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Broadcasting Platforms: There’s no escaping technology here

09-February-2004
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Broadcasting Platforms: There’s no escaping technology here

Strategic partnership is the way to go for the traditional broadcast community, to handle the challenge posed by multimedia. That was the consensus at a recent conference here on terrestrial and satellite broadcasting (BES Expo 2004). Tie-up with various delivery platforms is what industry experts suggested for broadcast companies.

According to speakers, from all over the world, evolution of multimedia applications in the broadcasting sector should not be viewed as a threat. Rather, the traditional broadcasters should try to “adapt themselves towards an environment of co-existence”.

According to secretary general of the Asian Broadcasting Union (Malaysia) David Astley, for instance, strategic alliances with other delivery platforms like the Internet, broadband and mobile networks are crucial. Similarly, Doordarshan chief engineer NS Ganesan focused on the “pervasiveness of multimedia and working on the benefits of multimedia broadcasting”. Tiffany Hall of BBC News made a presentation on how BBC ensures “efficient content authoring for many platforms”.

Speaking on choices in multimedia-era broadcasting, ABU’s head of transmission technology Sharad Sadhu said: “Going to the digital paradigm has provided only multiplicity of channels.” He added: “Harnessing new technologies is the only way forward and broadcasters have really no choice left. It is imperative to get on to the new distribution platforms and service new consumers before somebody else does that.”

Speaking on new avenues, Mr Sadhu spoke about handheld devices and receivers providing an excellent opportunity for developing a new consumer base. Broadband and hi-definition television (HDTV) are among other avenues that need to be tapped, he said.

“In the prevailing environment of convergence of media, which gets progressively more competitive, players in telecom and Internet industries are bound to step forward and grab the opportunities,” according to Mr Sadhu. In this backdrop, getting on to the new distribution media is inevitable. Top on his list is cell phone. “The opportunities to develop new businesses around entertainment using cell phones/mobile terminals are huge,” he said. “The cell phone is eyed for two entertainment platforms—online gaming and interactive video entertainment.”

According to Mr Sadhu, one way of delivering product and services to mobile devices is through distribution of tailor-made broadcasting products over the existing networks. Another way is to use the broadcast mode in which transmitted products reach the consumers directly. Handheld devices (cell phones, PDAs etc) are equipped to directly receive broadcast signals carrying multimedia products.

Interestingly, broadcasting industry is talking about ‘mobile TV’ as the next big thing, in terms of attracting advertisements. According to Mr Sadhu, “there is keen interest in terrestrial digital broadcasting to mobiles (particularly in South Korea and Japan)”. While talking about limitations, he said “cell phones and PDAs have greater limitations as compared to car-mounted receivers”.

He offers a case study—the Korean initiative in digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB). KBS, in association with other broadcasting companies, has carried out trials on feasibility of DMB video service, according to this ABU official. “A demonstration of mobile TV services in Seoul employing H.264 was quite successful. VHF TV channel 12 has been allocated for DMB trials by the national regulator.”

In Japan, according to vice-chairman of ABU’s technical committee Kazuyoshi Shogen, “to accelerate the digitalisation of TV broadcasting, the Japanese government made target dates to cease the analog broadcasting”. While one BS analog channel will stop broadcasting in 2007, three more will cease functioning in 2011. In Japan, digital BS broadcasting has been in service since December 2000.

From modes of delivery to satellite platforms. Regional director (South Asia) New Skies Satellites KS Manjunath said NSS satellites can be effectively used to transport video from the western world to almost all of Asia and Australia. The Netherlands-based New Skies Satellites has a fleet of five in-orbit satellites. One satellite is under construction.

There’s digital revolution in the home platform too. According to Pixelmetrix Corp president Danny Wilson, the multimedia home platform (MHP) is an evolving new technical standard that allows interactive multimedia programs from different content providers to be accessed through a single receiving device.

Focusing on broadband solutions in multimedia applications, Mr Yew Eng Huen of Loral Skynet said, “The advancement and standardisation of satellite transmission technology has created new opportunities for the delivery of IP-based services to sites around the world.” These new opportunities offer exciting possibilities for efficient transmission of streaming media and large file data and video transfer from a centralised location to remote sites around the world, he said.

Mr Huen said multimedia broadcasting by satellites enables the expansion of communications in both the Internet and enterprise markets. “Typically, these applications are ones that already involve or could benefit from the use of video and audio presentations.” According to Mr Huen, satellite delivery represents a viable option because satellites provide a compelling economic solution and wireless connectivity to enable access to areas that have not been penetrated by terrestrial alternatives.

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