HbbTV advances on two fronts

The HbbTV hybrid broadcast standard that has been sweeping through Europe this year has just made two further significant advances.

First, its interactive service benefits will be experienced in the Middle East through a trial between France Telecom’s satellite infrastructure subsidiary GlobeCast, and the country’s international broadcaster FRANCE 24. The other development (with potentially greater long-term impact on a global scale) is the agreement for the HbbTV Consortium to combine forces with the Open IPTV Forum (OIPF) over common testing for emerging standards and technological components.

The French HbbTV trial involves GlobeCast and France 24 expanding their existing HbbTV test service to the Middle East during the rest of 2012, using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) from France Telecom’s broadband, mobile and IPTV service company Orange, for the Internet-connected half of the hybrid service. The broadcast part will be delivered via a satellite feed from Arabsat’s BADR-4 vessel, which covers the Middle East and North Africa. This move will help promote HbbTV in the Middle Eastern region and further the HbbTV consortium’s expansion plans.

Such plans have also been advanced by a move towards closer collaboration over testing of standards and technical components between the HbbTV Consortium and the OIPF. Although set up for IPTV, the OIPF has enlarged its brief to encompass the whole field of IP delivered video, including OTT over unmanaged networks. This was reflected in OIPF’s Release 2 published in 2011, which extended the technical scope of the specifications to embrace OTT, including support for HTTP Adaptive Streaming of live and on-demand content.

The OIPF pledged to migrate to the ISO MPEG DASH version, which, by then, had emerged as the industry favorite as a converged HTTP streaming standard. Other important additions in version 2 were metadata, signaling for emergency alert services, support for retransmission and fast channel change, and specifications for network-based time-shift and PVR.

The OIPF has already incorporated some HbbTV specifications, but now the collaboration extends to merger of the respective testing procedures as well. Some analyst groups, such as Rethink Technologies, have speculated this could lead to HbbTV being subsumed completely into OIPF and disappearing as a separate entity within a few years. Paradoxically, by ceasing to exist, HbbTV would in effect have won the hybrid TV standards battle.