A Possible Use for DVB-SH Stateside?

Amid all the hoopla surrounding the potential ATSC mobile digital TV standard at this year’s show, one established European standard made a quiet, though possibly momentous entry into the U.S. scene: DVB-SH. The satellite company ICO launched into space at 4:12pm Eastern today, Monday, April 17th, its G1 satellite, placing it into its initial geosynchronous transfer orbit at 4:56pm. After making an initial telemetry and command contact with a ground station in Perth, Australia, it will go into its final position where it will be miles above the eastern Pacific, providing services to the continental U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The satellite will operate in the 2GHz S-band.

ICO is using the satellite to trial its ICO mim, an interactive mobile video, navigation and emergency service, which is based on DVB-SH, a hybrid digital terrestrial/satellite mobile TV standard. The company wants to launch the service by 2009, and is envisioning it as an in-car type service. It would be sort of like a Sirrius satellite radio service – except based on video. It’s generating a fair amount of buzz at the show.

I think the most compelling element of the ICO mim offering is that it’s using DVB-SH. While the name indicates it’s a DVB-based technology, and therefore would be backward compatible only with the DVB standard, if one’s business model needs it, it could be used in the U.S. to launch a mobile TV service. The satellite element would cover the majority of a specific area, while the terrestrial side could be used to cover more dense urban areas. As far as I understand it, the biggest cost would be the launch of the satellite or possibly the rental of space on the satellite. But on the ground, it wouldn’t require a large amount of added infrastructure – mostly terrestrial repeaters, I believe.

My guess is that DVB-SH will be used in the U.S. mostly by large companies with a lot of monetary assets like ICO, but in theory, a broadcaster could launch such a service and get very good coverage, without possibly having to work with an ATSC-based standard. It’s just a thought – but interesting.