Web Letter

February 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.

3DTV on the DTT platform

Interest in 3DTV is strong. Appealing animated content in cinemas has attracted the attention of viewers, most evident by the popularity of the 3D movie Avatar. The number of 3D films available on Blu-ray discs continues to increase. And already, several broadcasters have begun producing and transmitting 3D content while others have expressed an interest in doing so for certain events, such as the next Olympic Games in 2012.

Sales of 3D television sets have been higher than anticipated in Europe (1). In the United Kingdom, more than 140,000 3DTV sets have been sold which is double than the predicted sales of 70,000 3DTV sets (2). In Germany, a total of 178,000 3DTV sets were sold compared with the market expectation of 150,000 (3). According to the consultancy Futuresource, the first year rate of sale rate for 3DTV sets is greater than the rate of sales for HDTV sets when they were first introduced in the market. It expects 3 million 3DTV will have been sold by the end of 2011 (4).

In 2010, 3D services began in Europe. Early in the year, several broadcasters began trialling 3D services on the satellite and cable platforms, offering coverage of such events as the World Cup, the US Masters golf tournament, and the French Open. However, it was not until October that the first 3D channel was launched by Sky. Similar services have since launched in Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

Defining 3DTV

Current work in 3DTV uses Plano-stereoscopic imaging systems to deliver two images (left and right signals) that are arranged for nearly simultaneously viewing. This allows viewers to perceive an increase in the depth of the combined images. However, the image is not fully in three-dimensions and it is not possible to navigate around the image.

The two images can be combined for transmission either Side-by-Side or Top-and-Bottom into a single television picture frame. The 3DTV receiver is then able to stretch the two images from each frame to create the 3D image. This is not possible with a current 2D HDTV receiver which would show the two distinct images side by side or above and below in a single picture frame.

Current 3DTV receivers available in the market make use of this technology which is known as frame compatible plano-stereoscopic 3DTV. Work has been undertaken by the DVB to ensure that its broadcast delivery systems (DVB-T2, DVB-C2, DVB-S2) can provide these services.

On 17 February, the DVB Steering Board approved its first specification for 3DTV which defines the delivery system for frame compatible plano-stereoscopic 3DTV services. It calls for the inclusion of a 3DTV service information signal to enable receivers to decode such services and smoothly switch between different types of content (i.e. 2D HD and 3D) without the need for manual intervention by the viewer. Most importantly, this specification uses the existing HDTV broadcast infrastructures for delivery to the home environment. For example, it makes use of MPEG-4 AVC, the 16:9 aspect ratio and the same multichannel audio codecs as applied for 2D HDTV services.

Further work is currently underway by DVB to deliver, in a single broadcast signal, a service that can be compatible with different display methods including 2D HDTV and 3DTV. Known as Service Compatible 3D, it will deliver an HD signal for display on a 2D HD receiver as well as further information for a 3D receiver to add depth to the image. The commercial requirements for such a delivery system are currently in development and it is expected that the specification should be available around 2013.

Demand for 3DTV

The demand for 3DTV services is expected to increase as more and more 3D capable television sets enter into homes. While they currently represent a very small percentage of total television sets sold (5), it can be expected that in the near future all HDTV ready television sets will be 3D capable. Viewers are increasingly exposed to 3D content whether in films such as Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3, or in video games that can make effective use of 3D animation techniques.

However, not all content is well suited for 3D viewing. And it is not certain that viewers will want to watch 3D content continuously throughout the day. Rather, mainstream broadcasters will initially provide certain “must see” events in 3D such as the Olympic Games or other big sporting events. Broadcasters may therefore be interested in providing HD content and 3D content depending on the type of programme.

Certain health related issues, such as eye strain and nausea, have been linked to 3D viewing and may limit audiences, especially among children and the elderly. Further research into such health issues can be expected.

3D on the DTT platform

Broadcasters using the satellite platform have shown that it is already possible to provide 3DTV services to viewers. Cable operators, such as Virgin Media and Numericable, have also begun providing 3D content but using an “on demand” channel. However, it is more difficult for the DTT platform to deliver such services given the limitations on its bandwidth capacity.

The recently approved DVB 3DTV specification includes an informative annex (Annex B) which provides a possible solution to allow for plano-stereoscopic 3DTV services to be compatible with existing 2D HDTV receivers. The solution calls for inclusion of an additional signal to inform the HDTV receiver to extract the Left image from the 3DTV signal and upscale it to simulate the reception of an HDTV service. This would allow operators on the DTT platform to transmit a single signal that could be used by both 3D and 2D HD receivers and thus eliminate the need to simultaneously transmit a separate signal for HD services.

However, the implementation of such a solution could be problematic. First, existing HD receivers may not include the cropping and upscaling capabilities since they exceed the minimum requirements defined in the specification for coding and decoding video and audio content using an MPEG-2 transport stream (TS101 154). Second, the inclusion of such an additional signal could create problems for some 3DTV receivers to display 3D services. Finally, it may be technically difficult or impossible without expensive procedures to upgrade existing HD receivers in the market to be able to decode the additional signal.

Current 3D/DTT services

Early this year, Mediaset became the first the commercial broadcaster to offer a 3DTV service on the DTT platform. The service, known as 3VOD, allows viewers to access 3D content which is locally stored on the hard drive of the viewer’s Motive Bestv set-top box. The content is transmitted in small quantities to the set-top box from a DTT multiplex during the day and night.

Spain became the first country to trial 3D content on the DTT platform in March 2010 during an event hosted by the consumer electronics association Asimelec in Seville. The trial used a terrestrial signal provided by the broadcast network operator Abertis and receivers from Gigaset, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony.

In the United Kingdom, the broadcast network operator Arqiva is trialling 3D services using its DVB-T2 network. The trial is taking place near London to closed group of viewers. The trial offers HD content with the addition of further data for the 3D content.

In Italy, Sisvel is trialling 3D/DTT services in the Piedmont region. The trial uses the 3D tile format which integrates two 720p frames within a single 1080p frame and allows for display on both 3D and 2D HDTV receivers.

3D/DTT trials have also taken place in the Netherlands and Switzerland. In Switzerland, the trial offered the EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes the opportunity to view 3DTV services on the terrestrial platform.

(1)In North America, 3DTV sales have been lower than anticipated. The research company DisplaySearch downgraded the sales of 3DTVs from 2 million to 1.6 million units (source: The Wrap)

(2) Digital Choices

(3) Rapid TV News

(4) Futuresource website

(5) informitv forecasted that 3DTVs would comprise less than 2% of all television sets sold in 2010 (source: informitv)


Source: Natalie Mouyal, DigiTAG Project Office

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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 60 members from broadcasting, network operators, regulatory, and manufacturing organisations throughout Europe and beyond.
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France - 84.5% DTT penetration

According to the latest figures published by Médiamétrie and GfK, nearly 90% of households have at least one digital television set.

The DTT platform has been a vector of strong growth. A total of 23 million households, representing 84.5% of all television households, make use of at least one DTT receiver.

A total of 16,6 million iDTVs and 10.8 million DTT set-top boxes are in use.

Source: Médiamétrie website

United Kingdom - Over 1 million HD/DTT receivers sold

Sales of DVB-T2 receivers in the United Kingdom reached 1.2 million between the official launch of services in April 2010 and December 2010.

Viewers can access 4 services in HD (BBC One HD, the BBC HD Channel, ITV1 HD and C4 HD) as well as the full range of standard-definition services on the DTT platform. It is estimated that 642,000 households access HD/DTT services.

  Source: Freeview website

Sweden - HD/DTT reaches 75% coverage

The coverage of HD services on the DTT platform has been increased to reach 75% of the population since 1 February.

Services have now been deployed in the areas of Falun and Borlänge. The broadcast network operator Teracom plans to reach 95% of the population by the end of the year.

HD services on the DTT platform use the DVB-T2 standard and offer viewers access to 6 television programme services.

Source: RTVV website

Austria - Three DVB-T2 multiplexes to launch

The communications regulator RTR has announced plans to launch three additional DTT multiplexes.

These multiplexes will use the DVB-T2 standard in combination with MPEG-4 AVC. They will provide nationwide coverage.

Currently three multiplexes provide DTT services using the DVB-T and MPEG-2 standards.

Source: RTR website

Spain - Government approves Royal Decree for HD/DTT

The government has approved new legislation for the DTT platform. The legislation attempts to regulate HD content and multiplex usage capacity.

Broadcasters will be required to inform viewers when a programme is shown in high-definition. It also defines HD as programmes with at least 720 active lines in 16:9 format at the time of production.

In addition, the legislation removes the previous limitation that broadcasters could only transmit two DTT services in each mux. Instead, the capacity of each multiplex is shared allowing broadcasters to increase the number of services provided.

Source: Rapid TV News

Serbia - Upgrade of transmission network begins

Work to upgrade the terrestrial television transmission network is underway in Serbia.

The first phase of the project is expected to cost €12 million of which the European Union has agreed to fund €10.5 million. However, the total cost of digital switchover is estimated at €50-70 million and includes subsidies for 300,000 low-income households to purchase DTT receivers.

The government has confirmed that analogue switch-off will take place on 4 April 2012.

Source: advanced-television.com

France - ASO completed in the North

Analogue switch-off has been completed in the northern part of France.

In the night of 31 January to 1 February, the regions of Upper Normandy and North Pas de Calais completed switch-off. These regions includes the cities of Le Havre, Rouen, Lille and Dunkerque.

On the night of 1 to 2 February, analogue switch-off was completed in the region of Picardie which includes the cities of Amiens, and Reim.

Apart from the region of Paris (Ile-de-France), analogue switch-off has been completed in the northern half of France.

Source: Tous au numérique website