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What's new for DVB-H? Recently, a number of international technology companies submitted technology proposals for the next generation of digital video broadcasting-handheld (DVB-H) systems for delivering TV to mobile devices, and a team of technology experts is about half way through the process of sorting through them. Mike Feazel finds out more.

The goal is to create a DVB next-generation hand-held (NGH) standard that could enter service as early as 2013, says Dr Peter Siebert, executive director of the Geneva-based DVB Project. TV companies want DVB-NGH to be more robust than DVB-H, able to reliably deliver TV signals even deep indoors, be able to carry 50% more content per MHz of frequency, be able to be delivered by satellite to areas where there is no cellular reception, and has two-way capability to allow interactive content. And, with all of that, they want it to be cheaper to build and operate.

Another question is whether there is a good business case for replacing DVB-H.

"There are still questions concerning the size of the initial investment required" for DVB-NGH, "and it is not yet fully demonstrated that income from live TV paid services will generate sufficient revenues to balance the overall economic equation", says a paper issued by French company TeamCast, a major partner in the ENGINES Eureka/Celtic team proposing DVB-NGH technology.

TeamCast suggests that the best way to make DVB-NGH commercially viable is to make it truly interactive, and able to support the latest-generation Web services, including social media.

"The business case is key to the success" of DVB-NGH, Dr Siebert acknowledges. But what the business case will be is up to the companies, he adds. The one goal is to allow fewer transmitters to serve a geographic area or number of subscribers, and "that should allow you to reach break-even easier", he observes.

Obviously, companies believe there is a potential for profit in DVB-NGH. About 30 companies, consortiums or groups submitted technology proposals by the February deadline, and there are often 50-60 attendees at meetings of the DVB working group evaluating the proposals.

Details about both the request for proposals and the proposals themselves are still confidential, but Dr Siebert acknowledges that firms like Samsung and LG are "very strong" players in the process. A representative from Panasonic chairs the working group, while Sony is known to be active, as are several universities and institutions.

Although Dr Siebert would not disclose the commercial and technical requirements in the request for proposals, the DVB group documents APB obtained say there are several commercial reasons for moving to next-generation mobile TV. These are:

1 Consumers are moving to interactive multimedia, from the straight linear TV that DVB-H delivers. There is a belief this will accelerate as tablet computing devices, such as iPad, with easy interactivity and larger screens become more dominant as a way to watch TV. Failure to offer interactive content could hobble mobile TV.

2 A surprising percentage of people want to watch TV indoors on their mobile devices, even while watching regular TV. DVB-H often does not do well indoors.

3 A growing number of people want to watch TV inside a fast-moving motor vehicle, often on a screen significantly larger than a mobile phone.

4 There is a need to cut costs by sharing telecom towers, reducing the number of transmit sites needed, and sharing spectrum and other means. DVB-NGH must accommodate those needs.

5 There is simply a need to deliver more channels of content than DVB-H can handle per MHz. The working group seeks at least a 50% increase. And DVB-NGH must allow significantly faster start-up and channel switching.

6 DVB-NGH supporters are also looking for other upgrades, such as the ability to support mass alert messaging services and to deliver content in varying definitions.

To meet these needs, the 20-page confidential Call for Technologies, which APB acquired, lists 40 different technical requirements, including: DVB-NGH must be configurable for either one-way or two-way operation; it must operate on either single-frequency or multi-frequency networks; it must offer low power consumption; it must receive signals in vehicles operating up to 350km per hour; it must co-exist with other broadcast and wireless systems and, if possible, provide less interference than DVB-H; it should operate on frequency bands III, IV and V, L-band and S-band, and at bandwidths from 1.7MHz to 20MHz; it must support both IP-based and TS-based upper-layer solutions, and include a satellite component; it should offer Quasi-Error-Free quality of service; and it must provide graceful degradation in fringe areas.

The working group is "now sorting through" the proposals to "choose the best combination for the standard", Dr Siebert says.

He acknowledges that the process is not easy at the technical working group level, as each participant is "there to promote his own ideas".




The technical working group, which works by consensus, hopes to complete work on the technical document by mid-summer 2011, Dr Siebert adds. That document will be submitted to the commercial working group, and then to the DVB steering board. He says those steps should move comparatively quickly. He expects final steering group approval by October 2011.

Then, DVB-NGH would go to international standards-setting bodies, starting with the European group ETSI, for approval as a formal standard.

The DVB Call for Technologies also tries to head off potential patent-related delays. It anticipates that intellectual property that is included in the standard will become part of a patent pool, and requires that those who submit ideas be open to at least the initial steps of setting up such pools.

DVB-NGH strictly deals with the physical, transport layer, Dr Siebert stresses. It does not deal with video- or audio-coding standards, and is expected to be able to carry any kind of video, audio or IP content. He reveals that the final version will probably include some technology from DVB-T2, such as its error correction, but it is too early to say specifically what will be included. "Ask me again in six months," he says.

Siebert adds that it is also too early to tell how much it will cost to build DVB-NGH networks or devices. "We have no real idea," he states. "It will probably be able to re-use some of the existing towers and such. But this is a really big grey area depending on how it's built out."

It is also too early to tell what content DVB-NGH will carry, but Dr Siebert notes that it potentially could carry just about anything, including 3D TV.
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Author:Feazel, Mike
Publication:APB Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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