DigiTAG

Web Letter

July 2011

DigiTAG seeks to inform members and non-members about important developments in the digital terrestrial television market. Each month, DigiTAG distributes its web letter with news updates and further exploration of one topic.

To subscribe to the DigiTAG Web Letter, send an email to the DigiTAG Project Office.

Propects for mobile television services

 

The Mobile500 Alliance is planning to make mobile television services available to 90% of households in the United States this autumn. Already, an independent joint venture of the leading national broadcasters, known as the Mobile Content Venture, plans to roll out their mobile television services to 50% of the population by the end of the year.

The Open Mobile Video Coalition's technical advisory group, supported by both Mobile500 Alliance and the Mobile Content Venture, is said to be making progress on a baseline set of specifications for mobile DTV receivers.

Optimism in the US is high. Broadcasters hope that, with their offer of local and national content, viewers will be watching a combination of free and subscription-based services, including video-on-demand and data services. But a few key issues remain.

Broadcasters must secure mobile broadcasting rights for content and ensure that consumer electronics manufacturers incorporate mobile DTV receivers into new devices. And, most importantly, they must ward off attempts by competing service providers to scupper their service offering.

Current market drivers

The availability of new tablet devices, such as the Apple iPad, has renewed the interest in mobile television services. Viewers now have an appropriately sized screen from which they can watch video content while on-the-go. And the sales of these devices is strong.

Video is currently a key driver of mobile broadband services. According to Bytemobile, internet video accounted for 40% of all mobile broadband data consumed during 2010 [1]. WiFi networks are used to download and/or stream content. Telecom operators offer video services using their 3G networks. But as has been commented at length in many of the discussions on mobile television, the capacity limits of 3G networks are being reached. These networks were not designed to provide video services with sufficient quality to millions of viewers simultaneously. And as demand grows, they may not be able to do so without substantial additional investments.

Reasons for past failures in Europe

In 2006, much hype surrounded the launch of T-DMB and DVB-H services in Europe. National regulators were prepared to allocate spectrum capacity and manufacturers, such as Nokia, were preparing to supply the receiver devices. Yet, in many European countries, mobile television services either did not reach the market or launched and subsequently closed.

Blame has been aimed at the lack of an appropriate regulatory model which would have obliged all partners in the service chain (broadcasters, broadcast network operators, telecom operators) to work together. Business models based on paid services did not appeal to consumers who were not prepared to pay monthly fees for television services. And receiving devices failed to materialize in mass-market numbers. Receivers that appeared on the market were limited in choice and did not appeal to consumers.

The assumption that investments in a separate network, such as DVB-H, would be justified by market demand for mobile television services proved incorrect. Demand was not sufficiently high to offset the costs associated with building and operating the network.

New initiatives emerge

The publication of the DVB-T2 standard in 2009 served as an impetus for discussions on a second-generation mobile television standard. With robust modes for difficult receiving conditions, support for reduced power consumption (time-slicing) and FFT modes that allow for the large Doppler shifts associated with high speed motion, DVB-T2 was inherently well-suited as a basis for the next generation of handheld devices And, importantly, the same network could be used to provide services to mobile devices as well as living room television sets, depending on the transmission modes selected. It is no longer necessary to build a separate, alternative network for the delivery of mobile services.

Meanwhile, 3GPP, the standards- making body for the mobile telecom industry, has developed the Multimedia Broadcast and Multicast Services (MBMS) specification as part of the latest release of the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) standard. MBMS allows telecom operators to use a portion of their LTE downstream capacity in such a way that it becomes feasible to offer broadcast video content. Like DVB-T2, MBMS is based on OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) modulation and makes use of similar technical features. However, in contrast with DVB-T2, the LTE MBMS technology has not yet been deployed in the consumer market.

The case for cooperation between broadcast and mobile broadband services is strong. Alone, neither technology can optimally satisfy all user demands. Mobile broadband suffers from capacity constraints making it unable to provide a large choice of services while also delivering consistent quality within a large coverage area. Digital terrestrial television (DTT) networks are unable to provide the bi-directional services necessary for the delivery of non-linear content. By bringing the two network types together, service providers could offer a full range of linear and non-linear services for consumers, thereby reducing the strain on mobile broadband networks and making better use of terrestrial broadcasting networks.

DVB/3GPP discussions

Conscious of the advantages that could be provided by working together, DVB and 3GPP met last March to discuss the opportunity for cooperation. By finding a common solution that can leverage MBMS and DVB technologies, benefits to viewers, broadcasters, network operators, manufacturers are possible. Viewers could benefit from the seamless combination of broadcast and broadband services, manufacturers benefit from economies of scale, and network operators benefit from increased spectrum efficiency and lower costs for the delivery of services.

So far, the results of the discussions have not been decisive. Some member companies within 3GPP may have expressed an interest in cooperating, while others appear reluctant to include DVB technology within their devices. Perhaps, support will initially be found on an ad-hoc basis rather than from industry groups.

Next steps

The emergence of tablet devices, the ubiquity of video content, and the availability of mobile communications make mobile television services a reality. Viewers will want to watch broadcast content from a single mobile device. However, they will be indifferent to the technology used to support such services.

Operators will need to find a solution that can make such services easily available to viewers while also making careful use of spectrum and adopting an uncomplicated business model. Already, the broadcast and telecom industries are coming together through the technologies they are adopting; the broadcast industry is making use of flexible and IP-compatible technology while the telecom industry is developing broadcast-like technology.

In the future, it should not matter which technology is used to deliver content. Rather the most appropriate delivery technology should be used to match the audience with the content.

 

Source: Natalie Mouyal, DigiTAG Project Office

 

[1] https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/news/2011/01/
internet_video_dominates_mobile_broadband_usage_/

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DigiTAG aims to encourage and facilitate the implementation and introduction of digital terrestrial television services using the Digital Video Broadcasting Project's Standard (DVB-T). It has some 50 members from broadcasting, network operators, regulatory, and manufacturing organisations throughout Europe and beyond.
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DTT NEWS ROUND-UP

For access to the full articles archive, please go to DigiTAG News

United Kingdom - Government issues plans for local TV services

A new framework for local television services has been issued. It calls for the use of geographic interleaved spectrum. Licenses will be allocated for building and operating the multiplexes hosting the local television services.

The number of services available will depend on the spectrum coverage and commercial sustainability. A total of £25 million from the television licence fee settlement has been set aside to help finance the infrastructure costs.

Source: Department of Culture, Media and Sport website

Poland - Launch of DSO information campaign

The communications campaign on digital switchover has officially been launched. This follows the launch of DTT services at the end of 2010.

A website has been launched (www.cyfryzacja.gov.pl) and nine television clips have been produced. A press campaign is also set to soon begin.

Source: Broadband TV News

Hungary - 220,000 DTT households

The number of households using the DTT platform increased by 52,000 in the period from January to May 2011.

At the end of May, over 220,000 households accessed the free-to-air DTT platform, MinDig TV, while nearly 30,000 households subscribed to the pay-DTT platform, MinDig TV Extra.

Source: Antenna Hungaria website

DVB issues DVB-T2 lite profile

DVB has published a new profile for the DVB-T2 specification. This profile is also known as T2-Lite and is intended to address receivers using low capacity applications.

This profile of DVB-T2 can be used for mobile broadcasting although it is also suitable for stationary receivers. It is based on a limited sub-set of the DVB-T2 specification and avoids the use of modes that require much complexity and memory.

Source: DVB website

Belarus - ASO set for 1 January 2012

The government has announced that analogue switch-off will be completed on 1 January 2012. This is three years' earlier than initially anticipated.

DTT services were launched in 2005 and are currently available to 93% of the population. The pay-DTT platform launched in June 2010.

A DVB-T2 trial has recently been completed.

Source: Broadband TV News

Bulgaria - Vivacom sells remaining stake in NURTS

The incumbent telecom operator Vivacom (formerly BTC) has sold its 50% stake in NURTS to Bluesat Partners Ltd.

NURTS provides broadcast network services for both analogue and the DTT platforms. The other 50% stake is held by Mancelord Limited which purchased the stake from Vivacom in August 2010.

Source: AmCham Bulgaria website

United Kingdom - BBC provides 3D/DTT coverage at Wimbeldon

The public service broadcaster BBC provided 3D coverage of the men's and women's final of the Wimbledon Tennis Championship on the DTT platform.

It is estimated that the 3D content was viewed by 18,000 households. There are approximately 200,000 3D receivers in the UK.

Reaction to the 3D coverage has been mixed with some viewers complaining that it was 3D lite while others were very pleased. The consumer group Which? gave positive feedback to the coverage although noted that some of its testers preferred the conventional 2D HD coverage.

Source: Broadcast Now website

Poland - Polo TV joins DTT platform

Changes have been made to the television programme services available on the DTT platform.

The first multiplex will now include the television programme service Polo TV which offers popular Polish music. Polo TV is owned by Lemon Records. It replaces Kino Polska Nostalgia which had planned to offer cinema.

Services on the first multiplex now include TVP1, TVP2, and TVP Info from the public service broadcaster TVP, the continuous news service U-TV, the music services ESKA TV and Polo TV, and the entertainment service ATM Rozrywka TV.

Source: KRRiT website