Tuesday, 25 March 2014 02:55

Digital TV in Thailand - Think inside the box

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To stand out – stakeholders must think inside the set-top box To stand out – stakeholders must think inside the set-top box
As 24 new digital TV stations in Thailand are getting ready to broadcast digital TV, and the regulator is getting ready to auction digital radio licenses. Local and foreign set-top-box, television, mobile devices and in-car entertainment manufactures, are also ramping up their activities for the digital TV and Radio broadcasts.

Consumers buying patterns from markets who have already introduced DVB-T2 Set-Top Boxes or Televisions, shows a special buying pattern from consumers. At the launch of the Digital TV channels, a group of first-movers consisting of gadget lovers, home entertainment enthusiasts and people from or related industries (Television, IT, Media, and Advertising) will purchase a subscription or the Set-Top Boxes/Televisions.

However, the majority will wait to purchase to the last months before the analog signal is shutdown, which leaves a huge gap on the timeline between launch and analogue shutdown that needs to be explored to keep sales. To address the huge gap, it is necessary to think inside the box, and focus on solutions that brings value added service in order to cater to more segments.

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In this article, the ICT consultancy firm, Yozzo Company limited, in collaboration with the Danish company Open Channel, are sharing some of their results from trials and milestones. Open Channel is at the front of development and implementation regarding the latest features of Digital TV and Radio, and a focal point for testing future digital radio & television transmission and development of digital receiver devices.

 

Mobile TV with T2 Lite

In May 2010, as one of the first in Europe, Open Channel started DVB-T2 trials and again in March 2012 led the way as the first in the world to air the next generation of mobile TV, based on the new standard T2 Lite.

Originally, DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting - Handheld), was seen as the technology to superset the successful DVB-T and bring broadcast services to mobile handsets. In Thailand, a DVB-H demo transmission was held at MCOT on November 25, 2010 during a signing ceremony between IEC and MCOT.

DVB-H had various issues working against it from the start, e.g. the lack of handsets supporting the technology, however, the major problem was the lack of a business model for mobile-TV, as only few was willing to pay for the services, even with free trials the daily use was often just a few minutes. DVB-H was a commercial failure and the service is no longer on-air. Finland was the last country to switch-off DVB-H in March 2012.

Now, with the increasing popularity of smartphones with larger screens, iPads and other tablets, the demand for linear TV viewing on smaller screens has arrived. When people watch TV on a mobile phone or tablet today, it primarily happens through streaming via Wi-Fi or 3G/4G networks.

Fig 3 T2 Lite New DVB-T2 Profile

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Fig 4: T2 Lite Stand-alone

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Sh Jawhar Sircar addressing Seminar DVB T2 and T2 Lite Receiver

The challenge with the new mobile and tablet screens is that they have a screen size of 1080p or 2048x1536 (iPad). With the growing numbers of mobile phone and tablets in use, the bandwidth necessary for unicast mobile TV is a challenge for mobile operators - especially during major live TV events. Here, DVB-T2 Lite (optionally in combination with HEVC) provides an efficient new platform for broadcasting both SD and HD TV directly to mobile device as well as to TV sets.

HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) is a new standard, which is said to double the data compression ratio compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, at the same level of video quality. Thus, if an HD channel today encoded with MPEG4 AVC video standard has a bandwidth of 8 Mbit/s, then the HD channel, at the same resolution, but encoded with HEVC would potentially use only 4 Mbit/s.

In principle, everybody can upgrade his or her tablets and smartphones as HEVC is a software codec, however the ability to decompress the signal will depend on the processing power on the device and of course, a signal being broadcasted in HEVC. The combination of DVB-T2, T2 Lite and HEVC is ideal when a broadcaster wants to transmit HD to portable and mobile devices as well as to TV sets via rooftop antennas.

DVB-T2-lite with an upper bandwidth limit of 4 Mbit/s per. PLP (Physical Layer Pipe), in combination with HEVC, is able to provide high resolution (HD) channel, on both TV and mobile devices, without the need to broadcast one channel for TV and another channel for mobile devices.

Fig 1: H.265 HEVC compared to MPEG-2 and H.264/AVC

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Ericsson Tech Talk: High Efficiency Video Coding

 

Why go with DVB-T2 Lite for Digital Radio instead of DAB+

In 2011, Open Channel acquired a license for a digital radio (& Mobil TV) trial of DVB-T2 | T2 Lite on a so-called T-DAB frequency VHF channel 9D with a channel bandwidth of 1.7 MHz (MUXCPH-3). The service has been on air since June 2012.

The Digital Radio trial showed that DVB-T2 is not only suitable for mobile TV. It is highly suitable for digital radio in place of the old technology of DAB (1995) & DAB+ (2007). DVB-T2 provides a 2.5 to 4 times increase in capacity compared to the DAB/DAB+ standard under the same broadcasting conditions. It is also better for indoor reception and less sensitive to impulse noise, as well as being better suited for in-car reception.

One of the main reasons we still hear a lot about DAB/DAB+ is because in northern Europe many of the broadcasters have invested heavy in DAB and as such, are very eager in building on top of this old technology. The DAB system was designed 20 years ago, and uses technologies that are outdated and inefficient today, and DAB actually delivers lower sound quality than FM. 

It is noticeable that no common international initiative exist regarding DAB+ as a replacement for AM / FM and after 20 years, DAB still hasn’t managed to gain noticeable market shares and devices sales except in a few countries. DAB is primarily a "European project" and other regions of the world have, or are sourcing for solutions, which suits their needs better.

Doordarshan, the Indian public service broadcaster has already seen the benefits and decided to use DVB-T2 | T2 Lite for Digital Radio Broadcasting instead of the DAB or DAB+. The Swedish Government has already committed to digital radio via DVB-T2 instead of DAB+, and ARD the German public service broadcaster has said that it is considering doing so too. Considering the large reduction in transmission costs, it allows relative to DAB+, it would be very surprising if DVB-T2 | T2 Lite did not end up being the main system for delivering digital radio in other countries as well.

From an end-consumer, perspective it makes a lot of sense too, as the consumer does not need to purchase additional devices to his home or car, but instead can use one system that can receive both Digital TV and Radio. 

DAB has a capacity of only 1.152 kbit/s. DAB+ also has 1.152 kbit/s minus 1/12, which is used for the extra error correction available in DAB+, this leaves DAB+ with a bit rate of 1.152 * 11/12 = 1.056 kbit/s.

An equivalent DVB-T2 transmitter with the same broadcasting strength and robustness would be able to transmit 3.612 Kbit/s, alternatively, if you decided to transmit only 1.056 kbit/s DVB-T2 could reduce the needed capacity 3 times with an equivalent reduction of the transmission costs.

DAB is as mentioned tied to MPEG-1 Audio Layer 2 (MP2), but DAB+ and DVB-T2 can transmit HE-AAC sound which uses less space and sounds a lot better. With HE-AAC, audio format a fair sound is available at 64 kbit/s. With DAB+, you have room for 16 HE-AAC music programs at 64 kbit/s, but with DVB-T2 Lite, you have room for 56 HE-AAC music programs at 64 kbit/s.

As example, the transmission costs of a DAB+ Radio channel in Denmark is THB 1,132,000 per year however, using DVB-T2 Lite instead, the costs per radio channel would be reduced to only THB 323,375 per year.

Fig 2: DVB-T2 versus DAB+ on a T-DAB frequency. By Kenneth Wenzel, Open Channel

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HbbTV one of the most exciting developments in broadcast today

Broadcasters are actively seeking ways to deliver value-added interactive services directly to the consumers. HbbTV (Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) is an international standard harmonizing broadcast and broadband delivery of value-added, on-demand services to consumers TVs and set-top boxes.

HbbTV enables the aggregation of traditional linear TV broadcasts with video delivered via both managed and unmanaged IP networks. This allows viewers to view broadcast television and internet video on their TVs, alongside a wide variety of services including EPG, catch-up TV, voting, polls & quizzes, interactive advertising, personalization, games, video-on-demand, shopping, social networking, and other HbbTV services.

HbbTV specifications is based on elements of existing standards and web technologies including the Open IPTV Forum, CEA, DVB, and W3C and relies on the AVC (H.264) codec for both standard and high-definition video, with either E-AC3 or HE-AAC for audio. Audio streaming services use either MP3 or HE-AAC.

The applications and services for HbbTV are based around technologies that will be more familiar to web developers including HTML5, CSS, Ajax and JavaScript, which makes it accessible to considerably more developers providing a solid opportunity to setup a local app developer community; this also limits the investment required by manufacturers to build compliant devices.

The latest version also enables content providers to protect DASH delivered content with potentially multiple DRM technologies based on the MPEG CENC specification, improving efficiency in markets where more than one DRM technology will be used.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) General Assembly has given its support to the HbbTV initiative and described the technology as "one of the most exciting developments in the media today". 

References:

Delays to Australian digital TV switch likely | Source: Cnet Australia | Writer: Randolph Ramsay | Published online: 28 September, 2005 | http://www.cnet.com.au/delays-to-australian-digital-tv-switch-likely-240057261.htm

Australia abandons 2008 switchover target | Source: DTG Digital TV Group | Writer: Lovelace Consulting | Published online: 28 September, 2005 | http://www.dtg.org.uk/news/news.php?id=1191

Digital set top boxes gather dust in shops as Kenyans slow in uptake | Media: Business Daily | Source: Xinhua | Published: January 31, 2013 | http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Corporate-News/-/539550/1680598/-/ylua3v/-/index.html

Danish world premiere of next generation DVB-T2 Lite | Source: TVEurope | Published online: 13 March 2012 | http://www.tvbeurope.com/theworkflownews-content/full/danish-world-premiere-of-next-generation-dvb-t2-lite/dm41#.Us7VgtLMXCE

DVB-H | Source: Wikipedia | http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVB-H

DVB-H mobile TV service set for Thailand | Source: Rapidtvnews Rose Major| Published: 29 November 2010 | http://www.rapidtvnews.com/index.php/201011299067/dvb-h-mobile-tv-service-set-for-thailand.html

On the Radio with DVB-T2 Lite | Source: DVB.org | Published online: 24 August, 2011 | http://www.dvb.org/news/on-the-radio-with-dvb-t2-lite

Plans for digital radio switchover are against the interest of consumers |By Steven Green | http://www.parliament.uk/documents/documents/upload/stevegreen.pdf

HbbTV | Hbbtv Organization | http://www.hbbtv.org/

 Part of this article was also published in “Engineering Journal of Thailand” | February 2014.

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Allan T. Rasmussen

Telecom specialist with a 25+ year track record in Telecom, Broadcasting and IT. Specialties: MVNO, MVNE, Media & Broadcasting, Mobile Devices, Emerging markets, ASEAN, Thailand, Laos

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