The Future of Free-to-Air Broadcasters in Jamaica as Digital Switch Over Approaches in 2015

Folks a lot of announcements have been made since that fateful day Sunday July 15th 2012 when the Interim Telecom Regulator the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) decided to set the rates for Cross Network and International Calling.

First the News that got the attention of the Media……

LIME pre-empted the move in a push for Mobile Market Dominance as noted in LIME drops Cross Network Calling rate to JA$6.99 to kick off a 3 year Battle for Mobile Market Dominance. Digicel decided to “sweeten” the pot by lowering their rates and at the same time offering “4G” Mobile Broadband as per my ditty Digicel launches “4G” Mobile and JA$2.89 Sweeter Deal in a bid for Prepaid Extinction.

Digicel has also dropped their challenge of the OUR’s powers granted by Minister of Science Technology Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell as well as claiming to not have been informed. This in a play for victory against the FTC (Fair Trading Commission) in the Supreme Court as it relates to their acquisition of CLARO Jamaica as per my analysis in Digicel’s “Sweeter Deal” FTC Case Victory as Minister Paulwell allocates 700MHz band for New Telecoms Player. The FTC contends that the swap with Carlos Slim Helu owned America Movil for Digicel operations in El Salvador and Honduras as being monopolistic behavior as anti-competitive

The stuff that didn’t get the focus of the Media…..

In that same article I also pointed out that on Tuesday July 31st 2012, Minister Paulwell also announced the coming auctioning of a block of spectrum for the 700MHz band tied to a Fiber Optic License for a new or existing Telecom Provider to bid for as a precursor to setting up a 100MBps LTE (Long Term Evolution) Network. Again, only announced in the Jamaica Gleaner on Wednesday August 1st 2012 and by the GOJ’s official mouthpiece, the JIS (Jamaica Information Service) on Thursday August 2nd 2012 and getting very little media coverage! Details coming in a future article from Geezam!

LIME also announced the coming of an IPTV streaming version of LIME TV by 2013, a sure killer of Free-To-Air Broadcasters who are yet to go DSO as noted in my article LIME Jamaica’s 2013 Launch of IPTV “LIME TV” is a Streaming “TV Anywhere” Revolution. LIME TV sets up LIME to be a competitor not only in the Subscriber TV business but also in the Free-to-Air Television category, as make Mobile TV a reality.

LIME TV, the IPTV Version in the next three (3) years! This even after LIME TV, the DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld) standard has demonstrated the viability of the concept of Mobile Television and “TV Anywhere”, the Free-To-Air Broadcasters such as Television Jamaica and CVM TV twiddle their thumbs on implementing DSO (Digital Switch Over) and building out a DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) Network .

What exactly is DSO?

DSO (Digital Switch Over) is the transition from a Analog Broadcast Network to an All Digital Transmission Network. The stages for DSO are as follows:

  1. Technology Selection
  2. Digital Switch On
  3. Analog Switch Off

Discussions with the Media players in the Free-to-Air Broadcast category to build out their DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) Network began in 2009. A timeline has now been set by the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica in November 2010 wanting a 2015 implementation.

By 2015, your Analog NTSC (National Television Systems Committee) television set may be unable to receive television signals as Television and Radio Stations would have Digital com 2015. Thus my articles aim is clear: demystification of the coming DSO to a DTT Network. Now would be a good time to get a bottle of Panadol as I sense, dear reader, a headache coming on in your frontal cerebral cortex!

What is DTT Digital Network?

DTT is basically the equivalent of “4G” services in Telecoms World as described in LIME’s 4G Experience Centers challenge the Rise of Dekal Wireless Dragon and Digicel launches 4G Mobile and JA$2.89 Sweeter in a bid – Jamaican Voice + Data Summer Wars but tailored for Broadcasting. Ironically the exact same criteria set by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) the Telecoms arm of the UN (United Nations). That is to say, the criteria as laid out in the article  How to Access LIME or Digicel’s 3G Internet using an unlocked Huawei E1556 Modem Dongle or Nokia Modem Dongle: Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM), using QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation).

This is the same signal multiplexing inherent in WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access), a direct descendant of CDMA Networks. WCDMA is capable of speeds of up to 100MBps and higher in the Telecoms Equivalent, LTE.

There are five (5) families of DTT standards:

  1. DVB (Digital Video Broadcast) used mainly in Europe, Russia, India parts of Africa and Australia
  2. ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) is used chiefly in the United States of America and Canada
  3. ISDB (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting) is used chiefly in Japan and Latin America and DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) and its subsets CMMB (China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting)
  4. ADTB (Asynchronous Digital Terrestrial Broadcast) are used in the People’s Republic of China and South Korea.

Despite the long winded acronyms, the following are true for all DTT Standards worldwide:

  • All are orthogonal
  • 100MBps capable
  • Have a Terrestrial (Fixed, Satellite or Cable) and Mobile (Handheld) subset of the basic protocol, much as in Telecommunications WiMax has Fixed (IEEE 802.16a) and Mobile (IEEE 802.16m)
  • MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group) Layer 2 and Layer 4,AVC and AVS for encoding Video and MPEG Layer 3, AC-3, AAC and HE-AAC to encode Audio
  • Are capable of Half-Duplex i.e. logical and physical Channels within the Modulated Carrier to transmit and receive intelligent information

As a point of reference, there is no such thing as Full-Duplex as often debated by Telecom Technicians. Full-Duplex implies transmit and receive share the exact same logical and physical channel, a dream of Telecom Providers as it would save them money on provisioning ANY networks by just using one set frequency to accomplish both. It’s still a dream.

Compare that to Analog Television based on the NTSC (National Television Systems Committee) Standard which uses:

  • Vestigial composite signal in a 6MHz channel
  • A 4MHz AM Modulated Video
  • A 2MHz FM modulate audio
  • Pilot synchronization signal used in the older composite Analog.

Panadol Extra Strength recommended at this point. Take your time!

So what’s the advantage of a DTT Network to Broadcasters?

A DTT Network is no different from streaming over a WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) Wireless Broadband channel as noted in my article LIME Jamaica’s 2013 Launch of IPTV “LIME TV” is a Streaming “TV Anywhere” Revolution.

This is the secret that Broadcasters wish no one to know; as they would lose money if Video Pirates, the name for hackers of Television and Satellite signals, could figure out how to intercept and decode and record their Digitally encrypted Proprietary content. It’s also the obvious advantage.

With one common transmission frequency all of the Big Three (3) Broadcasters can use, the result is that the entire island of Jamaica would just having one logical Channel for each Digital Television Broadcaster, much as it is currently on FLOW’s cable Service e.g. channel 7 for Television Jamaica, channel 8 for CVM TV.

Another advantage is that WCDMA is interference limiting i.e. each WCDMA transceiver (transmit and Receiving Antennas installed on Television Station Sites) see the other WCDMA transceiver as noise, base on their Chip Codes and squelches it out.

Thus, with one 5MHz channel assigned to carry all the DTT Network Channel for both Television Jamaica and CVM TV, the additional spectrum that is left vacant can be occupied by other competing Television Stations in the same band of frequency without worry of cross interference.

More channels can be compressed into the same NTSC (National Television Systems Committee) Broadcast Spectrum (approximately 6 channels, assigned 1MHz channels within the same 6MHZ Vestigial Composite Television Signal) and is cheaper to maintain after installation by the Broadcaster.

Television made simple, dear reader. You can take that Panadol now with a Glass of Water!

Benefits for competition in the Telecoms Sector

Finally, a side benefit to the Broadcasters and Telecoms Providers is the sale of their now soon-to-be-licensed spectrum to Telecom Providers.

This may prove very lucrative for the Free-to-Air Broadcasters, once they push ahead and license their spectrum and thus begin paying fees on the frequencies they use as per requirement of the Broadcasting Commission.

This would give them leverage as instead of being forced to vacate the spectrum, they could argue for financial commendation for relinquishing their spectrum to be auctioned off to Telecom Providers as Minister Phillip Paulwell has done with the 700MHz Spectrum.

As a point of reference, the 700MHz band being allocated to LTE by Minister Phillip Paulwell represents 52 to 68 in the NTSC (National Television Systems Committee) Analog channel allocation as listed by NASA (National Aeronautical Space Administration).

With the possible sale of the “White” Space Frequencies in-between the NTSC (National Television Systems Committee) standard Broadcast channels being used to build “Super” Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Networks as noted in Dekal Wireless – Broadband for the Masses the financial compensation would be more than adequate for the Broadcaster to fund the transition to DSO without directly affecting their bottom line.

This means building and erecting the new towers or renovating the older Television and Radio Transmission Towers as well as subsidizing Set Top boxes for people who have television sets but cannot afford to buy a DVB-H or ASTC Standard Television Set. The GOJ would support this argument, as Television for them is a mass propaganda tool to spread their political message and thus they would like the people of Jamaica to have access to it, if only to ensure they have a captive audience for their political rhetoric.

Unlike the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) that governs the Telecom World, in the Broadcasting World, no matter what protocol or transmission schema is used, is driven by the fickle market of the ever-changing desires of Television Viewers. The amount of “G’s” as in the Telecom World is unimportant; effective Digital Signal coverage and reduced external interference and a clear High Definition picture are of paramount importance.

What are the benefits to the Viewers in Jamaica?

Even more interesting are the benefits for the television Viewers in Jamaica. Like DOCSIS protocol that powers FLOW’s Digital Cable Service which provides speeds up to 100MBps, the orthogonal nature of the DTT Modulation Schema gives several benefits!

The most obvious is cleaner, clearer 720p to 1080p quality pictures requiring no fiddling with the antenna, as the receiver either can decode or not decode the Digital Carrier signal. A blue screen or “No Signal” is shown if it cannot get the minimum signal level required for noises free decoding. This phenomenon is referred to in the Telecom’s world as the “Cliff” Effect.

Additionally, the channel changing will not be as instantaneous, a foible of the decoding process within the Television set, which takes up considerable processing power and thus seconds may elapse. This at first seems a disadvantage, but is actually an advantage to the customer, as it means that they can use the precious few milliseconds to do other things on the TV set before each channels comes up on screen.

The viewer can be provisioned with interactive services, so called “Red Button” services such as:

  • Direct Viewer Feedback
  • Video Calling
  • Wireless Broadband Internet
  • Online Banking Services
  • Election Voting
  • Video Game

Very similar to how Triple Play Provider FLOW plans to operate in the future and is currently operating now! Thus viewers will appreciate the irony; buy a subsidized Set Top box to receive signals from the DTT Network or get a HDTV complaint Television Set and viewers may be able to get Triple Play Provider FLOW-esque service wirelessly!

So which DTT Network format is the Best?

The National Steering Committee on Digital Switchover (DSO) may opt to use DVB-H instead of ASTC, the standard for DTT that our American cousins use. DVB-H would be the best simply because it would prevent Jamaicans from easily acquiring a hacked ASTC Set Top box. The aim is to increase the revenue stream of the Free-to-Air Broadcasters and as such it’s best to go with DVB-H.

It would allow the Broadcasting of premium content, such as just released movies, without fear of hackers being able to easily intercept and record content illegally for redistribution. This is because the Set Top boxes could be remotely controlled by the Broadcasters to block all analog ports, effectively Remote Lockout of the Set Top box, thereby effectively preventing piracy.

Imagine therefore, in the future, watching movies from the comfort of your own home securely without having to go to the movies. Or even using Wireless Broadband Internet provided by the Telecom Providers. Making Video or Voice Calls using your Television Set as the Screen!

A buying guide as to the various types of HDTV that exist on the market is coming n a next article, so stay tuned to Geezam!

The Future of Television in Jamaica is “TV Anywhere”

Truly as the title says, this is indeed the future of television. Whether it’s via a DTT Networks or IPTV Streaming, in the future the idea of watching TV at home will be archaic.

With the advent of Mobile Computing on Mobile smartphones and Tablets in our most northerly neighbor, the trend is now picking up in Jamaica as we adopt smartphones such as the Apple iPhone with the BB slowly dying as concluded in Apple iPhone boosts Jamaican smartphone usage as BB goes Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

The coming of faster LTE Networks which is true 4G will accelerate Mobile Computing and Mobile TV as can be seen from the track record of DVB-H based LIME TV thus far in LIME Jamaica’s 2013 Launch of IPTV “LIME TV” is a Streaming “TV Anywhere” Revolution.

Albeit slow to catch on in Latin America and the English-speaking Caribbean, LTE, true 4G, is tempered by Jamaica’s lukewarm acceptance of “4G” from BOTH LIME and Digicel as noted in Digicel launches “4G” Mobile and JA$2.89 Sweeter Deal in a bid for Prepaid Extinction.

A deception on the part of the Telecom Providers, it still should give many a taste of fairly decent speeds for mobile computing. This desire will accelerate once the gift of MNP, which Digicel is clamoring for, is upon us come December 2012.

By the Second Quarter of 2013, when the IPTV version of LIME TV is slated to go live, the standard Christmas gift to children may actually be a smartphone, most likely a Dual-SIM smartphone with DVB-H capability. With demand for spectrum for Telecom Providers putting pressure on the Free-to-Air Broadcasters to go DSO and build out their DTT Network, the ball is really in their court!

What will ultimately make or break DTT for these Free-to-Air Broadcasters when they transition by 2015 is not just the delivery of good content but also the delivery of Local Content combined with the ability to choose what you want to watch, when you want to watch it and where you want to watch it.

No more prepackaged channels that you don’t watch at a price that makes no sense. You can choose what you want to watch plus a double-scoop serving of LTE that powers other VAS including IPTV and possibly VoLTE (Voice over LTE) smartphones. That is, if rumours are true of LIME and Digicel being potential bidders for the 700MHz to build out a 100MBps capable LTE Network, a win-win for either Telecom Provider in a country now slowly becoming hooked on faster Mobile Broadband.

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.