In the second of a two-part series, Contributing Editor Barry Flynn looks at European plans for a global TV standard
It is, on the face of it, surprising that when asked about the state of play of a possible future global DTT standard, the DVB should point interested parties in the direction of the FoBTV (see Part I).
For the European standards body has recently released the final version of its own report, A Long Term Vision for Terrestrial Broadcast, which directly addresses the issue. Looking out to 2030, this confirms, as previously reported, that in order to meet a combination of increased demand and reduced spectrum by that date, a new DTT standard is required that needs to be roughly 1.8 times as efficient as DVB-T2.
The report goes on to say: “It would be highly advantageous for the DVB to try to combine the introduction of a next generation Terrestrial Broadcast standard with (1) the possible convergence to a global Terrestrial Broadcast standard and (2) enabling the compatibility with mobile standards of such a global Terrestrial Broadcast standard; a valuable window of opportunity for the latter created by the on-going generation of the 5G standards.”
However, as mentioned in Part I of this report, the DVB is pessimistic about FoBTV providing a vehicle for such convergence. Moreover, whereas the need for a global standard was seen as pressing when FoBTV was created back in 2011, the DVB report argues that there is no “immediate need” to develop new standards because, in the short-term, “the required increase in efficiency can be achieved by more widespread adoption of DVB-T2 in combination with HEVC coding in the Terrestrial Broadcast networks.”
This implies that development and implementation of any new standards is only required from around 2020, the DVB concludes.
That said, the DVB report does make a number of recommendations about how a global standard could be engineered.
These include the suggestion that the next-generation version of the DVB terrestrial standard could be combined with the next release of ATSC after Version 3.0 to create a ‘Global Terrestrial Broadcast 1.0’ standard,” taking a leaf out of the FoBTV book; and that its development should go hand-in-hand with an evolution towards a “Common Broadcast System”, which would combine the use of cellular mobile networks (Low Tower, Low Power) with broadcast ones (High Tower, High Power).
Ideally, the latter development would involve co-operation between the mobile standards body 3GPP and the various regional broadcast standards development organisations (SDOs) such as DVB, ATSC, and ARIB, although the DVB report acknowledges that previous attempts to co-operate in this area have failed.
If this should prove a barrier again, “the latter organisations should build a global forum in order to design global standards in the future.”
This is clearly not a reference to the FoBTV”, which was set up only to develop requirements for global TV standards rather than to specify the standards itself. Yet invoking the creation of a new global standards entity may be premature. In a little-publicised move, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has itself recently become a member of 3GPP, demonstrating that there is already a degree of rapprochement between the two sides.
“We, the broadcast community, operated poorly in the definition of the 3GPP set of standards that constitute what one would loosely term 4G,” recognizes Peter MacAvock, Head of Delivery and Services, EBU Technology and Development. “And because we were not involved for one reason or another in that process, the resulting standards do not meet the requirements of the broadcast community at a number of levels.”
However, he points out, 5G, the next generation on from that, still remains to be defined. “For the purposes of convenience you can call it a mobile standard, but what it ends up being is very much yet to be determined,” he suggests. “We have chosen to become involved in the [5G] standards development process, not because we feel it’s going to be the future of broadcasting, because we don’t know what’s going to happen after 2025/2030, [but because] we are trying to ensure that standards that are developed now which may be deployed in that timeframe have at least cognisance of the broadcast community’s set of requirements.”
This doesn’t mean that the broadcast and mobile standards bodies are any closer to creating converged delivery standards, MacAvock emphasises. “The DVB Project will never develop a mobile telecommunications standard,” he asserts, referring to past failures such as the DVB-H and DVB-NGH standards for handheld devices. It can’t. It’s failed, it tried, and frankly a bi-directional standard is a silly thing to do, so let’s not bother. As a broadcaster, if I want to target a mobile device, I have every means possible for doing that. It’s called Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is becoming more not less ubiquitous in terms of these devices, and there are all kinds of initiatives out there run by broadcasters and others which will help in that area.”
Likewise, 3GPP “will never develop a broadcast standard, at least not within the current business paradigm, which is based on subscription services delivered with data caps,” declares MacAvock. “Frankly, the mobile industry is very quick in saying that they’re just not interested in broadcasting, because there’s no money in it, at least from their perspective.”
If MacAvock is right, then any co-operation between 3GPP and SDOs would (at best) be restricted to the development of DVB’s proposed “Common Broadcast System”, with convergence operating solely at the network infrastructure level. In other words, broadcasters and mobile operators might conceivably be able in the future to deliver services using each other’s networks, but they would still be using their own, distinct, (global) delivery standards.