Clouds gathering on the DTT Horizon

As I already discussed in a previous blogpost, the days of Digital Terrestrial TV as we know it may be counted – at least in Western Europe. In a recent article, “DTT Quo Vadis” in the EBU Technical Review, Ulrich Reimers points in the same direction. Reimers is not just any professor, he has been the chairman of the Technical Module within the DVB Project for almost two decades. As RTL, one of the major commercial broadcasters in Germany in January announced that they will discontinue their DVB-T distribution, all future plans for DVB-T2 seem to be on hold. RTL questions the commercial viability of the DVB system, and there are good reason to do so:

  • Viewing habits: The long tail of programming – more channels, fever users/channel – time shifting, mobile viewing – all these things speak for new, more flexible, unicast – VoD type solutions
  • Cable/Fiber penetration: Most Northern European countries have the ambition to provide internet access at speeds that allow IPTV-distribution to most households by 2020. This will leave very few users – mainly those in remote/rural areas. In Germany only 12,5% of the households today use DVB-T.

DVB is very cost efficient when there is a large audience over large areas watching a few programs. It is easy to see that there is a rationale for wide-spread use in many parts of the world – but not in Western Europe. This makes the technology push for DVB-T developments toward 3D-TV and Ultra-HD look somewhat strange, at least from a market perspective.

As also Reimers points out in the article, when DTT goes, we need something else – a more flexible content distribution system that combines mobile cellular technology (IP based unicast for the long tail) and broadcasting system for wide area /rural distribution of popular programming.


About Jens Zander

Professor Jens Zander is professor in Radio Communication Systems at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. He has been among the few in Swedens Ny Teknik magazine's annual list of influential people in ICT that have been given the epithet “Mobile Guru”. He is one of the leading researchers in mobile communication and is the Scientific director of the industry/academia collaboration center Wireless@KTH. His research group focuses on three main areas – the efficient and scalable use of the radio frequency spectrum, economic aspects of mobile systems and application and energy efficiency in future wireless infrastructures.
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