Sunday, December 12, 2010

Death of a Standard

DVB-H was hailed by many as the solution for mobile TV. Most of whom worked for telecom operators. There are many reasons why DVB-H never took off anywhere. Despite millions and millions of dollars being put into marketing the technology and lobbying for it. Nokia was, for instance, rumoured to have employed 13 people full time in Brussels to make sure that the Commision headed by Viviane Reding would impose the technology on the EU countries. She tried hard, but was not successful as the EU never mandated the technology. In the end DVB-H ended up as one of many recommended technologies. As usual, it is the market that should decide.

Why DVB-H never made it, while DMB is on the rise. 
  1. DVB-H as a technology was being pushed almost exclusively by telecom operators and phone manufacturers (mainly Nokia).
  2. Broadcasters were virtually not involved, until TV content was needed.
  3. Telecom operators do not know television. Television broadcasters do. Whether the screen size is 3 inches or 52 inches matters much less.    
  4. There are many countries without available DVB-H frequencies.
  5. In the countries where there in fact are frequencies, these are attractive also for HDTV and for mobile broadband. 
  6. These frequencies are in the UHF band, which means pretty high up. That means that it costs more to build coverage, that it is more difficult to build such a network and that it will use more power.
  7. DVB-T is built for rooftop reception, DVB-H needs to be built the same way or DVB will have to be totally replanned. You are unlikely to want to enter your roof to watch TV. Coverage indoor and between buildings will be limited. 
  8.  DMB is an open technology and it is not tied to SIM-cards. DVB-H was controlled by telecom operators and mainly found in phones.
  9. Freedom of choice of receivers is important. The users should choose what kind of device they want, not be dictated by which phone models their telecom operators decide to subsidize. 
  10. Many of the receivers launched had hardware problems and provided unstable reception. 
  11. DVB-H can be limited to certain phone models by a telecom operator. for instance to only the 3 Nokia handsets that is subsidized. It is as if the internet would only work on Dell PCs or TVs only on Panasonic televisions.
  12.  DMB is a more robust technology and can handle high speeds and all sorts of weather. Colleagues of mine and I have watched MiniTV in almost 900 km/h in several airplanes up to 9km above the ground.
  13. DMB is using the same distribution technology as DAB and DAB+, giving the audiences both radio and TV. In Norway there are over 20 channels available. 
  14. DMB supports a range of additional services that also works for radio. 
  15. There are many DMB devices available: mobile phones, GPS units, mp4 players, USB plugs, etc. 
  16. There was and is a very limited selection of available DVB-H devices.
  17. DVB-H chipsets are tricky to make. One chip maker lost 20 million dollars on developments.  
  18. A DVB-H chipset needs higher processing power and uses more energy than a DMB chipset.
  19. DMB is now being launched, tested or planned in many countries on four continents, something that makes receivers cheaper and opens up for experience sharing and the usage of the same applications and business models.
  20. There are ZERO DVB-H successes in the world. 
  21. Stelacon, a Swedish independent research institute, reported this to the Swedish government in 2007:
  •  For 90% DMB coverage of Sweden only 2-300 transmitters are needed.
  •  For only 25-30% DVB-H coverage of Sweden, 3,000 – 11,000 transmitters are needed.
And similar figures have been presented for France: 
  • DMB: 95% coverage to cost 2 million Euro per channel.
  • DVB-H: 25% coverage to cost 8 million Euro per channel.