DVB World 2012 – Report

“Analog Off – DVB On” was the theme of this year’s DVB World conference in Rome referencing the upcoming switch-off of analog television in Europe. Representatives of the broadcasting world met to inform about the latest trends, exchange the latest news and network in the coffee breaks. In addition, several manufacturers used the opportunity to present their latest products to an interested professional audience. 

See all the DVB World 2012 pictures here.

Chairman of the DVB, Phil Laven, welcomed the delegates and pointed out the overwhelming success for the take up of DVB-T2, the second generation terrestrial standard. Today, more than 50 countries worldwide have already chosen the standard. He emphasized how the introduction of DVB-T2 in Russia and India will have a positive effect in the equipment market and further the economies of scale for those countries implementing the standard. He went on to say that the number of standards published by DVB reached new heights in 2011 with 38 specifications. 

After these introductory words, the keynote speaker, Dr. Dan Reed, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Technology Policy outlined his vision for the continued development of the internet. He spoke about how over the last 20 years we have become accustomed to email, the internet and mobile phones, and that we no longer can imagine a life without these. This trend will continue, although it should be noted that exponential growth cannot last forever. In this context, Dr. Reed pointed out that the sustained improvement in performance of integrated circuits, according to “Moore’s law”, could soon reach its limits. 

The second speaker of the day, Stefan Jenzowsky (Siemens), pointed to the rapid change in the broadcasting and telecommunications world. He spoke of how it was only six years ago that Skype was ridiculed by telephone providers as being just a website. Since then, Skype has evolved into a serious competitor! He forecasted a similar development for video services, for instance, where “over the top” (OTT) services could be delivered via the internet to the home. To receive these services only an app on a notebook or smartphone would be needed and a dedicated receiver would no longer be necessary. In his opinion the future belongs to smartphones and tablets (second screen) and services that are provided by OTT. 

Keeping to the theme of “Analog off – DVB On” Astra’s Wolfgang Elsaesser reported on the upcoming switch-off of analog transmissions via satellite. He pointed to the extraordinary success of the satellite platform in Germany, as well as to the challenge of transforming three million analog customers into digital viewers in just 16 months. 

Singapore’s Tan Sze Siang of the broadcasting regulator Media Development Authority (MDA) followed with details of the successful DVB-T2 field trial in Singapore. She highlighted the reception inside of buildings, as well as mobile applications. The results of the trial completely met the expectations and Singapore will soon introduce DVB-T2 for high-definition television in addition to the already existing DVB-T services. By 2020 the era of analog broadcasting will come to an end in Singapore. 

Mobile TV remains an important issue to many around the world. In his presentation on in-car digital TV reception Bertram Hock of BMW spoke of the importance of mobile television in various markets. In China, BMW is known as “Bao Ma” which translates from Chinese as “Noble horse”, which implies that cars are seen as status symbols and are regarded as second homes. Therefore televisions are offered as an option for all BMW cars sold in China. Critically, he pointed out the large number of television standards that BMW must support worldwide. Another problem is the long term development time in the automotive industry combined with the long life of a vehicle. Customers expect equipment to last for the lifetime of their vehicles, which can be for a period of up to 14-18 years. During this time it is quite possible that some TV standards might disappear and that screens would go blank; a nightmare for every car company. When looking to the year 2030, a globally harmonized TV standard is high on the wish list of the automotive industry. 

In South Africa, the transition from analog to digital television broadcasting is well underway with the construction of the transmitter network. A little more than a year ago the country chose DVB-T2, along with 14 other African countries. MultiChoice’s Gerhard Petrick outlined how the price of digital receivers and the cost of additional program content for the multichannel environment are particular challenges. The broadcasters have significantly lower financial resources compared to their counterparts in Europe. 

In Europe the scarcity of available spectrum is more of a problem. Lars Backlund of Teracom detailed how in Sweden about 60 terrestrial channels, nine of which are HD, are distributed via seven multiplexes. Broadcastors want to expand the number of HD channels, however, the question is how to do this with limited spectrum. Despite the spectral efficiency of DVB-T2 as the modulation method, as well as the use of H. 264 video compression, further HDTV services can only be provided if the spectrum available for terrestrial broadcasting is not further reduced. 

Although the second generation of DVB standards is a global success, this does not mean that the work of DVB is complete. A total of three presentations dealt with current developments within DVB. John Adam of Samsung offered up the latest position on CI plus. There are over 143 million television receivers with a CI plus interface in Europe. New features such as support for multiple tuners, new browser capabilities, as well as support for IPTV and OTT are being specified within DVB. There is also some thought being given to the introduction of a new form factor for the interface. The current trend for the flatness of TV devices is making it difficult for the integration of the traditional CI interface. 

Another important task within DVB is 3DTV. The Chair of the DVB-3DTV Commercial Module, David Wood of the EBU, reported on the current status of the 3DTV work being carried out by DVB. Phase 1 of the DVB specification for 3DTV has already been completed, and this solution is compatible with existing receivers but requires a 3D display. The Module is now looking at the necessary commercial requirements for the “service compatible” approach, where existing 2D receivers continue to receive a traditional image, while 3D capable devices can present the complete 3D. 

DVB World took a look at hybrid television and Dr. Klaus Illgner of the Institut für Rundfunktechnik (IRT), gave an overview on the current situation in Europe. The wide availability of broadband serves as a door opener for new services such as “Video on Demand” or special channels for sign language. Throughout Europe, several standards are being used. While Italy largely relies on the DVB MHP standard, HbbTV is playing an increasingly important role in other countries such as Germany and France. Overall, he sees hybrid television as an important complement to the existing broadcasting services. 

Marco Pelligrenato of Mediaset provided details on the status of MHP and DVB-GEM in Italy. More than 10 million MHP devices have been sold since the introduction of digital television. The latest receiver specification supports OTT based on MPEG DASH. The digital rights management platform Marlin ensures the necessary protection of content. One of the first applications the new specification supports is video on demand services. 

Another highlight of the conference in Rome was the panel discussion on the subject of the use of TV spectrum and the digital dividend. Much discussed was the surprising outcome from the latest World Radio Conference (WRC12). Unexpected by the world of broadcasting, the 700 MHz band will soon be used for mobile broadband and will no longer be available for terrestrial broadcasting. Digital television paved the way for the digital dividend and is to be made its first victim. This development puts the entire business model of terrestrial broadcasting in question!

In his presentation, Greg Bensberg from the UK regulator OFCOM pointed to the exponential growth of mobile data traffic. Therefore, making parts of the TV spectrum available for mobile broadband is essential for the ongoing business of mobile phone operators. In addition the available frequencies have to be used more efficiently! He explained that this could be done through the use of ‘White Space’ technology that takes advantage of unused frequencies in licensed bands such as the TV bands. Since the bands are licensed for another service the mobile terminal needs to receives from a database the permission to transmit together with the frequency and power to be used

Additional spectrum for the mobile operator is now necessary, argued also Thomas Konschak of Deutsche Telekom. Expected traffic requires the use of new technologies such as Long Term Evolution (LTE). In addition, he told the conference that the number of base stations must be increased and the available spectrum to be extended. The mobile operators are particularly interested in the current TV frequencies, because this spectral region is very well suited for broadband in rural areas.

Mark Richer of the ATSC argued for a global terrestrial television standard in his presentation “The Future of Broadcast Television: Global Collaboration”.His vision is a common terrestrial TV standard, which supports global mobile television in particular. In a first step, all the relevant standardization bodies such as ATSC (U.S.), NHK (Japan), NERC (China) as well as DVB and EBU have indicated support for a common technology. A new body (Future of Broadcast TV (FoBTV) has been setup to coordinate these activities.

While FoBTV eagerly plans for the future, other approaches are still at the research stage. Prof. Reimers from the Technical University Braunschweig presented his paper “Dynamic Broadcast”, a new idea for the optimization of broadcasting. This plan foresees that less popular items could be distributed over the broadband network allowing for the more efficient use of spectrum and the optimization of transmission costs. In a further step, all relevant TV programs could be stored locally in the receiver. This is easily made possible by 1 Tera Byte hard drives that are becoming widely available in the market. 

The subsequent panel discussion dealt with the subject of the efficient use of spectrum. Participants focused on the implementation and impact of the digital dividend. A particular criticism expressed was that only 1 MHz separated the distance between LTE and terrestrial TV reception. Obviously, it will be difficult to protect TV reception from interference. The use of additional filters can only partially solve the problem and is an unsatisfactory solution! To make matters worse, the use of the 700 MHz frequency range for mobile communications is expected to happen in just three years’ time. The unanimous conclusion was that new solutions for the use of the spectrum are necessary and that these solutions can and must be found jointly by the broadcasting and mobile communications industries.

The last day of the conference was devoted to the topic of energy consumption. Even if the total CO2 emissions caused by broadcasting only account for about 1-2% of the global production of greenhouse gases, there is still great potential for optimization. Naturally, the regulator plays an important role in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Adam Romanowski of the European Commission pointed to energy labels, as well as the guidelines from the EC authority. The energy labels help consumers choose energy-saving products and ensure that more energy-efficient products are offered on the market. The guidelines provide an agenda for the future development of products by manufacturers. 

A good overview of CO2 emissions from the wireless industry was presented by Albrecht Fehske from the Dresden University of Technology. He pointed out that the mobile sector as a whole produces less greenhouse gases than the broadcasting area. Nevertheless, the mobile operators must reduce the power consumption of their networks, because energy costs roughly correspond to the personnel costs. The good news is that it can be reduced through the use of the latest energy consumption technology even though the use of mobile networks continues to rise. 

Also, TV operators must reduce the energy consumption of their transmitters. Here DVB-T2 can make an important contribution. Stefan Wallner of Harris explained the relationship in his presentation on “Equipment for Green Broadcast”. DVB-T2 is more energy efficient with reduced data rates for the same network coverage. Furthermore the standard contains special mechanisms for reducing the peak power compared to the average transmission power. This allows the transmitter to operate more efficiently. 

75% of greenhouse gases caused by broadcasting are produced by the end user. In particular, the standby mode of the home devices and the general use of the TV contribute significantly to power consumption. Standby consumption can be reduced through cooperation with the chip manufacturers. Juan José Gavilán of ST Microelectronics pointed to the ongoing efforts and successes of the semiconductor industry to reduce power consumption. With standby power consumption below 0.5 watts, the latest set-top boxes meet the strict guidelines of the European Commission. Shutting down parts of the chip could allow for energy savings. Rudolf Eyberg of Panasonic explained very clearly the relationship between screen size, brightness, as well as number of pixels. With new technologies such as LED and LCD, power consumption is reduced drastically. A modern TV produces about 90 kg of CO2 in a year which compares to driving a car for three hours! 

The traditional closing comments were given once again by the DVB Chairman, Phil Laven. In his concluding remarks he summarized the most important conclusions of the conference such as how relevant is the user benefit provided by 3DTV compared to the transitions from black and white to color, or from SD to HD? Is there still enough spectrum for the introduction of new TV services? To what extent will LTE interfere with TV reception? Despite these challenges, he was optimistic in that the often predicted “death of television” is still a long way off. With this positive outlook, he closed the conference and invited all participants to attend again next year.