Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) standards are a set of standards for digital television transmission over terrestrial, cable, and satellite networks. It is largely a replacement for the analog NTSC standard, and like that standard, used mostly in the United States, Mexico and Canada. Other former users of NTSC, like Japan, have not used ATSC during their digital television transition because they adopted their own system called ISDB.
The ATSC standards were developed in the early 1990s by the Grand Alliance, a consortium of electronics and telecommunications companies that assembled to develop a specification for what is now known as HDTV. The standard is now administered by the Advanced Television Systems Committee. The standard includes a number of patented elements, and licensing is required for devices that use these parts of the standard. Key among these is the 8VSB modulation system used for over-the-air broadcasts.
ATSC includes two primary high definition video formats, 1080i and 720p. It also includes standard-definition formats, although initially only HDTV services were launched in the digital format. ATSC can carry multiple channels of information on a single stream, and it is common for there to be a single high-definition signal and several standard-definition signals carried on a single 6 MHz (former NTSC) channel allocation.
The ATSC system supports a number of different display resolutions, aspect ratios, and frame rates. The formats are listed here by resolution, form of scanning (progressive or interlaced), and number of frames (or fields) per second (see also the TV resolution overview at the end of this article).
For transport, ATSC uses the MPEG systems specification, known as an MPEG transport stream, to encapsulate data, subject to certain constraints. ATSC uses 188-byte MPEG transport stream packets to carry data. Before decoding of audio and video takes place, the receiver must demodulate and apply error correction to the signal. Then, the transport stream may be demultiplexed into its constituent streams.