Julian Clover reports from this week’s DVB World conference in Berlin.
Across the road from the Berliner Congress Center is a large shopping mall, the centrepiece of which is a branch of the German retail chain MediaMarkt. Over four floors you can buy anything from the latest Schalger album, on vinyl, through to Handy Socks, which are, well, socks to put your Handy (or mobile phone) in.
There was also a good reflection of the pay-TV market. In the corner of the fourth floor was a row of satellite dishes, but the pay-TV platform Premiere was represented by just a shelf, with much the same for Kabel Deutschland downstairs.
The TVs were thankfully spared the row of stickers indicating compatibility with everything but the kitchen sink. The point was not lost on the DVB World conference taking place across the road. Chairman Phil Laven made the point that DVD players were virtually being given away because a worldwide standard has helped to push costs ever downward. As the UK prepares to commence official DVB-T2 transmissions at the commercial launch of terrestrial high definition, such pressures will be needed if Freeview’s £100 target price is met, amid suggestions that the UK might once again be going it alone.
As with DVB-T transmissions some ten years earlier, somebody has to jump first, and the Norwegian contingent came in for criticism for being first movers in MPEG-4.
The DVB’s ever growing family of standards has meant that not all of them have met with equal success. A questionmark still surrounds the organisation’s work on IP, where despite many operators and vendors taking on board elements of the specification, it cannot be said to have received widespread adoption. Mobile TV through DVB-H is also proving problematic, and the competition is coming from the DVB itself, following the launch of handheld devices capable of DVB-T reception. “Isn’t it funny our own creation has killed ourselves,” observed Alex Mestre, strategic marketing manager at Abertis Telecom.
The other wobble is CI Plus, the new common interface technology that started off in the DVB, before being adopted outside the organisation by a grouping of Sony, SmarDTV, Samsung, Philips and Neotion. It is a topic that few want to talk about, a German manufacturer next to me suggested that only Kabel Deutschland was really interested these days and when Jean-Pierre Lacotte, chairman of the French HD-Forum and director of Thomson European public affairs was asked about France, there was just laughter.
Yet the work of the DVB remains a resounding success, outside of those territories such as the US, Japan and China, where there is no domestic digital TV standard, it is the DVB that is the standard of choice. As Digital Tech Consulting’s Myra Moore put it the DVB owns the DTH market, while 50% of cable receivers and 44% of DTT receivers shipped in 2009 will be DVB compliant. Ahead is next week’s submission of DVB-C2, the next generation cable standard, which can be expected to deliver bandwidth savings in excess of 30%.
Back in the shopping centre a display was enticing people to ‘Visit Portugal’, appropriate really as that is the location for DVB World 2010.