DVB Embarks on Standardization Projects for 3-D Television and OTT

Industry body the Digital Video Broadcasting Project (DVB) is to develop a set of technical standards for the distribution of three-dimensional video to the television set and the delivery of television content over the open Internet. The organization's steering board last week gave the go-ahead for work to commence on the two standardization projects.

Working groups will now start to set out commercial requirements for both technologies, with work on technical specifications to start shortly after that. The DVB expects to have a 3-D television specification ready in 12 to 18 months' time, with the standards for its broadcast Internet project expected somewhat earlier, in 2010.

Interest in three-dimensional television has grown in recent times and DVB director Peter Siebert said that there was now a "general consensus" among DVB members that 3-D television was an important issue for the future.

"You can argue about when it will come, but it is definitely coming," he said.

In the UK, pay-television operator BSkyB has already announced that it will launch a commercial 3-D television service toward the end of 2010, which will run over the operators' existing high-definition set-top boxes. At the same time, the growing importance of 3-D television for operators' and broadcasters' strategies has prompted calls for industry to agree on common technology standards.

Earlier this year, David Wood, head of new technology of the European Broadcasters' Union, warned that up-and-coming technologies like 3-D television stood little chance of success if Europe's audiovisual industry failed to find compromises and descended into a standards "Wild West".

Siebert said that although standards for displays and the production of 3-D television content were still some way off from being agreed by the industry, the "bit in the middle" that the DVB would work on - the distribution of 3-D content to the television - was less controversial and ready to be standardized. The DVB's 3-D project will focus on "first generation", that is stereoscopic, systems for 3-D television rather than multiview or holographic technologies.

On the "over the top" side, the DVB will work on defining the "architecture" for a "broadcast Internet" system that distributes television content over the open Internet.

"The problem with the Internet is that it is designed for point-to-point traffic," said Siebert. "If you apply that model to broadcasting, it means that every user who watches television over the Internet has, in effect, a separate connection into the studio. That kind of model requires enormous investment from the broadcasters and the network operators.

"The idea is to develop an architecture that makes use of the Internet's infrastructure but, at the same, allows for a more efficient transmission to the end consumer."

Siebert said that the DVB's decision to become involved in standardizing broadcast Internet technologies had been informed by two main factors: the increasing availability of high-speed Internet across Europe - championed by broadband policies such as the UK's Digital Britain agenda and France Numerique 2012 in France - and the fact that chipsets had become cheap enough to viably build the necessary technology into reception devices.

"Many city carriers are also now rolling out their fiber-optic broadband infrastructure to the end consumer," he added. "That is the ideal means of bringing television services into the home."

Source: Informa Telecoms & Media