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services market television european

Ioannis P. Chochliouros
Hellenic Telecommunications Organization S.A. (OTE), Greece

Anastasia S. Spiliopoulou-Chochliourou
Hellenic Telecommunications Organization S.A. (OTE), Greece

George K. Lalopoulos
Hellenic Telecommunications Organization S.A. (OTE), Greece


The topic of Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) applications (including both infrastructures and services) is a very broad one. It encompasses not only the transmission and distribution of television-program material in digital format over various media, but also a range of related features designed to exploit the capabilities of all possible underlying technologies. Within a fully converged environment, DVB can contribute to the effective penetration and adoption of a variety of enhanced multimedia services (Fenger & Elwood-Smith, 2000) based on various forms and types of content (with major emphasis given to the audiovisual sector; European Commission, 1999). Moreover, DVB intends to support optimized solutions for different communications platforms. Europe has adopted DVB for use across all relevant technical platforms. In fact, Europe has the highest density of TV homes in the world and is leading the deployment of digital TV (European Commission, 2003a) through DVB. The focus provided by a common set of technical standards and specifications throughout the European Union (EU) has given a market advantage and spurred the deployment of digital television services. Market expansion will be determined by the rate at which broadcasters are enabled to develop services and by the cost of Set-Top Boxes (STBs) or integrated television equipment.

Current European policies have provided a market advantage and accelerated the development and deployment of modern applications based upon specific features of existing infrastructures, also taking into account the needs of the European citizens with those of the media, telecommunications, and equipment industries (European Commission, 2002).

In particular, as for the European framework, all applicable technical specifications for digital broadcasting are currently promoted under the scope of the DVB Project. Those specifications are then offered for standardization to the relevant standards body, that is, ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and/or CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization): The latter deals with the consumer equipment aspects while the former with all other aspects.


The DVB Project (officially formed in September 1993) is a market-led consortium of public- and private-sector organizations in the television industry, comprising over 300 broadcasters, manufacturers, network operators, software developers, and regulatory bodies from more than 35 countries worldwide who are committed to designing global technical standards for the delivery of digital television. Its aim is to establish the framework for the introduction of MPEG-2-(Moving Pictures Experts Group-2) based digital television services. All promoted works foster market-led systems, which meet the real needs and economic circumstances of the consumer electronics and broadcast industry (Reimers, 2000).

In the course of recent years, a considerable list of specifications has been developed very successfully;these can be used for broadcasting all kinds of data as well as sound, accompanied by possible types of auxiliary information. Some of the specifications aim at the installation of appropriate bidirectional communication channels via the exploitation of existing networks (Nera Broadband Satellite, 2002). Due to the huge complexity of the surrounding “environment”, different factors have to be taken into account when planning services or equipment. However, the aim is the creation of a coordinated digital broadcast market for all service delivery media. The Project is not a regulator or “government-driven” (top-down) initiative. Working with tight timescales and strict market requirements, the project intends to achieve considerable economy of scale, which in turn ensures that, toward the expected transformation of the industry to digital technologies, broadcasters, manufacturers, and, ultimately, the viewing public will benefit.

The work does not intend to specify an interaction channel solution associated to each broadcast system, especially because the interoperability of different delivery media is desirable. Therefore, any potential solution for the interaction channel applies to satellite DVB (DVB-S), Cable DVB (DVB-C), Terrestrial DVB (DVB-T), Master Antenna Television (MATV), Satellite Master Antenna Television (SMATV), Microwave or MMDS (Multi-Channel Multipoint Distribution Systems) DVB (DVB-MS/MC), or any future DVB broadcasting or distribution system.

As a consequence, progress realized up to now has developed a complete family of interrelated television systems for all possible transmission media at all quality levels (from standard definition to high definition, including the enhanced definition 16/9 format currently being widely deployed in Europe). The standards also cover a range of tools (Valkenburg & Middleton, 2001) for added-value services such as pay-per-view, interactive TV (i-TV), data broadcasting, and high-speed, “always-on” Internet access.


The fundamental features of DVB systems can be considered as: openness, interoperability, flexibility, market-led nature, and innovative nature.


DVB systems are developed through consensus in the standardization working groups to implement innovative features conformant to user requirements. Once standards have been published through the procedures of ETSI, these are available at a nominal cost for anyone at the global level. In fact, open standards provide the manufacturers an opportunity to freely implement innovative and value-added services independently of the kind of the underlying technology (Reimers, 2000).


Because the reference standards are open, all manufacturers deploying compliant systems are able to guarantee that their equipment will interwork with other similar equipment. As standards are designed with a maximum amount of commonality and based on the common MPEG-2 coding system, they may be effortlessly carried from one medium to another to minimize development and receiver costs; in particular, such a perspective provides a significant advantage as it offers opportunities for simple, transparent, and effective signal distribution in various technical platforms. DVB signals can move easily and inexpensively from one transmission and reception means to another with minimum processing, thus promoting convergence and technological neutrality.


Interfacing is the key to interoperability (European Commission, 2003a), and DVB has established a detailed set of professional and consumer receiver-interface specifications to ensure that head-end equipment can originate from different sources and can be used without limitations in the markets, thus promoting options for competition and growth.

The related specifications include interfaces to Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy (PDH) and Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) networks, as well as for CATV (Community Antenna Television) and SMATV head-ends and similar professional equipment. Such interfaces support compatibility options and provide assurance that consumer equipment can be adequately connected to future in-home digital networks.


The use of MPEG-2 packets as “data containers” (ETSI, 2004b; also considering the relevant SI for their identification) provides major benefits: DVB can deliver to the home almost all forms of digital information (i.e., from “traditional” TV programs to multimedia and interactive services). The option for flexibility may take into account existing differences in priorities between operators regarding capacity (e.g., number of channels and quality) and coverage, as well as probable differences in receiving conditions. It is evident that flexibility can affect very strongly the market in multiple sectors (technical, commercial, financial, business, regulatory, etc.; Norcontel Ltd., 1997).

Market-Led Nature

Contrary to earlier, similar initiatives in Europe and the United States, works carried out within the wider DVB context intend to meet certain well-defined needs and some prescribed requirements as imposed by the market itself. Moreover, the fact of the “active” participation of a variety of market players originating from various sectors (e.g., industry manufacturers, network operators, service providers, broadcasters, etc.) can be a prerequisite to guarantee that the proposed solutions will be fully developed to satisfy both current market requirements and requests. In such a way, both businesses and citizens can have access to an inexpensive, world-class communications infrastructure and a wide range of (multimedia) services (UK’s Consumers’ Association, 2001).

Innovative Nature

Digital technology and the convergence of various media are going to introduce many more alternatives and special facilities besides the traditional one-to-many form of communication that we understand by “television” today. The convergence between telecommunications, broadcasting, and information technologies affects very drastically (European Commission, 2002, 2003a) the corresponding transmission and introduces revolutionary options for the markets. New services making use of the advanced features of digital (television) technology will present many-to-one, many-to-many, and one-to-one communication. In combination with an interactive return channel (using an interface to a mobile phone or a Personal Digital Assistant [PDA], for example), digital receivers will be able to offer users a variety of enhanced services, from simple interactive quiz shows to Internet over the air and a mix of television and Web-type content. High-quality mobile television reception (unachievable with existing analogue systems) is expected to be a reality in a short-term perspective.


Many of the service offers possible in the DVB world will require some form of enhanced interaction (Neale, Green, & Landovskis, 2001) between, for example, the end user and either the program provider or the network operator. This sort of “interaction” may consist of the transmission of just a few commands, but may be extremely extensive and thus resemble communication via the Internet (especially to distribute content and modern applications from electronic communications, such as broadband e-learning, e-health, e-entertainment, etc.). As innovation evolves, interactive TV has been identified as one of the key areas ideally suited to an entirely digital transmission system. DVB has developed comprehensive plans for such an introduction: The result is a set of specifications for interactive services and a series of network-specific specifications designed to suit the needs of the physical characteristics of the individual media (ETSI, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003a, 2004a, 2004b).

Other Aspects

In order to realize a meaningful approach for development, a number of parameters must also be considered. These may include, among others, the following.

  1. More enhanced safety and security options (especially if referred to activities such as electronic commerce or electronic transactions). Security can also cover other requirements to avoid damage to people or to installations in the surrounding area.
  2. Adequate RF-(Radio Frequency) performance options to provide a certain degree of Quality of Service (QoS). In the same context, particular emphasis will be given to avoiding any noise and/or interference effects probably produced by the surrounding environment.
  3. Control and Monitoring Functions (CMFs) to guarantee efficient overview of the entire system “entity” and of the services offered.

As work progresses continuously through the introduction of innovative applications, the next phase of DVB emphasizes upon the impact of digital television and the convergence effect in the home. The Multimedia Home Platform (MHP) is a specific example of such a revolutionary innovation (ETSI, 2003b) aiming to standardize the main software and hardware interfaces in the home. Based around a sort of Java Application Programming Interface (API), it provides an open environment for enhanced applications and services. The rewards for the industry are expected to be enormous and high. MHP is a tremendous opportunity to facilitate the passage from today’s vertical markets, using proprietary technologies, toward horizontal markets based on open standards to benefit consumers and market players (Digital Video Broadcasting, 2001). At the political level, the European Commission (2003b) has undertaken support for MHP implementation and results are expected to be encouraging in the near future.


DVB applications generally offer tremendous possibilities for (a) technical solutions suitable to respond to current and/or forthcoming commercial requirements, including a wide range of service options ranging from LDTV (Low Definition Television) to HDTV; (b) improved transmission and reception quality; © the flexibility to reconfigure the available data capacity between different service options (exchange between quality and quantity with related cost consequences); (d) innovative, interactive broad-band services originating from the wider information society sector; and (e) HDTV services when cost-effective and convenient equipment become available for the consumer.

To achieve the new potential benefits, positive steps should be taken to facilitate consumer choices as well as the migration to new applications. Such steps could include, among others: (a) attractive program offers plus new services aimed at a suitably defined audience (including specific service features that other transmission forms will not be able to offer); (b) the convenient introduction of appropriate digital receivers (also including set-top boxes) at appropriate prices; © the forwarding of new technology implementations able to satisfy new applications; and (d) the establishment and/or update of suitable European DVB-based standards to enforce the currently offered technical solutions.

The DVB option offers multiple technical aspects to specify a broadcasting and/or distribution system (as well as the corresponding interaction-channel solution) that should be suitable to promote any relevant applications. Within the DVB context, there is the possibility to consider various alternatives for different transmission media at all quality levels to cover a range of interactive services, data broadcasting, and so forth.

Simultaneously, user requirements outline market parameters for the selected system (i.e., price band, user functions, etc.), and they are used as guidelines for the technical specification process in order to maintain a practical perspective. The next step to be performed in the market, especially via the MHP, is expected to open new horizons for investment and growth.

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