BroadcastAsia 2011 - DVB-T2 and Other Highlights

Singapore's DVB-T2 Trial

Rise Of DVB-T2

Having adopted the DVB-T terrestrial standard with local telcos in tow over recent years, Singapore is apparently ready to test-run the next generation DVB-T2 specification. Over in the UK, broadcast services such as Freeview HD has already been deployed based on T2, while other European countries such as Sweden and Finland are also in the early phases of rolling out T2 services. On the eastern front, Asian countries such as Sri Lanka and India have also registered a keen interest in this new transmission standard apart from Singapore, to quote Mr Peter Siebert, Executive Director of DVB Project Office. Question is, in what ways is DVB-T2 better than its predecessor? We had a little chat with MediaCorp, StarHub and MDA to find out more about their T2 test configuration here at BCA. 

A simple diagram of Starhub's DVB-T2 trial architecture. Three outdoor transmitter sites located at Bukit Batok, Ang Mo Kio and Bedok will house T2 modulators and transmitters. Test channels will include Starhub's Discovery Channel and MediaCorp's HD5.


DVB-T2 - Second Generation Terrestrial Explained

Fundamentally, the DVB-T2 protocol can be summed up as an advanced digital terrestrial transmission (DTT) standard capable of higher efficiency and flexibility than DVB-T. Due to its use of Multiple Physical Layer Pipes (MultiPLP), DVB-T2 is able to offer a higher data rate, and more importantly, capable of delivering SD, HD and 3D TV programs on a single frequency. In other words, pushing SD, HD and 3D content in a single pipe is no longer a dream. Similar to DVB-T, the T2 protocol will be based on the MPEG2 transport stream when the trial routine kicks off later this year. Media broadcasters involved in the project will include StarHub and MediaCorp. 

 For those of you who aren't fazed by technical jargon, here's an overview of DVB-T2's advantage over its predecessor. The standard's MultiPLP feature is what enables it to deliver SD, HD and 3D streams on a single frequency.

SD (bottom right), HD (top right) and 3D (top left) content are fed into the same screen here. DVB-T2's additional 256QAM mode enables it to carry the beefy 3D signal which was lacking in the DVB-T standard.

Set top boxes such as the HUMAX STB shown here are required to decode the DVB-T2 signal. This baby with a built-in 500GB HDD will set you back about S$700 according to MediaCorp. As for HDTVs, the price difference between integrated DVB-T and DVB-T2 tuners is just about US$25 as stated by DVB Project.

Basically, infrastructure requirements for DVB-T2 can be divided into three levels - head site (broadcasters like StarHub or MediaCorp will need a gateway to generate T2-MI packets), remote site (where modulators and transmitters are installed to modulate T2 streams), and lastly, the end-user stage, where a DVB-T2 compatible set-top box and antenna are required to receive and decode the signal. The T2-MI packets are sent over a fiber network to remote sites. For current owners of HDTVs installed with DVB-T tuners, please note that your goggle box will not be compatible with the new T2 specification. Tough luck eh? 

 Here's a closer look at MediaCorp T2 deployment. At the source, media content is pumped into a DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) system consisting of an encoding system, multiplexer system and a gateway.

The next step at the remote-site level is where generated T2-MI packets from the gateway are modulated and transmitted as a DVB-T2 signal.

Beyond the nitty gritty tech bits, being able to enjoy SD, HD and 3D programs on a single terrestrial transmission system sounds really cool indeed. As it stands, 68 countries have already deployed DVB-T2 on their TV network.