Germany’s Media Broadcast is currently testing DVB-T2/HEVC broadcasts on two of its Berlin transmitters in order to prepare for another digital switchover.
During a press event in Berlin, the transmitter company out lined the roadmap for phasing out the current DVB-T/SD broadcasts in favour of a future proof new standard. In creating the new specifications for terrestrial broadcasts, the industry is working together closely, including public broadcasters, the private broadcasters association VPRT, as well as the CE industry represented by trade body ZVEI.
Partners of the trial include all the major CE manufacturers including Samsung, Sony, Philips, LG, LG, TechiSat, Humax, and professional partners Funke and Rhode & Schwarz.
Carine Charon, speaking on behalf of ZVEI, said that she expects the first consumer models for the new standard will be shown at the IFA 2015 in Berlin, including TV sets, set-top boxes and other devices.
As things stand now, the private broadcasters are planning to launch DVB-T2 broadcasts halfway in 2016, and will be the first to switch off any current DVB-T broadcasts as early as the beginning of 2018, while public broadcasters plan to end simulcasts in mid-2019. The pubcasters plan to start DVB-T2 in the beginning of 2017.
As a world’s first, the company is currently test broadcasting a multiplex of six HD channels using HEVC encoding on DVB-T2. At the moment, three public channels are carried live on channel 42, ARD HD, ZDF HD and Arte HD using 720p/50, as well as loops for three private broadcasters, who are set to use 1080i.
Both RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 are taking part and will start broadcasting a live signal any time soon on the Berlin synchronous network transmitters. Private broadcasters association VPRT is also taking part with a third channel, which will see contributions from various smaller broadcasters.
The current test takes place over two transmitters in Berlin, one on Berlin Alexanderplatz, and the other on Schäfersberg, each with 50kW, and both sharing channel 42 with a synchronous network. The tests can be received by 2.3 million households using an in-room antenna, a total of 4.1 million using an outdoor aerial;, and a total of five million using a rooftop antenna.
Apart from the six linear channels, the broadcasts also include additional data, including HbbTV, EPG data, Teletext, audio description as well as data for the hybrid Multithek service.
Digital terrestrial broadcasting is still very important in the country as the third largest TV distribution platform (after satellite DTH and cable) with a technical reach of 95% of the German TV households. Actual usage of the DVB-T infrastructure is 7.4 million households. In the main DTT areas, representing around 15 million homes, actual penetration is 27%.
The advantage of DTT in Germany is that it is “Easy, easy, easy,” according to Ulf Heggenberger, manager sales and marketing at Media Broadcast, “people need no contract, no subscription, they can just buy a TV set, switch it on and watch television.”
All DTT broadcasts in the country are free-to-air, except for a pilot with RTL channels. However, this situation might change for the private channels, as they might want to charge for the HD version of their channels, as is indeed the case on satellite DTH with the HD+ platform.
CI Plus will be part of the new standard in Germany in order to allow premium and other pay services over terrestrial transmitters. The encryption system has yet to be chosen.