DVB Begins Final Push Towards Linear Broadcast Over 5G

The DVB Project plans to support linear TV broadcast over 5G by Q3 2022 after approving commercial requirements for DVB-I service support.

Work has now begun on extensions to the relevant existing specifications, including DVB-I service discovery and DVB-DASH, to address the use cases enabled by 5G.

This follows publication of the commercial requirements, now available for download as DVB BlueBook C100, by the DVB Steering Board. This provides a set of 70 technical and procedural requirements, while introducing key elements of 5G networks and systems related to media distribution including 5G Broadcast, 5G Media Streaming and other ongoing activities in 3GPP. In particular, LTE-based 5G Broadcast provides all the functions to operate classical TV services, including receive-only, free-to-air and high-power high-tower network infrastructures.

The DVB-I specification was designed to bring the standard of linear TV delivered over the internet up to the level of the traditional broadcast experience, both in video quality and user friendliness. A major focus lay in making the processes of search, discovery and navigation as straightforward as they are with leading broadcast services. This led to development of components allowing linear TV services to be discoverable over the internet, involving delivery of suitable metadata.

The DVB-I specification was first approved for delivery of linear TV over IP networks including the internet in December 2019. The extension to 5G is a crucial advance because that provides the foundation for future high quality broadcast services over mobile networks to both moving and fixed devices. The much greater capacity and speeds enabled by 5G, especially when services are available over the higher mmWave frequencies above 6 GHz, will usher in a new era for video services. 5G networks will be used increasingly for a range of use cases that the DVB is now working towards, including fixed wireless delivery as an alternative to fiber and copper cables, and video delivery to fast moving receivers in cars and trains for example.

As the DVB has pointed out, a particular benefit of DVB-I services over 5G is the ability to support integrated DVB-I hybrid services for which the basic broadcast distribution is augmented with unicast. This can extend service coverage, reduce distribution costs, and improve quality of experience in various ways. It opens the door to more advanced interactive applications and augmented reality where actual footage is overlaid with graphics and artificially generated images.

The commercial requirements for DVB-I are organized in technical and procedural categories, supporting different 5G operation modes specified in Release 16 of the 3GPP cellular standards. These are 5G Broadcast, unicast-based 5G Media Streaming, concurrent delivery of the same service over both modes, and hybrid DVB-I services. The specifications should reuse existing DVB technologies as far as possible and share technologies with other IP-based DVB delivery media.

The technically-oriented requirements are clustered in different service-operation phases, namely provisioning, announcement and detection, components, distribution and delivery, quality and monitoring, as well as client-related aspects. While the requirements are extensive and detailed, including security-related aspects, many are already covered by the existing DVB-I specification and require only minor extensions. This is possible because the original DVB-I design provided a TV service platform independent of the access layer.

The DVB highlights the importance of collaboration for successful DVB services over 5G. Broadcasters and 5G network operators will need to collaborate to combine the respective capabilities for DVB-I service distribution. At this stage, the ground is being prepared for collaboration by developing specifications for network and client-side interfaces and APIs that will ordain communication across these two business domains.

Equally importantly on the collaboration front, the DVB-I over 5G system must align with common industry practices, for example those developed in 3GPP, 5G-MAG or other organizations that will be involved in deployment of media and TV services over 5G.

Finally, an important aspect in the development of DVB specifications is the availability of Verification and Validation (V&V) tools. Collaborative efforts with other organizations such as 5G-MAG, 3GPP or DASH-IF are expected to be initiated to support reference and interoperability efforts. As one example, the newly established 5G-MAG Reference Tool project may create synergies with V&V tools for DVB-I over 5G.

Quality testing will come into play, drawing in companies that already have experience on both the mobile and video side. For example, Rohde & Schwarz has already developed a video quality test package aligned with the ITU-T J.343.1 standard for objective video quality measurement. This runs on the latest smartphones, being the only such system recommended by ETSI test specification 102 250-2 for all types of video services. It analyzes spatial and temporal details to determine the picture quality and includes meta information from the IP stream or header.

Updates to relevant DVB specifications to fully support DVB-I over 5G are expected to be completed in Q3, 2022. However, the DVB cautions that with 5G technologies continuing to evolve through future releases, the first version of DVB-I over 5G may be only the starting point. Further enhancement of DVB-based TV services over 5G-based distribution can be expected.

DVB is nominally a European institution based in Geneva, with the standards published by a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) and European Broadcasting Union (EBU). However, these standards have been deployed around the world beyond Europe, with wide representation in Africa and Asia Pacific especially. 

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