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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

DTT: MultiChoice to rollout May 2011


With the conclusion of the trials for the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) in South Africa, slated for March 2011, leader in Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) in Africa, MultiChoice Africa said it has concluded plans to roll-out its DVB- version 2 by May next year.

Disclosing this at the two-day workshop on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTTv) in Johannesburg, last week, the Technical Director, M-Net, Mr. Dave Hagen, noted that currently, the firm is running trials across South Africa, which is due to end by March 2011, when the commercial launch is expected.

M-Net is a pay-television subscriptions’ arm of MultiChoice Africa.

DVB – Terrestrial Second Generation, also known as DVB-T2, he said, is set to revolutionize the way Africans would soon consume television, re-purposing frequencies to be more effectively utilized away from analogue to digital terrestrial transmissions (DTT) to deliver multi-channel entertainment.

According to Hagen, 60 household is taking part in the on-going DVB-T2 trails in Soweto, describing it as successful given the kind of feedback M-Net has received so far, stressing that the efficiency of DVB-T2 is superior to both Terrestrial Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting (ISDB-T) and DVB-T with delivery of estimated between 30 and 65 per cent greater capacity and implementation costs are less than ISDB-T with Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).

Explaining the choice of DVB-T2 for digital migration by M-Net, Mr. Hagen said before now, the stakeholders had met with the South African regulator for the communications sector, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA); licensed both M-Net and eTV to conduct the trials in November 2009.

He said that ISDB-T is a standard deployed in Japan, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, while China chose DTMB standard, emphasising that the choice ofDVB-T2, which is the latest since May 2009, which has turned DVB-T2 TV sets and STB into the hottest items in the United Kingdom consumer electronics.

DVB – Terrestrial Second Generation, also known as DVB-T2, is set to revolutionize the way Africans would soon consume television, re-purposing frequencies to be more effectively utilized away from analogue to digital terrestrial transmissions (DTT) to deliver multi-channel entertainment.

This, he said, culminated in South Africa launching T2 on Single Frequency Network (SFN), which entails that many transmitters in same area are on same frequency.

The configuration for the trials, he said, saw to the selection for same networks and SFN operation as well as DVB-T2 yielding 66 per cent more payload at equivalent coverage and network cost, with the possibility of over 20 channels against T1 which offers 12 channels at most.

The Soweto trial project by M-Net was based on simple viewer agreement with criteria being that you must not have satellite but existing TV set.

“All homes approached accepted to be part of the trial after we improved our accreditation,” he said, pointing out that there is need for more awareness on DTTV, because, some residents though the trial was the government finally ‘giving out decoders for free.’

The trial, he said, encouraged MultiChoice to purchase a total of 300 units of high end decoder with High Definition (HD) designed specifically for the Freeview network configuration, involving the usage of existing antennas where possible, whereas some homes have very poor antennas, invariably not Ultra High Frequency (UHF) compliant.
MultiChoice, he said, has established mini call centre to support the trial project, saying that weeks after the trial began, very few calls were received.

He noted that the trial or deployment of DVB-T2 opens up multi-channel television to a wider audience of viewers, allowing them more choice and greater variety in their viewing options.

He elucidated that the results of the measured study was extremely positive and showed clearly that DVB-T2 is an excellent technology providing a viable multi-channel television services for all communities in terms of efficiency and technical performance.

“By providing a gateway to a whole world of great entertainment, sport, news, information and more,” he said, adding that there is no dish to install, but it’s a simple technical process.

“You simply plug in a DTT box, put up a standard aerial and switch on your television. The same frequency that previously delivered 1 analogue television channel now give you a choice of between 18 to 20 channels to watch. First generation digital standards such as DVB-T and ISDB-T only deliver between 9 and 12 channels,” he said.

He maintained that the second generation DVB-T2 standard is significantly more effective, “that’s what we wanted to test, to try the efficiency of the system in actual homes, to discover the real benefits of putting out the best technology in the world.”

Hagen recalled that African governments have a mandate to embrace a digital future and as a stakeholder whose African roots are very deep, MultiChoice had investigated widely, invest in research to explore available technologies and to understand what the best standards would be.

“ M-Net have always been pioneers, we see our responsibility to ensure that the television systems we put in place not only work well but are the best available, for our partners, for our audiences and ultimately for our continent so that it can progress in line with global development,” he said.


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