2001 article some arguments about the most appropriate standards for Latin America.

This dissertation offers some arguments that can help in the decision about a system for the countries of Latin America, making it clear that the company is willing to support and respect the decision of Brazil, in principle, and those taken later by the other countries of the region.

A dissertation on the most appropriate digital television standards for the Latin American region

Harris Corporation is a leading provider of digital television systems, including television transmitters using ATSC and DVB-T standards. Over the past few years, Harris has actively worked with television programmers and national regulatory agencies around the world, to the extent that they have wanted to evaluate the merits of different digital television systems. As a global television system provider, Harris is committed to supporting customers through appropriate television broadcast systems for their particular environments.

In March 2001, a senior technical executive from Harris Broadcast Communications Division was able to observe the demonstration of the ISDB system in Rio de Janeiro. It is our view that the stated advantages of this system for mobile transmission do not significantly outweigh the commercial and application disadvantages of adopting a third standard.

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The advantages and disadvantages of ATSC and DVB-T standards are very well documented. Each system has been developed to support different transmission methodologies; ATSC performs better on high-power transmissions over longer distances while DVB-T tends to perform well in multi-step environments, including mobile reception over shorter distances.

However, the distinctive differences of the two global digital transmission systems are being erased as standards organizations and manufacturers develop refinements that deepen the capabilities of both ATSC and DVB-T. In the United States, for example, ATSC is currently evaluating some system improvements that would provide significantly better performance on television receivers in critical multi-step environments.

What is clear, when evaluating both ATSC and DVB-T standards, is that these are robust and versatile standards that allow a wide range of application strategies and long-term improvements in their performance. Each new generation of digital television receivers has offered new reception capabilities and, in addition, the manufacturers of 8VSB and COFDM modulators continuously improve the technical capabilities of their products. It is key to the future success of digital television that all refinements are compatible with existing equipment, ensuring the substantial investments made by consumers, programmers and manufacturers of these two global television standards.

Harris is confident that the momentary perceived advantages of the ISDB standard for data transmission can be equated, if not exceeded, by the two global standards, ATSC and DVB-T. Harris Corporation manufactures modulators and television transmitters for both systems, and will strongly support the ISDB standard if countries like Brazil decide that there are sufficient technical advantages to support a third standard as well.

Harris Corporation urges the Latin American region to consider the advantages of selecting either of the two existing, proven, global digital television systems. The ATSC and DVB-T standards are supported by a wide range of manufacturers of television transmission equipment and consumer receivers. The costs of each element in both systems are decreasing, and will continue to decrease, as more systems come into operation and large investments made in the context of a broader customer base are amortized.

In the United States alone, more than 200 digital television transmitters are in operation that are reaching approximately 70% of American households and more than 500,000 DTV receivers have been sold. In the UK, a similar number of DVB-T transmitters are operating and more than 10,000 digital receivers per day are being manufactured to meet demand. The ITV Digital network alone has more than 1 million subscribers, exclusively in the UK. Dozens of countries have programs to introduce ATSC or DVB-T, so the technical and financial advantages of choosing any of these standards will continue to increase.

ATSC and DVB-T have ongoing programs to continuously introduce significant refinements to standards, compatible with existing or old equipment. Manufacturers of television modulators, transmitters and receivers also have ongoing development programs that are producing the relentless advancement in the ability of systems to be used for data, in addition to audio and video transmission. In the DVB-T standard, the introduction of hierarchical modulation has significantly advanced the reception of mobile data and video. Similarly, ATSC is currently studying the proposed refinements to the 8VSB modulation standard, which will improve mobile reception.

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The ATSC and DVB-T standards offer countries that adopt them the enormous advantages of a large and growing base of programmers, manufacturers and consumers. Manufacturers are delivering third-generation equipment. Every global manufacturer of consumer electronics is producing ATSC or DVB-T compliant digital receivers. Dozens of global manufacturers of television transmitter and production equipment are manufacturing ATSC and DVB-T compliant systems.

Contrast the proven success and installed base of ATSC and DVB-T with the unproven promise of ISDB, which is only developed in one country and still needs to be fully supported by manufacturers, consumers or programmers. ATSC and DVB-T are proven systems; ISDB still shows unproven promise. By selecting ATSC or DVB-T, Anatel will be ensuring that programmers and citizens of Brazil receive proven technology at very low cost and with less risk of obsolescence or abandonment.

It doesn't matter which system is selected in the region, ATSC, DVB-T or ISDB. Harris has the technology and capability to offer appropriate modulators and transmitters to programmers in Latin America. Harris Corporation has a long history of supporting the television broadcast industry in Latin America and we look forward to continuing to support Anatel, and the Brazilian television community, in the adoption and application of digital television broadcasting systems.

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