DVB-I is a way of discovering services with a set of streaming protocols, enabling companies to happily stream their content. It is only limited by the pipe size into the home, and it unifies broadcasting’s one to many with one-to-one. George Jarrett reports on the current open trial of DVB-I being conducted by Italy’s top commercial broadcaster Mediaset.
Mediaset is about to commence a generously open market trial of DVB-I, starting in April. This is the third phase of a proof-of-concept trial that has been running for well over a year, but has, layer by layer, aimed to build a complete end-to-end DVB-I ecosystem, from TV sets from Philips, LG, and the Turkish OEM Vestel to a full set of HD IP channels with a DTT instance as fall-back.
The trial officially runs to June, but the Mediaset team see it evolving over time into a commercial launch for DVB-I consumer services.
Mediaset put up three of its DVB-I team - Marco Pellegrinato, RTI technology department, digital transformation, Stefano Braghieri, RTI technology department, digital transformation, plus the RTI deputy director of strategic marketing Alberto Bruno to discuss the trail and the progress so far.
DVB-I: Insurance against spectrum loss
Pellegrinato explained: “What we call a common profile of DVB-I is a collection of outcomes from our trials, and we share that CP with the German market trial from last year.
“We had to consider the possibility, after 2030, of a further reduction in spectrum at 600 Megahertz. This is why we consider the possibilities of opening DVB-I distribution in case we lose that spectrum,” he added. “That would mean we would reduce our multiplexing to one or two, and find another way to reach our users.”
Braghieri added: “We strongly believe in DVB-I with a regulated policy, and I am referring to the question of the Central Service Registry (CSR). We are working with the Italian regulator (AGCOM) on the way to protect broadcasting and use the same logical channel numbering, which is in place on DVB-I. Covering IP streaming over DVB-I is also important for Mediaset.”
The company wants to be a part of the early stages of DVB-I services, and also sees DTT lasting out for 10-15 years.
Bruno said: “We absolutely need DTT (DVB-T, not T2 yet at Mediaset) to give us coverage of the population. There is no infrastructure with the same reach to TV sets. About 85-87% of the time spent in front of a TV set is coming via DTT. Meanwhile 14% (and going down) is from satellite. Finally, you have IP.
“We do need to develop IP as a broadcast capable infrastructure, and we are betting on the fact that we can increase our capacity of reaching TV sets,” he added. “IP today is not yet ready to support massive linear broadcasting, so we are taking the time in advance not only to establish a very capable service using DVB-I, but also cooperating to produce a real diffusion infrastructure capable of providing real multicast broadcasting over IP to millions of concurrent users.”
DVB-I: Completely seamless
One important technical lab task was applying the proof of concept for synchronising the delays of IP and broadcasts.
“We tested everything that was needed to provide a seamless experience between broadcasts over DTT, and satellite, and IP. Our goal was to make the IP as an experience completely seamless compared to the other platforms,” said Bruno.
Another key element of the POC was the Centralised Service Registry.
“This is completely aligned with the DVB-I specification, and we had the third- party company Kineton provide that CSR,” said Braghieri.
When it came to DRM, with help from FINCONS, the team chose HbbTV 2.0.2.
“This is supported by DVB-I so we did not need to wait for the coming of any HbbTV specifications. That DRM is also standard for the broadband instance, and it proves that you can implement whichever DRM system you want because it is not inside the terminal,” said Braghieri. “There are a lot of topics we are working on in order to speed up the process to demo DRM protected channels.
“We received a strong demand from the marketing department to provide security and content protection for free channels over IP. From the very beginning that was one of the must dos in our POC,” he added. “We are ready to apply and conform with all the DRM features that are present on the TV set, so it is very clear for us that our DVB-I services will be very well protected.”
DVB-I: The commercial trial
Rivals and regionals and podcasters roll up, to Mediaset’s safe bet. Pellegrinato outlined the core mission: “Our strategy is to use DVB-I to recover completely the same rules that apply to the broadcaster over DVB-T. Fast channels could be regulated in the same manner that broadcasters have been regulated so far.”
Braghieri added: “TV sets will be sold in the market and they will be software enabled for the DVB trial. Users have to choose to be involved in the trial. The greatest difference to what we have in the POC is the possibility of testing that technology in the real world, in actual households.
“This is not in any way a Mediaset trial. We are providing four channels and want no conflict with other DTT channels because of having an actual unified user list that makes DTT and IP work together,” he added.
Pellegrinato said: “Our main objective is to make DVB Multicast the basis for the real exploitation of DVB-I. If we did lose some of that spectrum, the minor audience channels would be moved to IP, saving money but maybe reducing the richness. That is a balance we have to consider both ways.
“We expect a campaign in which broadcasters will inform users that they are providing DVB-I channels. Many legacy TV sets are quite capable of the computer power to adopt DVB-I software solutions, so the manufacturers could at least upgrade their latest model releases,” he added.
DVB-I: Regulator guidance
Bruno said that the formal end of the trial will morph into something much more ambitious.
“You will not understand when it ends, and becomes commercial, because it will grow as the TV sets get to the market. But to call it a commercial trial we have to be clear with the end users, who will see it as an experiment. The starting place is with 100,000 TV sets, but our aim is to eventually graduate to a soft launch that eventually becomes the commercial launch,” he said.
“One of the reasons why any market trial could fail, is if the regulator does not embrace the open standard. We tend to think that nothing happens if you don’t move. Then you have nothing to demonstrate to the regulator,” he added. “Pass to the regulator something that is already working; when we started with DTT we started by trialling it, and then we had the regulator jumping in.”
DVB-I: Extending knowledge to other nations
Not trialling DVB-I and not proving it is something real would not impress AGCOM.
“The real aim we have is in fact creating an open environment for any broadcasters, because broadcasting is an industry that has to modernise or it fails,” said Bruno.
Pellegrinato added: “Our revenues are not from the technology side. As a commercial broadcaster we try to maintain and grow our business, and have always considered open platforms to be vital. Standard open TV is our future, independent of the platform that provides our communication and takes our content to viewers.
“It is important to extend our knowledge to other countries. Spain seems interested, and maybe France too, and enlarging the number of trials will help the DVB target of making DVB-I as consistent as DVB-T has been this past 20 years,” he added. “Another big reason for our commercial trial to not be restricted relates legally to The HD Forum Italia, which has been in charge of the service aspects of Italian TV sets. This contact is specifically for the DVB-I profile.”