Native IP takes the DVB to the front line of video delivery, in the process giving the satellite companies a new commercial imperative. And using DVB-I as a service layer on top of 5G technologies is a second milestone, writes George Jarrett
Due for ratification as a technically-specified standard in the DVB January meeting cycle, the Native IP initiative promises a stack of benefits to video delivery. With fine-tuned contributions from the DVB ABR, DVB-I and DVB DASH groups, this file-based system opens the door for the industry to kiss goodbye to the MPEG transport stream, which is not tailored for IP devices.
Emily Dubs, DVB head of technology, started with the commercial requirement origins, which came from the DVB CM-S Satellite Group chaired by Thomas Wrede, MD of Technology Vision Consulting.
“The idea is to have a single platform for broadcast and delivery over the internet. The initiative came from the satellite guys, because their revenues are stagnating, and they have that large footprint,” she said. “There are some exciting opportunities for them in this new area of OTT.
“There are a lot of areas in many countries with not enough bandwidth to be able to stream over the internet, so having OTT channels through satellite would be very helpful,” she added. “People have been talking about getting rid of the TS format, for the long-term and for greenfield, but there will be a full Native IP solution based on GSE-Lite, plus a backward compatible version to sustain the MPEG-2 TS format.”
Signalling wise, Native IP re-uses most of what users see in DVB-I.
“One of the decisions that was quite important was the signalling side. There will be no modification needed on the DVB-I spec. The capabilities will evolve with the evolution of DVB-I. And when the HLS format is allowed in DVB, Native IP will benefit from that,” said Dubs.
“In terms of EPG there will be the DVB-I EPG for the connected use cases, where the devices are able to be the EPG through the Internet. Otherwise, we will have some more simple broadcast EPGs, without logos.”
“We chose GSE, compared for instance to ALP, which is the link used for ASTSC 3.0. One of the reasons is that it will allow an easy transportation across the three physical layers, or mainly the two. We want that solution to be network agnostic, and using GSE will quickly simplify this,” she added. “If we had used something different like ALP, we would have had different implementations regarding the physical network.”
Until the very last mile
When it comes to the multicast protocol, Native IP will rely on DVB DASH.
“The multicast protocol was vital. From unicast to multicast it is important to be scalable and to have a constant bit rate whatever the number of watching users is. Until the very last mile you will have a flat bandwidth over broadcast, which indeed is very crucial,” said Dubs.
For encapsulation into multicast the DVB has yet to select between protocols. “For this purpose, we will use either the Flute or Route protocol. It will only be one of them,” said Dubs.
“It is a complimentary standard to several others, and in the long term an ideal way of using it is to have the most popular content using satellite distribution and the niche channels running via the internet,” she added.
“If you have a Native IP gateway on your mobile phone it will check if a channel is available through the IP gateway for satellite, and if that is assured it will take it from there instead of the internet. This is one of the things that makes it quite useful.”
Being file-based, extra capabilities will come. “Anything that you can transmit for the internet could be transmitted using this technology. You can deliver files, VOD in the mid-term, and regarding functionality I would like to see dynamic application: the stream could be dynamically routed either through satellite or the internet. Manufacturers are already thinking about these sorts of things. But what is coming next will be to do with content protection,” said Dubs.
“There will be no modification needed on the DVB-I spec. The capabilities will evolve with the evolution of DVB-I. And when the HLS format is allowed in DVB, Native IP will benefit from that,” Emily Dubs
“Today we use the DRM to protect the content over satellite, but of course it requires an internet connection, even if it is very small bandwidth. We need a very particular protection mechanism here, and this will come in the next version of the spec,” she added. “There is a momentum, and there is a need for a standard, and Native IP is at the heart of different technologies.”
There are already a number of deployments of this solution, including Astro, a pay-TV provider in Malaysia.
“They are struggling due to the lack of the finished standard but it shows that there is a need, and for this reason we will have the MPE just to be able to transport OTT through regular MPEG-2 TS formats. We made the two decisions, for ensuring the backward compatibility and the use of GSE-Lite for the full Native IP solution,” said Dubs.
Native IP will span from multiscreen consumption of paid video content at home, through to applications like e-learning.
“Actually, it works in any public venues, for instance where you have to wait. You go to the doctor and wait. In Africa you wait for taxis for hours at a time. And then there are trains. People waiting get aggressive, so if you had the possibility to entertain them, they would become less aggressive,” said Dubs.
“An idea that one deployment is trying to already implement concerns Latin America. People do very long journeys by bus, taking many hours, and travelling through many rural areas with no connectivity to stream anything to mobile phones,” she added. “In these cases, the satellite dish can be an excellent option. Dishes are getting cheaper, and there are now flat and micro antennas that are easy to rotate for a bus to receive satellite OTT services. Receiving the Internet over satellite is more complex, and it needs more accuracy with the dish.”
Another early use case of Native IP concerns hotel groups and OTT.
“Internet subscriptions are quite expensive and at times hotel guests are all streaming at the same time. The instead option is OTT via satellite, because the costs are much more attractive even pre-standard,” said Dubs. “The target for agreeing the standard is very challenging because the Native IP working group in the technical module is still gathering contributions from the different DVB contributing groups. They will be fine-tuning the overall document.”
Ideas for the use of DVB-I as a service layer on top of upcoming 5G technologies were built on study work that identified 5G Unicast, 5G Broadcast, and 5G Fixed Wireless Access as headline interests.
DVB Chairman Peter MacAvock said: “The idea is to use 5G in any way we can. We are focused on adapting the DVB work to what’s going on in 3GPP Release 16. We will take the core spec and bolt DVB-I into that.
“We have set up a task force between 5G-MAG and appropriate experts in DVB. 5G-MAG has done interesting work on reference tools for media in 5G, which we are going to try and use. The hope is that within a few months we will get any necessary adaptations of the DVB spec to make DVB-I bolt onto that 3GPP work,” he added.
DVB-I works with fixed broadband networks, broadcast networks, and wireless broadband networks.
“You could deliver the content of a DVB-I service over any type of network. This is the proposition, and we are just filling in the gaps,” said MacAvock. The 5G and Native IP initiatives are about making the DVB Project an Internet centric organisation rather than a broadcast centric organisation.”