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International Digital Television Systems

The situation with worldwide digital television is much simpler by comparison. Most current digital television systems are based on the MPEG-2 multiplexed data stream standard, and use the MPEG-2 video codec. They differ significantly in the details of how the MPEG stream is converted into a broadcast signal, in the video format prior to encoding (or alternately, after decoding), and in the audio format. This has not prevented the creation of an international standard that includes both major systems, even though they are incompatible in almost every respect.

The two principal digital broadcasting systems are ATSC, developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee and adopted as a standard in the United States and Canada, and DVB-T, the Digital Video Broadcast Terrestrial system used in most of the rest of the world. DVB-T was designed for format compatibility with existing direct broadcast satellite services in Europe (which use the DVB-S standard), and there is also a DVB-C version for cable television. While the ATSC standard also includes support for satellite and cable television systems, operators of those systems have chosen other technologies (principally DVB-S for satellite and DVB-C for cable). Japan uses a third system, closely related to DVB-T, called ISDB-T.


The ATSC system uses a Zenith-developed modulation called 8-VSB; as the name implies, it is a vestigial sideband technique. Essentially, analogue VSB is to regular amplitude modulation as 8-VSB is to eight-way quadrature amplitude modulation. This system was chosen specifically to provide for maximum spectral compatibility between existing analogue TV and new digital stations in the United States' already-crowded television allocations system. After demodulation and error-correction, the 8-VSB modulation supports a digital data stream of about 19.2 Mbit/s, enough for one high-definition video stream or several "standard-definition" services.


A QAM tuner is a device present in some digital televisions and similar devices which enables direct reception of digital cable channels without the use of a set-top box. QAM stands for "quadrature amplitude modulation," the format by which digital cable channels are encoded and transmitted via cable. QAM tuners can be likened to the cable equivalent of an ATSC tuner which is required to receive over-the-air (OTA) digital channels broadcast by local television stations.


DVB-T uses coded orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (COFDM), which uses as many as 8000 independent carriers, each transmitting data at a comparatively low rate. This system was designed to provide superior immunity from multipath interference, and has a choice of system variants which allow data rates from 4 MBit/s up to 24 MBit/s. One U.S. broadcaster, Sinclair Broadcasting, petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to permit the use of COFDM instead of 8-VSB, on the theory that this would improve prospects for digital TV reception by households without outside antennas (a majority in the U.S.), but this request was denied. (However, one U.S. digital station, WNYE-DT in New York, was temporarily converted to COFDM modulation on an emergency basis for datacasting information to emergency services personnel in lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.)


DVB-S is the original Digital Video Broadcasting forward error coding and modulation standard for satellite television and dates from 1995. It is used via satellites serving every continent of the world, this is even true in North America. DVB-S is used in both MCPC and SCPC modes for broadcast network feeds, as well as for direct broadcast satellite services like Sky Digital (UK & Ireland) via Astra in Europe, Dish Network in the U.S., and Bell ExpressVu in Canada. The transport stream delivered by DVB-S is mandated as MPEG-2.


DVB-C stands for Digital Video Broadcasting - Cable and it is the DVB European consortium standard for the broadcast transmission of digital television over cable. This system transmits an MPEG-2 family digital audio/video stream, using a QAM modulation with channel coding.


The ISDB system differ mainly in the modulations used, due to the requirements of different frequency bands. The 12 GHz band ISDB-S uses PSK modulation, 2.6 GHz band digital sound broadcasting uses CDM and ISDB-T (in VHF and/or UHF band) uses COFDM with PSK/QAM. It is used mainly in Japan.



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LMD: Tuesday, December 02 2014  
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