Monday, February 6

DTT broadcasts in 4K are still not arriving. Now the DVB-I standard wants to fix it

It is 2022 and we continue with a DTT without 4K broadcasts. If there are, yes, but above all in test mode: no chain offers such broadcasts, and the problem is in the DVB-T technology itself that DTT uses. An alternative has been in the works for a long time: it is the DVB-I standard, a particularly promising option that proposes a hybrid solution that in fact is already beginning to be implemented.

Why don’t we have 4K on our DTT channels?. The reality is that our DTT is perfectly capable of offering 4K broadcasts thanks to the DVB-T standard, but the problem is that doing so would have to reduce the number of channels that could be broadcast: the bandwidth that a 4K channel would occupy would be which now occupy four channels in high definition. By the way: this year they will stop broadcasting standard definition channels.

DVB-T2 is the natural evolution. It is therefore an expensive option for those who broadcast content and for users, and in fact there was a proposal to offer an evolution of that standard. This is DVB-T2, the second generation of the standard that would offer greater transmission capacity —that is, more room for maneuver and, theoretically, 4K broadcasts— and a more modern codec.

The problem? That users would need a new independent decoder or television with support for such broadcasts (the recent ones are). It is a possibility for the future and the natural evolution of current DTT: we would continue to watch TV thanks to the antenna and the antenna socket of our television sets. But beware, because it is not the only one, far from it, and in fact there are those who are committed to a future in which we will see it on TV via 5G connections. However, there is an even more striking option.

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DVB-I: what is it, and what are its advantages and disadvantages

DVB-I and the hybrid DTT-IPTV model. The alternative is the DVB-I standard, a striking proposal because it mixes current DTT with Internet television (IPTV). Our Smart TVs are almost always connected to the internet, and this system would allow us to access DTT and IPTV channels in a transparent way: the user would not have to know if the channel is broadcast over the antenna or over the internet, and it is the receiver that takes care of everything.

In the end, the operation is identical to that of current DTT, but thanks to the features of DVB-I we could access 4K broadcasts that would be broadcast in 4K over the internet, thus leaving DTT for conventional HD channels, which would be mixed with those channels with full or partial broadcasts in 4K.

There are other advantages to the DVB-I standard. The IPTV philosophy has been used for some time by independent platforms and by national channels —RTVE has RTVE Play, for example, and the rest of the big networks have similar proposals—, and with it, not only is it possible to enjoy live broadcasts, but on-demand programming that one can also enjoy not only on television, but also on the computer, tablet or mobile.

A future without DTT? This system could in fact be a way to make a transition towards the full adoption of Internet TV as a model for the future. This would pose the obsolescence of DTT technology, and in turn the spectrum bands that could be used to strengthen mobile connectivity could be freed up.

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Mediaset starts tests in Italy. This company has already been carrying out tests with DVB-I technology for two years, and now they have announced the third preliminary phase in which they will collaborate with manufacturers such as LG. If all goes well, Mediaset is expected to start the first commercial tests in 2023, and if this proposal is successful, it would open the doors to its implementation in other markets.

That could take time, of course: even if our TVs are connected to the internet, we’d probably need a software update. Without counting the mandatory approval of the regulatory entities, which must validate all this deployment to avoid problems and incompatibilities.

Image | Nicholas J Leclerq

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