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back to article Lords call for the end of TV transmissions

The UK House of Lords has recommended ending broadcast television and re-allocating for mobile data usage the spectrum currently used to transmit digital TV signals. Rather than take up vital electromagnetic spectrum, TV should be delivered exclusively over the internet, the House of Lords' Communications Committee concluded. …

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I'll be damned...

Lords... with a good idea for the future of tech? Blimey.

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Re: I'll be damned...

> Lords... with a good idea for the future of tech? Blimey.

Usually, but not today. TV is broadcast, so why do it point-to-point?

Unless they are suggesting peer-to-peer content transmission... :p

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Anonymous Coward

good idea?

then they nail everyone with a broadband line for a tv licence fee...

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Re: I'll be damned...

I *hope* you are being sarcastic. I've just looked at the membersip of the HoL Communications Committee. Not an engineer among them - it's a mixture of meeja types (Joan Bakewell, Melvyn Bragg), lawyers, and pensioned-off career politicians, plus a bishop...

Even given the cost of all the transmitters & the distribution infrastructure, and the imputed value of the spectrum, I reckon it's still much cheaper than a fibre/wire network for multicast to the necessary specification. I've got three TVs and a PVR that can record 2 channels simultaneously. That's potentially 5 different HD channels required simultaneously - say 60-70Mbit/sec with all the network overhead. And I'm sure I'm nowhere near what some households would require. And I live right out in the sticks with no prospect of getting anything better than ADSL2 (not even 2+) in the forseeable future.

A wire network is much more controllable by the State too...

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Meh

Re: I'll be damned...

That's a lot of bandwidth, but they're talking long-term strategy, AFAIK.

If the Big Switch Off (tm) happened in 2020-2025 than I suspect 70 meg will be a rather pedestrian speed for home users, certainly in the cities. Perhaps those "in the sticks" will still struggle; retaining those transmitters while giving super-duper mobile data to the 80% of us who live in a city would be a compromise, as would SD channels for the (relatively) low bandwidth users. "Needs of the many" and all that :)

Disclosure: I live in a city, but spent my formative years in a valley in the lake district which couldn't get C4 for the first 5 years of it's life (ironically one the first places to go digital a few years back).

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Re: I'll be damned...

"Usually, but not today. TV is broadcast, so why do it point-to-point?"

You do know that IP can be multicast? There is even specific IP Ranges reserved for it ( 224.0.0.0 through 239.255.255.255).

Does it work? - well at the moment I'm currently streaming up to 60 SD channels of TV and Radio to 300 devices with no perceivable loss of quality and it hasn't exceeded 36Mbps at the distribution point.

It makes you wonder what the point of scheduled programming will be if this persists. There will certainly be a battle between on-demand and scheduled in the future. In which case it has greater implications for niche and less popular programming which might currently only exist because "there's nothing better on".

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Re: I'll be damned...

No, they're suggesting Peer-to-Peer - i.e., that members of the House of Lords can swap content between themselves and the rest of us get what we're given...

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Alien

Re: I'll be damned...

Is this the same committee of Lords that decided we move to digital TV only a few years ago???? The rest of the world must assume we have far too much cash for our own good! Should have just done this from square one and saved a bit of cash no?

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Re: I'll be damned...

Eh? You talk about multicast and then use this as justification for getting rid of scheduled TV in favour of on-demand. Surly with on-demand the point is I want it when I want it, not when your multicast started. Oh, and I may want to pause it in the middle. That means I need my own stream and my own server process to stream it, doesn't it?

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Re: I'll be damned...

"You talk about multicast and then use this as justification for getting rid of scheduled TV in favour of on-demand"

Nope, two different subjects I just couldn't be bothered to start a new post. My point about multicast was replicating the current system and stating it doesn't need to be unicast, however I was saying that this may be a moot point as I can see the point of scheduled broadcasts becoming less relevant.

The justification for keeping scheduled broadcasts could however be multicast and bandwidth issues. It just depends on whether we're all 1Gbps FTTP by then or not.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'll be damned...

Cough Cough Multicast Cough

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No use.

If we were just going to end up with multicast IP, are we actually going to get any bandwidth benefits? Giving the commercial value of multiplexes, I don't imagine they're being anything other than frugal with bitrates etc as it stands. A switch to IP multicast would be a change of medium, but wouldn't really free up any space.

Also, while I'm not deep into networking, I do seem to recall that general purpose IP's dropped-packet handling is less suitable for video than video-specific DTV-B's...

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Re: No use.

"are we actually going to get any bandwidth benefits?"

Yes, because using IP multicasting (and it will be IPv6, given the timescale) the process becomes demand driven. If no-one in a given cell is watching the shopping channel, it consumes no spectrum in that cell and we get to use the frequencies for whatever we *are* watching.

You can, within reason, lay as much fibre as you like and each fibre is its own private universe in terms of spectrum allocation, so bandwidth is unlimited. Airwaves are finite, so it makes sense to use the most efficient and flexible transmission protocols that we have. Broadcast telly with dedicated blocks of spectrum for each channel is not the protocol you're looking for.

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FAIL

Re: I'll be damned...

No it's doesn't mean anything like it - it's called network PVRs - they already exist on most CDNs and the BBC and ITV already are or are considering using them.

TV will still be scheduled - everything has a publishing date - whether you watch it straight away or not is irrelevant. It will just be distributed "on-demand" over a 4G et al wireless connection or some kind of fixed line service.

Either way, broadcast is dead - move along there's nothing to see here.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'll be damned...

Multicast certainly does work.

I stream both SD and HD content to PC/Linux/Mac desktops and custom set-top boxes in my line of work.

The only problem is some (read too many!) switches don't implement the protocol very well, so unless you have an expensive managed network with expensive top name switches, you can start to have problems.

I've lost count of the number of "weird" things I've seen from devices receiving unexpected MC because of cheap switches... IP phones crash, printers lock up, wireless access points vanish, etc etc. None of these devices have any need for MC, and none have subscribed to a MC group, yet some switches just continue to serve it up none the less.

Not that they should crash anyway, but that's another complaint!

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Vic
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Re: I'll be damned...

> You do know that IP can be multicast?

Yes, and IPTV *should* be multicast.

But take a look at how many domestic ISPs carry multicast traffic :-(

> It makes you wonder what the point of scheduled programming will be if this persists

Multicast programming will still involve schedules.

Vic.

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Re: I'll be damned...

"Multicast programming will still involve schedules."

Yes, but will they persist with multicast and schedules. In broadcast TV they have to have schedules and play a stream of TV on each channel. However this doesn't need to be replicated in IP if the bandwidth is sufficient. They have the programmes and every morning they can release the day's programming to the CDN, or even a whole series at once if need be. The idea of having scheduled programmes becomes irrelevant.

Anyone who watches very little actual TV and relies on their PC and iPlayer, or TiVo users will be used to this already. there is no need to know what time a programme is on and set aside a time to watch it. You just watch it when you want.

This may be a paradigm shift and also has implications for current social media based group watching but it is probably the way TV will emerge if it goes IP based in the coming decades.

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Vic
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FAIL

Disclosure Fail

...On my behalf.

I should have added:

[Disclosure: one of my customers builds TV encoding systems. Most of them generating multicast IP]

Sorry an' all...

Vic.

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Vic
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Re: I'll be damned...

> Yes, but will they persist with multicast and schedules

Yes.

If they go unicast, you're going to need to budget for a *constant* 10Mb/s stream to every subscriber - possibly more. The ONS says there were 26.3 million households in 2011. That's a *lot*[1] of bandwidth.

CDNs will mitigate the problem, but not eradicate it.

My pet suggestion is to do NVOD distribution ober multicast, with a unicast stream to each subscriber to provide the data they've missed prior to the nearest NVOD stream. This gives you on-demand video at the cost of little more than NVOD multicast. But it does mean you've got to cache the data at the receiver. The meeja companies will probably object :-(

Vic.

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Re: I'll be damned...

It's just as well that 100% of the UK population have super fast broadband with no constraints at peak times, so that the average family can watch a few HD channels whilst simultaneously browsing and skyping in the evening - otherwise the government of the day would look fucking stupid when they switch off the broadcast channels and leave half of the population back in the Edwardian era.

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Re: I'll be damned...

So why not do multicast with each program starting every, say, 30 seconds. A 30 minute program would only need 60 individual streams at the broadcaster's end. That's surely a lot easier to manage than a couple of million streams for a prime-time soap.

You could even make the number of streams demand driven. A soap with 5 million viewers could have start points every five seconds. A less popular programme might have start points every 30 seconds.

Buffering at the end point could still allow pausing or saving for later viewing. Unless you buffer prior to watching, you'd effectively be seeing a live stream, so adverts would still be mostly compulsory viewing - something that's likely to please commercial broadcasters.

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Vic
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Re: I'll be damned...

> So why not do multicast with each program starting every, say, 30 seconds

You missed my NVOD comment, then?

Vic.

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Re: I'll be damned...

TV is less and less broadcast these days - with 2^N channels and PVRs. Really it's just a CDN/caching issue.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'll be damned...

It's a very bad idea for at least a couple of reasons

Firstly with my paranoid hat on, if I chose to watch Big Brother from a broadcast transmission, which I don't but if I did, it would be my dirty little secret. If everything were streamed then you can be damned sure there will be some government official intent on profiling your viewing habits.

Where I live when I'm not working is a rural area that doesn't even have a wired telephone connection let alone fibre so trying to watch TV over what we do have would be impossible. I once managed to get a modem connection a few years ago and it ran at 9600 baud for a couple of minutes before giving up. Now that I think of it we can't get a broadcast signal neither so ignore this point and just stick to the first one.

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Re: good idea?

Is this the only comment about a TV licence? It's the most obvious reason. Currently you can watch pre-recorded material without a licence, but this will allow them to change the law and impose a TV tax on us all.

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Re: good idea?

"this will allow them to change the law and impose a TV tax on us all."

I'm sure I'll recieve many downvotes for this, but...

IMHO the current rules on on-demand TV are a loophole which the law has not yet caught up with.

Back when watching pre-recorded material meant videos/DVDs bought/rented, there was good reason to exclude them from the TV license. Now, I believe that if you are watching catchup TV (i.e. on demand programming released according to the broadcast schedule) it is not really any different from recording that programme from broadcast and watching it later. If you were recording from broadcast, you would require a TV license, so why not when using catchup services?

I, for one, would be happy to see the law changed in this area. If you are watching catchup of broadcast, you should require a license.

This does not apply to such services as Lovefilm/Netflix, as they are the equivalent of renting DVDs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: good idea?

Yep, that's exactly what they did here. "Multi-media licence" which means any smartphone (whether you have a data plan or not), TV, broadband connection, radio or TV and so on. There is no escape. Which makes you wonder why they bother to charge for it seperately, when essentially the entire population is required to pay anyway?

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Prosperity

"Current and past governments have failed to understand the importance of broadband to Britain's future prosperity"

Not sure that there's much evidence to suggest that broad band has any effect on prosperity. It provides convenience for some things but buying a book via a Web Site instead of a local shop doesn't make us richer, for example.

On the subject of TV via the internet: I don't see this working well in rural communities where there is often no, or limited ADSL and no mobile signal either.

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Re: Prosperity

I think that the idea is that making us a more 'connected' nation will improve our performance in the tech industry. I agree however that beyond a certain point making connections faster doesn't change much, better CS and IT courses in schools would be much more effective.

As for internet-streamed TV replacing antennae, I think this is the way things are going but I can't see it happening any time soon. My parents still don't even have the internet, although I know they are a dwindling minority.

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Unhappy

Re: Prosperity

"I don't see this working well in rural communities where there is often no, or limited ADSL and no mobile signal either."

Indeed. Where I live is in a radio shadow which means that we have to use a repeater for our television signals. Which means a very limited number of digital channels (15) I think, are available. So we use Freesat.

Being well away from the telephone exchange means that we have an appalling speed on broadband which is in no way capable of running any sort of streaming video. It stutters, crashes and is in all ways a pain to try and watch.

So, if this report were to be acted upon, our Freesat would, presumably, be cut off and we would be thrown onto the mercy of BT to put their hands in their pockets and run a fibre to where we live. I can't see much chance of that unfortunately as with all things commercial it's the ROI that is paramount and BT are never going to get their money back without being prodded by the government. And again, that's not likely in the current economic climate.

So unless there's a change of mind this could spell the end of us being able to enjoy all that is on offer and all because we live in a rural area.

Another thought comes to mind, at the moment broadcast TV is, apart from the license, free to watch. Streaming over broadband means paying for a ADSL line, a router and so on. To ensure that people will take this up there needs to be more benefit to the consumer and less to the government and service providers.

This needs more thought.

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Re: Prosperity

@nematoad

Ah, but by freeing up the bandwidth and with inevitably increased investment in DSL etc, you will get the service. So long as you don't mind getting absolutely nothing for several years in between, as things inevitably will be even more ballsed up than DSO.

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Re: Prosperity

In the quote form the committee it states a request to turn off Terrestrial broadcasts, Freesat is safe and we can all 'enjoy' the current 24 HD channels of Olympics in the future. I rarely watch broadcast media live, recording things to watch at my convenience on all those lovely Freesat channels. Moving the recorded media into the cloud means I would only stream when I need too watch something, the concept behind the rather late to the party, YouView. Anyone remember DVB-H, doomed from the start as watching anything broadcast whilst mobile is going to be interrupted by lots of inconvenient distractions, streaming video that you can pause and stop is always a better option.

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Unhappy

Re: Prosperity

" I don't see this working well in rural communities"

I also don't see this working well in my 86 year old mums house who doesnt have broadband and struggles with "normal" telly (and she only EVER watches ITV), nearly every other day one of us has to go and "fix" her telly (put it back on the right channel, show her which way to hold the remote etc.)

I guess in 20 or 30 years when you have agenerally more tech savvy elderly population but today (or the near future) I think this would be an absolute nightmare!

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Re: Prosperity

Investment doesn't help much when you are on the end of an extremely long line.

MAJOR investment would but that would cost an awful lot more and there won't be the money to spare for a very long time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Prosperity

"I also don't see this working well in my 86 year old mums house..."

My 'rents are still struggling with the whole digital terrestrial TV thing. They don't do internet either. What are they going to do?

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Joke

Re: Prosperity

"Not sure that there's much evidence to suggest that broad band has any effect on prosperity. It provides convenience for some things but buying a book via a Web Site instead of a local shop doesn't make us richer, for example."

It does, compare Amazon's prices to WH Smiths :-)

If I save 5 quid on a book I'm 5 quid richer than I would have been going to WH Smiths (not to mention the cost of fuel, parking in town, the time and effort of getting dressed rather than sitting on my laptop in my boxer shorts). :-)

Okay, seriously, I do see your point. I do enjoy going browsing the shops and looking at physical products before making a purchase (sometimes in the store, sometimes online).

Rob

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Re: Prosperity

It's an interesting question. Does broadband make us richer, and if so, how?

Lower online prices make the customer richer, but only at the expense of making somebody else poorer in the context of that transaction. GDP doesn't increase because I buy a book for £10 from Amazon instead of £15 from Waterstones (I don't buy books from W H Smith because I'm not into East Enders Annuals).

Clearly societies become richer when their supply chains become more efficient, but I'm not enough of an economist to understand exactly how.

That said, most of the people who want broadband can now get it. I don't see how faster broadband changes things. I don't think I'll buy more from Amazon if my broadband speed increases.

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Re: rural communities and 86-year-old mums

Agreed, but I assume that even the 86-year-old mums and dads who wrote the report appreciate this point. The article suggests that they've asked Ofcom to look into the feasibility. Ofcom will (pray, pray) come back and say "great idea, but only after you've got the infrastructure delivering several megabits of capacity to any property in the land that wants it". Since eny fule no that we won't have that for a decade or two, the 86-year-olds at risk are currently in their 60s and probably savvy enough.

Also, at its most basic level, a "set-top box" need only be pre-programmed to produce a composite video signal output containing the half-dozen channels that you want to watch. You'd continue to use you telly's remote to change channel, thereby avoiding the "which remote to I use to change the volume" problem that (in my experience) is the greatest annoyance in the world of VCRs, DVDs, PVRs and Satellite boxes all plugged into each other.

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Vic
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Re: rural communities and 86-year-old mums

> only after you've got the infrastructure delivering several megabits of capacity

...Only after you've got it delivering *reliably*.

Who wants to be awtching something on the telly when it stops in its tracks. The router is showing LCP disconencts from the head end. But your ISP takes 2 days to take any action, and thtat's just to tell you to disconnect all your phones, plug your router into the master socket, change all your filters, and try your kit at someone else's house[1].

You don't need much data loss to make IPTV unwatchable. Until and unless broadband suppliers start fixing problems *urgently*, removing broadcast TV is not going to work. People will not put up with not being able to watch telly for days on end. And ISPs aren't going to make any move on that front while BT still charge £183 for a callout.

> a composite video signal output containing the half-dozen channels that you want to watch

STBs don't really work that way. You need hardware support for each channel decoded. Opportunistic decoding like that would be expensive both in terms of compute hardware and power requirements.

Vic.

[1] Thankyou, Eclipse. I had hoped the log file would show you the problem, but apparently that's far too much effort to read.

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Re: Prosperity

> I don't see this working well in rural communities"

It's precisely aimed at rural communities.

At the moment you put government money into a new TV mast/repeater and everyone is still unemployed but can watch Trisha. You put the same money into running a broadband fibre to the village and they all have jobs as social media experts ;-)

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Re: Prosperity

'Parents' is such a mouthful isn't it? Thank heavens for abbreviations.

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Meh

I hope they will use multicast

esle it just shows they understand nothing of technology, and will soon suggest to remove powerlines and beam power around...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I hope they will use multicast

The fact that they don't grasp the massively greater efficiency of broadcasting the same signal ONCE in parallel via radio to millions of receivers, rather than as millions of identical packets clogging up the internet as they take the SAME data to millions of people "shows they understand nothing of technology".

It's the difference between putting a poster on a wall or sending out millions of individual postcards bearing the same picture. Another interesting point is that, whereas it is impossible to tell who is watching what if a signal is broadcast, using the internet instead allows a great deal of profiling of individuals on the basis of their viewing.

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So what about those with <2Mb/s connections, no TV at all for us. Even those with better connections will struggle to watch different channels. Unless of course you are one of the lucky ones on a fibre connection. How about download caps? Will ISPs be forced to lift those to cover streaming?

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The idea is that you will by then have a better than 2Mb/s connection, by virtue of using the freed spectrum- though yes, it does suggest there could be an awkward transitional period.

>How about download caps? Will ISPs be forced to lift those to cover streaming?

Probably- Virgin Media already do. They have a list of upload and download caps for different times of day for their different tarifs, but it states these do not affect BBC iPlayer or Virgin's catch up service.

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Anonymous Coward

"Probably- Virgin Media already do. They have a list of upload and download caps for different times of day for their different tarifs, but it states these do not affect BBC iPlayer or Virgin's catch up service."

So Virgin closely monitor your data? I'll be keeping clear of them.

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So Virgin closely monitor your data?

I doubt it. They are having to read the packet headers to root the data already. So all they need to do is check the Source Address in the packet.

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Re: So Virgin closely monitor your data?

Virgin are one of the companies that cache iPlayer and their own download content at various locations around the country. There is AFAIK some relatively clever transparent proxies in their network to deliver the data. This means that for certain streaming sites, the cost of sending the data is much less (traffic is kept to the local infrastructure, not loading their backbone), and they can afford to not count that traffic towards bandwidth caps.

It's only some streaming sites. The rest of the traffic is counted normally, as I know to my cost as an ex Virgin ADSL customer, now happy with another ISP.

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OK...

...your Lordships, I'll make you a deal: I'll go along with your idea to transmit HD (I assume) TV exclusively over the internet, if you provide BT (or whomever) with the squillions of pounds required to bring the UK's antediluvian phone network up to the necessary standard.

It's not just in rural areas that fibre-speed broadband is lacking. We live on the outskirts of a major English town, on a relatively new (<10yrs) housing estate, yet even though we live down the road from a fibred-up exchange, we can barely get 2Mbps (I understand, due to the lines to the houses being copper, or wet string, or something equally rubbish). If no-one else uses a PC at the same time, we can just about get consistent enough speed to watch the BBC iPlayer in SD without buffering.

Like the sound of the Brave New World of IPTV, sirs and madams, but with the UK's creaking comms networks requiring some major investment, we might have moved onto telepathy before it comes to pass... more's the pity :-(

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Re: OK...

(off topic, sorry)

Re New Builds, why the hell do they not have Cat5 cable, or at least conduits, between rooms? Would be so cheap and easy to do at the construction stage.

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