Web Letter

April 2012

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.

Developing a single global DTT standard


At the recent NAB conference, representatives from 13 broadcast organisations from around the world signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish the Future of Broadcast Television (FOBTV) initiative. This initiative builds upon the joint declaration made in Shanghai in November 2011 calling for collaboration towards the development of a global DTT standard.

Signatories of the FOBTV initiative seek to work together to develop the next generation of terrestrial broadcasting standards with the aim of developing compatible DTT standards worldwide. While FOBTV does not seek to become a standard-making organization, it will recommend broadcast technologies that can be adopted by existing standards bodies.
Specifically, the five objectives set out in the MoU are:

• The development of DTT industry “ecosystem” models that    encompasses business, regulatory and technical issues,
• The development of next generation DTT systems that     makes efficient use of spectrum and takes into account a    “connected” (i.e. Internet-based) society,
• Collaboration between the digital television development    laboratories,
• Recommendation of the technologies that can be used for    new global standards, and,
• Standardization of technologies by the appropriate
   standard-making organisations.

The thirteen founding members of FOBTV come from four continents and include, among others, the ATSC and NAB (USA), CBC (Canada), DVB and EBU (Europe), ETRI (Korea), Globo TV (Brazil), NERC-DTV (China), NHK (Japan), and the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society.

The benefits of such worldwide collaboration towards the development of compatible DTT standards are expected to be two-fold. First, the whole broadcast industry, including consumer/viewers, will be able to benefit from cost-savings due to economies-of-scale. Manufacturers will be able to develop products for a global market rather than tailored for the various regions in the world. Second, viewers will be able to use their DTT devices anywhere in the world. This is especially relevant for mobile devices which are easy to transport and use during international travel.

Current situation

Since the inception of television, countries have tended to adopt different terrestrial broadcast systems. With the implementation of DTT, four standards (and their variants) have emerged:

• ATSC adopted in North America and South Korea,
• DVB-T/T2 adopted in Europe, Africa and parts of Asia,
• ISDB-T adopted in Japan while its variant, SBTVD is used in    parts of South America, and,
• DMB-T/H adopted in China.

Currently, the ATSC is in the process of developing the second generation of its standard which it plans to issue by the end of the year. ATSC 2.0 will be an improvement of the existing ATSC standard but will retain backwards-compatibility with the first generation standard. Similarly, in 2008, DVB developed its second generation standard, DVB-T2, which is backwards-compatible with its DVB-T standard. It has already been implemented in a number of countries around the world.

The original ATSC standard uses 8-VSB modulation which does not provide for adequate reception in a mobile environment. For this reason, the ATSC recently developed another standard for use in a mobile environment. In contrast, the COFDM modulation used in the DVB and ISDB standards has proven effective for mobile reception. ISDB provides for mobile reception to portable devices using a narrow band ‘one-segment’ transmission option, while DVB presently offers a profile of the DVB-T2 standard, known as DVB-T2 Lite, optimised for mobile reception, whilst it is developing a technical specification to meet a full set of commercial requirements for ‘Next Generation Handheld (NGH)’ applications.

Discussions for the development of ATSC 3.0 began last year although the standard’s requirements have yet to be defined. This standard could be a radical departure from the initial ATSC standard and include COFDM modulation. It could perhaps serve as a basis for FOBTV.

The need for FOBTV

In many countries, governments are considering reducing the allocation of frequencies in the UHF band which have traditionally been reserved for the DTT platform. In Europe, the 800 MHz band is in the process of being allocated to mobile telecom services and considerations for a similar allocation in the 700 MHz band could take place after 2015.

In the United States, Congress has agreed legislation to allow for an auction process where broadcasters relinquish frequencies to telecom operators. Through this process, the Federal Communications Commission hopes to re-allocate 120 MHz of frequencies currently used by broadcasters to mobile telecom operators. Already, the frequencies in the 700 MHz band have been auctioned to telecom operators.

With the DTT platform under threat in so many countries, it has become increasingly important for broadcast organisations around the world to unite in their efforts to promote the platform and maintain its relevance. The FOBTV initiative stresses the importance of the DTT platform, noting its flexibility and efficiency in the delivery of wireless media, and seeks to ensure its long term viability.

To remain relevant, the DTT platform must continue to evolve its service offering. The features of the compatible standard that FOBTV hopes to develop will include better compression, to allow for such services as Ultra-High Definition and 3DTV, mobile reception, and integration with broadband networks. As noted by the technical director of the EBU, it will be important to make use of broadcast and broadband technologies in complementary combination since neither alone is likely to be able to meet the future demands for wireless media.

Challenges facing FOBTV

The development of a global DTT standard will face both technical and political challenges. Participants may well push for the adoption of certain technologies where they own the intellectual property or where patents have expired. Others may prefer the use of technologies that will cause the least disruption to their national broadcast industry. For this reason, technical justifications, including practical tests and simulations, will be necessary. According to the head of the ATSC, designing the physical layer of the standard will likely be the biggest technical challenge.

The political arguments are expected to be intense. The involvement of many participants will make discussions complicated and consensus difficult to achieve. Discussions will likely encompass more than technology and also include business and regulatory issues. The transition to any new standard will also require much effort as evident by the recent digital switchover process. The timeframe for an eventual change of technology and the demands made on the broadcast industry and viewers will also need to be addressed.

While the development of a global terrestrial television standard had not been possible in the transition from analogue to digital, the inability to find agreement on a future global standard may no longer be an option for the broadcast industry.

Next steps

Members of the FOBTV initiative have elected the President of the ATSC, Mark Richer, as its Chairman. The head of the DVB, Phil Laven, will serve as Vice Chairman while the Technical Committee will be chaired by Wenjun Zhang, Chief Scientist from NERC-DTV.

As a next step, the FOBTV will evaluate proposed technologies for future DTT standards, and include the different user requirements and implementation scenarios in their considerations. And, according to Richer, a new standard or multiple unified next-generation standards could emerge in the next two to five years.



Source: Natalie Mouyal, on behalf of the 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 members from broadcasting, network operators, regulatory, and manufacturing organisations throughout Europe and beyond.
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Portugal - ASO successfully completed

Analogue switch-off has been completed in Portugal on 26 April. This is the third and final phase of the analogue switch-off process.

It impacted 730,000 households and resulted in 1150 calls to the DTT help line.

Source: Anacom website

Italy - DVB-T2 tuner mandated in all receivers as of 2015

The government has announced that as of 2015, all DTT receivers must include a tuner with the DVB-T2 standard.

This decision has been taken in order to ensure sufficient capacity for the DTT platform given the need to share frequencies in the UHF band with mobile broadband services. Already, the 800 MHz band has been allocated to mobile broadband services and it is expected that the 700 MHz band will be similarly allocated after 2015.

Source: Broadband TV News

United Kingdom - 10.8 million DTT households

According to Freeview, the free-to-air DTT promotions organization, 10.8 million households rely on the DTT platform for their primary television reception.

In addition, Freeview is available in more than 20 million households. The free-to-air DTT platform, Freeview HD, is watched in 2.1 million households.

Source: advanced-television.com

Spain - EC opens investigation on compensation to DTT broadcasters

The European Commission (EC) has opened an in-depth investigation to examine the compensation given to broadcaster on the DTT platform as part of the plan to make the 800 MHz band available for mobile broadband services.

The compensation has been given to broadcasters for the extra cost of simulcasting services as part of the process to clear out broadcast services in the 800 MHz band. Broadcasters are required to simultaneously transmit services on two frequencies for a transitional period of 6-24 months, while viewers change their reception infrastructure.

Source: EC website

United Kingdom - Cambridge white space trial successfully concluded

The Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium has concluded its 10 month trial of various applications utilizing television white spaces.

The trial took place in the urban and rural areas around Cambridge, England. In these areas, 20 frequency channels (160 MHz) were available, of which the communications regulator Ofcom allowed the consortium to use 13 channels (104 megahertz).

Source: Microsoft website

New Zealand - Launch of DVB-T2 standard for pay services

The broadcast network operator KORDIA has announced that it is building a DVB-T2 platform.

This platform will offer pay television services and will be operated by IGLOO. It is expected to launch in the first half of 2012.

Source: Kordia website

Germany - DVB-T tender in Hamburg / Schleswig-Holstein

The media authority for the Land of Hamburg / Schleswig-Holstein, MA HSH, has announced the opening of a tender for a license on the DTT platform.

The license will be allocated for a new television programme service to be transmitted 24 hours per day. The capacity for this new service is made possible by a change in the modulation used and an increase in the transmitting power levels.

Source: MA HSH website

Australia - 3D/DTT trial confirmed during Summer Olympics

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has agreed to issue a trial 3D/DTT license to the commercial broadcaster Nine Networks.

Nine Network plans to provide daily highlights of the Summer Olympic Games in 3D on the DTT platform. The trial will commence on 16 July.

Source: ACMA website

Spain - Cuatro HD launches on DTT platform

Mediaset España has announced the launch of a new HD service on the DTT platform.

Cuatro HD has launched as a trial service but is available to households with a appropriate DTT receiver. The service uses the DVB-T / MPEG-4 AVC standards.

Source: Mediaset España website