My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Broadcasting and Digital Switch Over - Back to the Future to compete with LIME TV

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Broadcasting and Digital Switch Over - Back to the Future to compete with LIME TV

Conquering, holding, daring venturing as we go the unknown ways,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Walt Whitman, Pioneers! O pioneers!

The wonder that is DTT (Digital Terrestrial Transmission) is soon to come to Jamaica by 2015, if the Broadcasting Commission gets their way as stated in the article “Timeline set for digital switchover; Broadcasting Commission, media group disagree on pace”, published Sunday November 21, 2010 by Mark Titus, Business Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Disagreements as suggested in the title mainly stem from the cost of the changing of Transmission equipment, estimated to cost US$100,000 per transmission site based on the utterances of President of the MAJ (Media Association of Jamaica) and Managing Director of the RJR Communications Group, Gary Allen (what a long title!!).

But alas, what are goldfishes to do against the Broadcasting Commissions Director Dr. Hopeton Dunn, after the National Steering Committee on Digital Switchover (DSO), which began discussing DSO (Digital Switch Over) since 2009 as stated in the article “Slow road to digital switch-over  - Cable groups mum; Flow ahead but network coverage behind”, published: Saturday  August 15, 2009 by Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner?

Worse, they are losing money as stated in the article “RJR's future profitability looks shaky”, published Wednesday, October 20, 2010, The Jamaica Observer and will soon lose advertisers too.

As soon as LIME TV come on stream as stated in the article “The people and ideas behind Mobile TV”, published Friday, November 12, 2010 BY EDWARD TAYLOR, The Jamaica Observer.

Thus I put it to you that the Big Three (3) Broadcasters may wish to themselves push the date up to 2012AD as I had postulated in my blog article entitled “Telecom Providers, 100MBps Broadband and the Broadcasting Commission - Redemption Song”.

This decision means that, depending on your pocket, a HDTV (High Definition Television) is definitely in your future as stated in the article “TV purchase alert: In the Digital Age, HD is king, says regulator”, published Sunday November 21, 2010 The Jamaica Gleaner.

Like it or not, as the Government of Jamaica is unlikely to wish to subsidize set-top boxes in order to assist the Media, their long time adversary, especially in light of their desire for “Media Independence” as the Government of Jamaica redistributes their allotted (or contracted?) time slots.

Now due to their insistence on “Media Independence”, the Broadcasting Commission has made it clear their intention to outlaw payola [bribing radio Disk Jockey’s], with the threat of hefty fines if caught as stated in the article “Broadcasting Commission wants payola a criminal offence”, published Saturday, November 13, 2010, The Jamaica Observer

Licenses for previously free-to-air broadcasters spectrum, both Radio and Television, to cover the cost of the work of the Broadcasting Commission as stated in the article “Radio, TV stations could soon be asked to pay licensing fee to regulator”, published Thursday November 11 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

A leaner and meaner Broadcasting Commission!

Now that it is all but confirmed that Telecom Provider LIME will be launching their DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld) Television service called LIME TV as stated in the article “The people and ideas behind Mobile TV”, published Friday, November 12, 2010 BY EDWARD TAYLOR, The Jamaica Observer, a European standard that supports mobility.

LIME TV, the name of Telecom Provider LIME’s service, will also be making On-Demand Television and the “TV-Anywhere” on Mobile handsets a reality as stated in the article “LIME goes Mobile TV”, published Saturday August 28th by Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner.

So putting the politics aside, what is DTT?

Does that mean that the Big Three (3) will have to accelerate their plans to roll out Digital Television or risk being cannibalized, as per Sir Charles Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” theorem in his controversial Theory of Evolution, especially as Telecom Provider LIME is working on an app/codec that will make LIME TV viewable on any smart phone, irregardless of Network Providers?

Looks like the perfect setup for the Big Three (3) Broadcasters launching early as per my blog article entitled “Telecom Providers, 100MBps Broadband and the Broadcasting Commission - Redemption Song”.

John Public puts on his Telecoms and Broadcasting Hat yet again, hopefully with a clearer explanation of what is essentially a very confusing field in Broadcasting: DTT.

DTT is basically the equivalent of 4G services for Broadcasting, as ironically the exact same criteria set by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) the Telecoms arm of the UN (United Nations):  Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM), effectively the same signal multiplexing inherent in WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access), a descendant of CDMA Networks and speed capability demonstrable in achieving 100MBps and higher.

There are five (5) families of DTT standards:

1.      DVB (Digital Video Broadcast) used mainly in Europe, Russia, India parts of Africa and Australia
2.      ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) is used chiefly in the United States of America and Canada
3.      ISDB (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting) is used chiefly in Japan and Latin America and DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) and its subsets CMMB (China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting)
4.      ADTB (Asynchronous Digital Terrestrial Broadcast) are used in the People’s Republic of China and South Korea.

Despite the long winded acronyms (wow!) all are orthogonal and 100MBps capable, have a Terrestrial (Fixed, Satellite or Cable) and Mobile (Handheld) subset of the basic protocol.

This is similar to WiMax which has Fixed (IEEE 802.16a) and Mobile (IEEE 802.16m) and use MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group) Layer 2 and Layer 4, AVC and AVS for encoding Video and MPEG Layer 3, AC-3, AAC and HE-AAC to encode Audio. Digital Terrestrial Television does away with the AM Modulated Video and FM modulate audio composite signal with the pilot synchronization signal used in the older composite analog NTSC (National Television Systems Committee) Standard.

A mountain of acronyms which amounts to a spectrally efficient system no different from streaming over a WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) Wireless Broadband Channel e.g. LTE (Long Term Evolution) or WiMax, the secret that Broadcasters wish no one to know, as they would lose money if hackers could figure out how to intercept and decode and record their digitally encrypted content.

Best of all, it is one common transmission Channel all of the Big Three (3) Broadcasters can use, as WCDMA uses QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) is interference limiting thus resulting in their sharing the same transmission Channel space (if so required) and resulting in the entire island just having one logical “Channel” for each broadcaster e.g. Channel 7 for Television Jamaica, Channel 8 for CVM TV. Television made simple.

However, unlike the Telecom World, the Broadcasting World, also controlled by the ITU, no matter what protocol or transmission schema is used, their market is more fickle. Thus jostling for who has the most “G’s” like the Telecom Providers is unimportant, merely ensuring that the Digital Signal effectively covers their assigned areas as effectively and interference-free as possible.

Because of its orthogonal nature, akin to 3G or 4G services of Telecoms Providers, it uses fewer spectrums as more Channels can be compressed into the same spectrum as a standard NTSC standard broadcast (approximately 6, assigned 1MHz within the 6MHZ Vestigial Composite Television Signal) and is cheaper to maintain after installation by the Broadcaster.

An additional side benefit to the Broadcasters and Telecoms Providers is the sale of their now soon-to-be-licensed spectrum to Telecom Providers and the possible sale of the “White” Space Frequencies in-between the NTSC standard broadcast Channels spectrum license free for the purpose of providing “Super” Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Networks as per my my blog article on the subject entitled “Telecoms and White Spaces - A Man for All Seasons and the Big Bang Theory”.

Even more interesting are the benefits for the viewers, benefits which they can see; cleaner clearer pictures requiring no fiddling with the antenna, as the receiver either can decode or not decode the Digital Carrier signal, showing a blue screen or “No Signal” if it cannot get the minimum signal level required for noises free decoding, an effect we Telecom’s people refer to as the “Cliff” Effect.

Additionally, the Channel changing will not be as instantaneous, a foible of the decoding process within the Television set, which takes up considerable processing power and thus seconds may elapse.

The viewer can be provisioned with interactive services, so called “Red Button” services as simple as Viewer Feedback to as complex as Video Calling, Broadband Internet, Online Banking Services and even Election Voting as stated in the article “Digital Terrestrial Television”, retrieved Monday November 22 2010 by Wikipedia.

This is similar to how Triple Play Provider FLOW plans to operate in the future, now bristling with their new 100MBps service as stated in the article “FLOW to bring 100Mbs to Jamaican homes”, published Saturday October 16 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

Thus viewers will appreciate the irony; that for a one off investment in a HDTV compliant Television Set or the purchase of a US$100 set-top box (at the time of writing, it is not yet clear what Technology will be used), viewers may be able to get Triple Play Provider FLOW-esque service without the cumbersome restriction of running cables.

Subscription Television was definitely not the way to go for the Big Three (3) Broadcasters, as that is dying, with viewers opting to keep their Triple Play Cable Service’s Broadband Internet and watch Television service over that medium.

Thus effectively ditching their “premium” Channel packages as opined by CNET News Reporter, Marguerite Reardon in the article “With Internet TV, cable wins even if it loses”, published October 29, 2010 4:00 AM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - Signal Strength.

Most likely, akin to Telecom Provider LIME’s soon to be launched Christmas service, LIME TV, the National Steering Committee on Digital Switchover (DSO) may opt to use DVB-H instead of ASTC, the standard for DTT that our American cousins use.

Simply because it would prevent Jamaicans from easily acquiring and hacking a ASTC Set-top box instead of legally purchasing one from affiliate partners with the Broadcasters e.g. Courts, Singer, as part of Digital Switch-Over, which will occur on one (1) day.

But best of all, it that it would allow the Broadcasting of premium content, such as just released movies, without fear of hackers being able to easily intercept and record content illegally for redistribution.

Thus the obvious is clear. National Steering Committee on Digital Switchover (DSO) plan to go DSO by 2015 is impractical. A better date is 2012, as in two (2) years, LIME TV will make the still Analog Big Three (3) Broadcasters unnecessary, as it will catch on.

Once the hardware, price and the option to use your own Mobile device to receive DVB-H broadcast irrespective of Telecom Provider is in place as per my blog article entitled “Telecom Providers, 100MBps Broadband and the Broadcasting Commission - Redemption Song”.

Even if one argues that people will be watching Television JamaicaCVM TV  and Love TV via the LIME TV Mobile and Set-top box service, the Analog facility will still be Broadcasting to Television sets that no one will be watching.

Instead, they’ll be opting to watch Triple Play Provider FLOW or use their Broadband Internet service to watch Television via their Apple iTV, Roku Box, Boxee box, SlingBox player or Google TV – or simply their LIME TV enabled Mobile smart phones.

TV Anywhere and On-Demand will rule Television for the foreseeable future. After all, why would Television Jamaica now start backing up their content in shielded servers online for later playback of their content?

Viewers, based on anecdotal information as well as information locally are going the route of “time shifting” by recording their programming on their DVR (Digital Video Recorders) for later viewing a trend that Triple Play Provider Comcast, which did the survey, expects to pick up as stated in the article “Survey of viewers shows extent of TV time shifting”, published Tuesday August 17 2010, 6:53 am ET by DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer, Yahoo! News.

A reality among viewers both in the United States of America, Jamaica and Latin America, as everyone, too busy to sit down and watch TV, can only watch Television when they have time, busy as bees working.

A case of the Big Three (3) Broadcasters going Back to the Future (1985) as per the movie in order to compete effectively with the coming of LIME TV which I may now call a game changer in Broadcasting.

Throw in Video Game playing over the LIME TV as a “Red Button” service and Analog is toast, as the Americans would say.

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