Market Insight

DVB-I could enable television spectrum to be repurposed for 5G

November 26, 2019  | Subscribers Only

Stelios Kotakis Stelios Kotakis Senior Research Analyst, Service Provider Technology

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DVB, an international industry association developing standards for digital television, has approved the DVB-I specification service discovery and program information for linear TV services delivered via the internet. The specification enables the same content metadata delivered via DVB’s cable, DTT and satellite standards to be delivered via streamed video conforming to DVB-I. The consortium is targeting DVB World on March 9, 2020 for the first implementation case to be presented. 

Our Analysis

The DVB-I specification aims to create parity between streaming and broadcasting.  A full scale, all-IP delivery approach that is accessible to the traditional cable, DTT and satellite users of DVB standards can be achieved when DVB-I is combined with DVB-DASH streaming and the planned DVB-mABR specification supporting multicast adaptive bitrate. The organization has built a metadata specification with DVB-I which effectively allows all DVB standards to interoperate with each other through specified service lists and appear in a unified EPG on a client device. The device may then choose between accessing the content via an IP stream or broadcast signal if both are available.  

DVB-I could be a key enabler in the transition from broadcast to streaming.  It facilitates a single workflow for both, or a pathway to unifying siloed broadcast and streaming workflows for those broadcasters that have already deployed separate platforms and apps to address the streaming audience. It’s vital for advertising revenue that broadcasters migrate to streaming in-step with the audience. This transition could now take place with existing workflows and infrastructure without the need for setting up separate and siloed workflows to unlock the advanced features of IP delivery, something that was the norm for such endeavors to date. Many traditional broadcasters often need to rely on different platforms and applications that are not standardized and require a proprietary build, in their effort to reach niche and non-broadcast audiences. Utilization of DVB-I would provide them with a more efficient and more linear programming-oriented approach while at the same time unlocking the geographically dispersed niche audiences that streaming services are so adept at serving.  Moreover, by enabling channels to be distributed over IP without depending solely on apps and app stores, one could argue that DVB-I is the key to help operators and broadcasters with migrating the linear broadcast user experience from broadcast to IP channels on connected devices; beginning with low viewership channels and gradually moving to more popular channels as live streaming becomes more scalable. 

Parity between streaming and broadcasting paves the way for the eventual cessation of terrestrial broadcasting, and the repurposing of that spectrum for mobile communications.  One of the main objections to this is that specific parts of the population, typically the elderly and vulnerable, rely on free DTT in order to have access to TV services. DVB-I along with the complete ecosystem of DVB standards and IP delivery technologies can be used to overcome that obstacle. The terrestrial broadcasts could be replaced by streamed versions over 5G connections enabled by the repurposed spectrum, with a multitude of regulatory options available to make this freely available to specific population segments.  

Device manufacturer’s support of the protocol at a satisfying level will be critical for this endeavor’s success. The current landscape with existence of app aggregators such as Android TV, Roku, Vewd, Metrological and even proprietary platforms already making major streaming apps available on their devices, might cultivate the feeling that DVB-I is an unnecessary integration expense without it being a regulated requirement. Such an inherent issue thus shouldn’t be underestimated, and DVB plans to offer a DVB-I client available for free under an open source license to mitigate that risk. 


Research by Market
Mobile & Telecom
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