Will 2016 TVs Be Upgradeable to ATSC 3.0?

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Q I have been reading about the new TVs for 2016 that were shown at CES. I’ve also read about ATSC 3.0, the proposed new broadcast standard (also shown at CES) for 4K “over-the-air” transmission. Will any of the TVs coming out this year be upgraded to ATSC 3.0 via a software update? —Paul Binder / via email

A Most likely not. The ATSC 3.0 system, which is right now being tested in various cities and is supposed to be finalized this year, is a true next-generation broadcasting platform. Once buttoned down, its specs are likely to include both 4K/Ultra HD resolution images with wide color gamut and high dynamic range. Since the new system is also Internet Protocol-based, two-way interactivity and wireless delivery of video to mobile devices will also be primary features.

While all these new developments sound like good news for TV viewers, the bad news is that the new system won’t be compatible with your old TV’s ATSC 1.0 digital tuner. ATSC 3.0 will use a completely different transmission technology (OFDM, as opposed to the 8-VSB system used by ATSC 1.0) along with a new, more efficient video codec (HEVC H.265). I’ve heard some talk of external tuners showing up in the form of dongles that plug into your current set’s USB or HDMI port, but that development is yet to be confirmed.

To learn more about ATSC 3.0, watch this video: