EBU gets behind global terrestrial broadcasting initiative

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has played the lead role in founding the Future of Broadcast Television (FOBTV) initiative in Las Vegas.

FOBTV is really focused on terrestrial broadcasting and reflects the EBU’s view that this is the most flexible and efficient means of media delivery over wireless networks. The subtext is that FOBTV is defending terrestrial spectrum from invasion by mobile operators, with its argument being that broadcast or multicast is much more efficient than unicast for delivering popular programming to portable devices. By definition cellular services are unicast since they involve one-to-one sessions with end devices, but there is growing interest in use of broadcast overlay technology to deliver popular video content in effect within fixed channels carved out of the mobile spectrum, rather than consuming precious cellular bandwidth on a per user basis.

The stated objective of FOBTV is to facilitate the evolution of broadcasting technology to ensure its long term viability and relevance. EBU Technology & Development Director Lieven Vermaele signed the FOBTV Memorandum of Understanding at NAB last week, addressing a session dedicated to the initiative, where he focused on the societal value of terrestrial broadcasting.

“Terrestrial broadcasting and mobile broadband are both important but neither technology alone will be able to meet future demand for wireless media,” said Vermaele. “We need to innovate using them together, in a complementary way. Broadcast can be the backbone as it can deliver the coverage, quality of service and capacity we will increasingly need. Broadband will extend the range of services and enable access to all categories of user device.”

In this statement, Vermaele was leaning towards a compromise between the two camps, but behind this utterance is a steely resolve that terrestrial spectrum must be defended against further inroads from cellular services. This is implicit in the FOBTV’s five objectives set out in its new Memorandum of Understanding. These are to develop ecosystem models for terrestrial broadcasting, taking into account business, regulatory and technical aspects; develop requirements for next generation terrestrial broadcast systems, taking into account the needs of a connected society and maximizing the efficient use of spectrum; foster collaboration between digital TV development laboratories; recommend major technologies that can be used as the basis for unified new standards; and request standardization of technologies by appropriate organizations, such as DVB, ATSC, ARIB and others.

The other major point of these objectives is that in order to survive and thrive, the terrestrial world will need common DTT standards, rather than as at present being split into four distinct regional groupings. Indeed all the world’s DTT standard groups, including the DVB Project and the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) have signed the FOBTV agreement.