DVB World 2011 Diary

Peter Siebert, Executive Director DVB

Each year the digital broadcasting community meets at the DVB World Conference. This year’s DVB World brought together some 200 participants from around the world in spring-like Nice in order to learn firsthand about the latest developments by DVB, exchange ideas and thoughts, and meet with familiar colleagues once again.

The conference was opened in traditional manner by the DVB Chairman Phil Laven who informed the delegates on the latest in the worldwide success of DVB technology. Today, with well over 500 million DVB receivers in the market worldwide, DVB expects continued strong growth especially for terrestrial reception. This growth is driven by the conversion to digital and analog switch off. He also pointed out that, despite massive political pressure from their respective governments, DVB technology could successfully argue worldwide against the competing systems from Japan and Brazil (ISDB-T and SBTVD).

The Chairman’s presentation was followed by a keynote given by Veena Rawat who for many years was head of the Canadian Research Institute CRC (Canadian Research Council). In her speech, Ms Rawat talked about the competition from mobile operators to broadcasters in the use of UHF spectrum. She pointed out that, in contrast to the broadcasters, the telecom industry is represented with a strong lobby. The future will be determined by the coexistence of multiple distribution platforms, requiring the cooperation of telecommunications companies, broadcasters and the national regulatory authorities.

In the flagship sessions that followed, a number of interesting issues were raised. Alix Pryde (BBC) said that, despite testimony to the contrary, classic television programming remains the main medium for the majority of households. TV is blooming, she argued, with new services like 3D, HD, connected TV, and push VoD.

The combination of bi-directional broadband and broadcasting distribution can offer customers a variety of new services. 

Gerhard Patrick brought conference delegates up to date on the situation in South Africa. South Africa had decided officially in 2005 to opt for DVB-T, therefore in 2010 it was a surprise to all interested parties that the government decided to reopen talks about the new standard for terrestrial television. Under pressure from Brazil and Japan, the Brazilian / Japanese solution was studied as another option for the region. After lengthy and sometimes heated discussions, it was ultimately recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SDAC) that DVB-T2 should be adopted as a common standard for the region. This recommendation has been adopted now by both the Republic of South Africa and Mozambique. In his presentation, Mr Patrik focused on the social significance of digital TV, and showed that the success of this new medium clearly depends on the strategy for the cost-effective introduction and availability of receivers. 

The cost of a DVB receiver is largely dependent on the chips used and Steve Beck from Sony informed the audience about the state of development of integrated circuits for DVB-C2 and DVB-T2. He stressed in particular that the similarity of the two supports the development of combined C2/T2 chips. 

Janet West (ecoSkills Zone) reminded the audience that the planet’s resources are finite. Both the telecommunications and broadcasting communities, she said, should ensure that energy requirements are handled as efficiently as possible. Digital broadcasting standards are an important step in this direction. 

The last presentation of the Flagship session is traditionally given by a representative of the host country. Jean-Pierre Lacotte of the French HD Forum posed the slightly ironic question of “How can you broadcast to a country with 256 different kinds of cheese?” In France, the terrestrial platform currently broadcasts free services in SD MPEG-2, and pay TV services in SD and HD H.264. For the future, the current SD services will be completely replaced by HD services in 2015. France also has specific plans for a broadband and broadcast combination and is utilizing the HbbTV standard. 

The first day concluded with a delegates’ dinner that gave ample opportunity for exchanging views, maintaining old contacts and establishing new contacts.

The morning of the second day focused on the current status of implementation of the DVB technology. Under the expert chairmanship of Prof. Ulrich Reimers, the speakers reported on the position of the second generation of DVB standards. 

DVB-S2 has proved successful in the market and is also increasingly used outside the broadcast area as in the bidirectional transmission of IP. 

After the successful launch of DVB-T2 in the UK, Sweden and Finland, Serbia will soon start, broadcasting DVB-T2. Serbia will use DVB-T2 with H.264 coding. 

The new cable standard DVB-C2 is close to market introduction. Transmitting and receiving equipment will very soon be available, in particular cable operators in Germany see DVB-C2 as the solution to the looming bottlenecks in their networks. 

Another important element for the transmission of HD signals is a sufficiently secure encryption of high-value content. With the new encryption algorithm CSA3, DVB offers a future-proof solution. 

The latest of the DVB standards currently forging ahead is the second generation of satellite-based return channel, DVB-RCS2. This standard provides a complete, standardized solution for interactive data transmission via satellite.

Mobile television was hotly debated in the afternoon of the second day. Compared to the discussions of mobile TV a few years ago, there are now additional devices such as tablet PCs and smartphones that can potentially be used for mobile reception. Within DVB, a group of experts is working on new transmission method for mobile devices. An overview from the experts on the state of play and current conditions for mobile TV was provided. This was followed by details of the new DVB standard for handheld devices that is in the first phase of development and will be based on the DVB-T2 specification. Phase 2 is to be done in close cooperation with the mobile phone community. The goal is to find a technical solution for worldwide deployment of mobile television with the cooperation of the standardization body for mobile communications (3GPP). The first exploratory talks between DVB and 3GPP are being held on this topic. The discussion with 3GPP is still at a very early stage and there are no concrete results as yet.

Mark Richer, president of the U.S. standards body for DTT (ATSC) reported on the status of mobile TV in North America. Initial studies have shown that a variety of different platforms such as reception on tablets or mobile reception in cars are important criteria for success. For the content, the main interest lies with local news. A large number of receivers are available and the future will tell how this new service is accepted by the consumer. 

Further presentations were dedicated to the question as to why mobile TV has not been successful so far and how to earn money with this new service. A major problem in the past was that everybody was too confident of its success and created no special incentives for the users of the new technology. New business models need these incentives through additional services such as time shifting.

In the discussion that followed, led by Phil Laven, Mark Richer and representatives from Panasonic, Alcatel-Lucent and Orange exchanged views on the future of mobile TV. A number of possible success factors were specified by the participants, such as hybrid services and compelling content. 

The last day of the conference was devoted to the outlook for the future. Ultra High-Definition Television (UHDTV) could one day immerse us in an experience of the feeling of being right there. The necessary parameters for UHDTV are to be set by the ITU. Current discussions focus on two UHDTV formats: UHDTV1 with 4 times HDTV resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) and UDTV2 with 8 times HDTV resolution (7860 X 4320). An open point is of course the question of what extent the current transmission scheme could be used for UHDTV data rates. One potential solution to this could be the transmission of television signals as IPTV over fiber. The use of telecommunication networks for video content raises a variety of issues. Who in the era of the flat rate will bear the cost of infrastructure for a constantly growing volume of data? Can we in the future afford “Net Neutrality” or do we need new payment models for data transmission? Which new services will IPTV bring us? 

3DTV was another exciting topic. DVB has just published the basic standards for signaling and the presentation of subtitles for the 3D format. In addition to television, the computer games industry is also an important promoter for 3D. More and more games are now supplied in a 3D version. The third dimension provides the player with completely new possibilities for special effects and a more intense gaming experience. A majority of the audience was convinced that in 5 years 3D will be an integral part of our viewing experience.

In his conclusion speech Phil Laven picked up again on the most important topics of the conference: How successful will mobile TV be in the future and will the tablet PC become the new business model? Will 3DTV become generally accepted or is it just a modern phenomenon? Perhaps we will know even more by the next DVB World Conference in 2012.