Startup taps into ATSC 3.0 to build national IoT network
ATSC 3.0, a next-gen broadcast signaling standard branded as "NextGen TV", is being used to deliver 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) video, immersive audio, advanced audio and even pay-TV services. While those use cases are largely consumer-oriented, work is underway to use ATSC 3.0's IP-based platform to provide data services to enterprises.
Peak3 is among the companies exploring the business use case. The startup is attempting to build a national IoT network that taps into underutilized and unmonetized ATSC 3.0 spectrum.
ATSC 3.0 already has the basic infrastructure in place to create that national network, says Peak3 CEO Alp Sezen. In addition to using a IP-based broadcast standard as the baseline pipe, he points out that ATSC 3.0 receiver chips (for TVs and set-tops) have been developed and that high-power towers are already in place, covering about 95% of the US population.
Alternative or enhancement to 5G?
Sezen believes ATSC 3.0 can be used to underpin a scalable and distributed IoT network that can broadcast or multicast data, including software updates, to a multitude of endpoints simultaneously. Further, he views Peak3's approach, which the company sometimes refers to as edge-caching-as-a-service or ECaaS, as an augmentation or enhancement to existing 5G networks and as a broader alternative to point-to-point streaming, content and file distribution.
"5G alone is not enough, because you still have backhaul issues. You still have issues on being able to simultaneously update a security patch on all IoT devices at the same time," Sezen argues. "We believe that ATSC 3.0 will solve that and be an augmented solution. It's not a replacement. It's really an augmentation."
Broadcasters on board
Peak3 has deals in place with three unnamed US broadcasters. The company may reveal who the broadcasters are sometime next month, Sezen says, adding that the deals cover a term of eight years, with an option for an additional eight. The initial set of deals provide Peak3 with a minimum capacity of 5 Mbit/s, with the option to add more if required, he says.
Peak3's angle with ATSC 3.0 is to bypass the proverbial cloud and deliver data, files and apps directly via multicast. But ATSC 3.0 supports one-way transmission, meaning it would need to support a hybrid approach in tandem with cellular, Wi-Fi, satellite or even wired connections for the uplink path. Sezen says that the uplink would only be needed to provide small amounts of data, such as proof of delivery of a large file that was sent down via ATSC 3.0.
By the end of 2022, Sezen expects Peak3 to have about 65% of the US population covered, a step along the way to having national coverage by the end of 2023.
Peak3's business model will center on selling spectrum to partners that can use it to support IoT applications and services and others outside the consumer broadcast TV market. The intention, Sezen stresses, is not to make and sell hardware, but he acknowledges that some new device form-factors that employ ATSC 3.0 receivers will need to be developed.
Field trials on tap
As for potential targets and use cases, Peak3 is expected to explore deals with companies that provide digital signage or fleet management systems or that manage sensors and can take advantage of a platform that delivers firmware, software and app updates using over-the-air distribution. ATSC 3.0 also has the potential to serve as a backup or potential replacement for global positioning services, according to Sezen.
He expects Peak3 to be in revenue-driving field trials starting in the first quarter of 2023, with an initial focus on the digital signage example that is "most likely" to take place in Las Vegas. Other trials on tap for next year include video monitoring applications along with a way to provide educational content to Native American tribal lands that lack access to traditional Internet connectivity.
Peak3 is also engaged with a couple of companies in the automotive industry focusing on car connectivity, Sezen adds. That activity is longer term and is expected to start in labs before extending to larger field trials. "It [the automotive industry] is on our radar, but it's a longer process," he says.
Sezen says that Peak3 is private equity funded but isn't yet announcing the amount of the investment or the source of it. Peak3, he adds, is funded under its spectrum sales model but would need to re-evaluate funding needs if it were forced to get into the hardware business.
Similar initiative underway
Peak3 isn't alone in its general idea. Another company, Synthesis Cloud, is also plotting plans to create a national IP multicast Internet network using ATSC 3.0 signals and spectrum from hundreds of low-power UHF and VHF TV stations. Synthesis Cloud also believes its proposed network will take some pressure off of today's unicast networks and effectively function as a virtual backplane for a massively distributed virtual data center.
In a LinkedIn exchange, Synthesis Cloud CEO and Chairman Vern Fotheringham said the company is still working to coordinate a national rollup of lower-power TV stations.
Meanwhile, the company has been conducting tests and demos in Bend, Oregon, its showcase market. That activity is currently being organized as Ruralink Broadband, which recently launched its own website.
Fotheringham noted that Auton, the company's autonomous connectivity business, is pushing ahead with an Oregon Test Network (OTN) that will target a range of companies in the broadcast Internet ecosystem, including broadcasters, cellular companies, equipment manufacturers, and software and app providers.
- New broadcast TV standard put on a fast track
- Synthesis Cloud plots plan for national broadcast Internet network
- FCC vote positions ATSC 3.0 as a new broadband pipe
- ATSC 3.0 shows potential for car connectivity
- Evoca TV shut down looms if it can't raise more cash
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading