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BMW urges spectrum stability for car TV

The future of in-car TV for Europe could be damaged by the recent second digital dividend agreed unexpectedly at the World Radio Conference (WRC-12) held early this year in Geneva.

This view was presented by Bertram Hock, BMWE’s Head of Development for Broadcast Receivers, at last week’s DVB World 2012 conference in Rome. Hock seemed upbeat about prospects for in-car TV generally, which was already booming in China and Japan for example, but argued that the uncertainty created by the WRC-12 outcome was bad for deployment in Europe.

In-car TV requires a stable spectrum regime for planning because the systems must be capable of lasting the life time of the vehicle without requiring any hardware upgrade. A typical car model takes one year to design, three years to develop, and then at least another 14 years before the last model approaches the end of its life, according to Hock. This means that car manufacturers require stable regimes for spectrum lasting at least 18 years and preferably longer. Any unexpected change is particularly damaging because it causes a loss of confidence in the global-spectrum planning process.

As it happens the changes agreed at WRC-12 could cause existing in-car TV systems to cease working, while increasing the cost and complexity of future systems. As Hock pointed out, cars represent a particularly challenging mobile environment for TV, with a complex and noisy reception path in the car, as well as the usual issues for transmitting to moving receivers, including Doppler effects and hand-over between stations. To avoid complex, obtrusive antennae systems, BMW and others have embedded antennae within the rear window and bumper as well as small nodes on the roof.

These systems are costly to develop, and now another hurdle has appeared with the second digital dividend. BMW has added its voice to calls for a fairer balance between broadcasting and unicast or peer transmission, which is a colossal waste of spectrum for one-to-many applications.