The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has published the latest version of the public standard interactive TV middleware MHEG as a formal European standard.
Version 2.1.1 of ETSI standard 202 184 contains a raft of updates to the original ETSI MHEG specification from 2004. These include support for the IP-based MHEG Interaction Channel, which enables hybrid broadcast broadband receiver operation via an IP connection – already being used by Freesat in the UK for catch-up TV services – and full support for HD graphics with increased colour depth and screen resolutions.
The latest version of MHEG was submitted to ETSI in late September and has now been fully ratified. David Cutts, MD of S&T, a founder member of IMPALA, said in a statement, “The publication of the new version of MHEG by ETSI is a significant milestone for the world’s most popular open standard interactive TV middleware. These developments are a step change in the capabilities of the globally deployed technology providing broadcasters with a cost-effective route into a new world of hybrid service provision and therefore revenue growth.”
The ETSI Work Group, which was set up in October 2008, used the MHEG sections of D-Book 6 as the basis for its work. D-Book 6 (and now 6.1 and 6.2) is published by the UK’s Digital Television Group and provides a clear and ongoing technological roadmap for the middleware.
The MHEG Interaction Channel uses a sophisticated ‘Hybrid File System’ that enables broadcasters to create common applications that can work on both IP-connected and unconnected receivers. The MHEG-IC allows the application to determine whether or not an IP connection is possible (i.e. the receiver is equipped with the appropriate hardware and software) and whether or not it is actually available (i.e. has the user actually connected the receiver to the home network?)
The system enables decoding of MPEG-4 or MPEG-2 streams using the same hardware used for broadcast content and can be used to deliver catch-up TV to a connected receiver or set top box.