I'll be damned...
Lords... with a good idea for the future of tech? Blimey.
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 …
"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 ( 22.214.171.124 through 126.96.36.199).
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".
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?
"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.
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.
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!
> 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.
"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.
> Yes, but will they persist with multicast and schedules
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* 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 :-(
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.
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...
"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.
"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.
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?
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...
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).
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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
> 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 ;-)
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.
" 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!
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.
> 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.
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.
 Thankyou, Eclipse. I had hoped the log file would show you the problem, but apparently that's far too much effort to read.
"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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
...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 :-(
What I wouldn't give to have ANY kind of Gigabit Ethernet-capable cabling between the rooms of our house already... and I don't greatly care whether it's Cat5e, Cat6, fibre or magic elf-ropes
It would save some serious DIY work installing it (and/or serious cash, if I bottle out and call in an electrician to do it), and I wouldn't have to use slow 200Mbps (ha ha ha, oh stop it, you're killing me) HomePlugAV adapters which no doubt honk off the local radio-hams.
Ah, 21st-century worries...
> "Re New Builds, why the hell do they not have Cat5 cable, or at least conduits, between rooms? "
> Because, by the time it becomes standard to install Cat5, we will want fibre between rooms or be wireless.
The cable bundle I put into my walls 6 years ago already has fiber. The marginal cost of doing this was trivial at the time. Alternatively, I could have just run conduit.
Specifying conduit in the building code would make a great deal of sense. It would be a bit more expensive but it would be very future proof.
Either way, I'm not seeing wired Gigabit becoming obsolete any time soon. I can to file transfers at 100MB/s from one corner of my house to the other and I don't see any consumer tech matching that any time soon.
My first thought was the same as petur's. Multicast is one of those options thoughtfully built in to the Internet protocols by the nice folks at the IETF, and then neglected by the stupid money-grubbing people who actually provide Internet connectivity. (Yes, BT, I do mean you).
The Lords are right in principle, but unfortunately you can be right in principle and come to grief spectacularly because someone didn't work out the implementation properly. The Internet as we know it in the UK today is emphatically NOT appropriate as a medium for everyone to start watching TV. It's barely adequate for traditional browsing, email, and file transfer. If you want a perfect example, consider the coverage of the London Olympics right now. The BBC told us for years that they would cover everything at the Games. Then, a day or two before, they casually mentioned that you could only get their 30 parallel streams if you subscribe to Sky or Virgin or Freesat. So off to the BBC Web site to see what's available there. Yes, it's a 500Kbps grainy feed that stops every 30 seconds for about 30 seconds. Overloaded, do you think? Even the official Olympic Web site's "live scores" tend to be minutes or more behind. Pathetic.
So get your priorities right, government, better still, hire a competent project manager - although I know it goes against the grain to be organized and have plans you stick to for more than ten days. First, give us ALL broadband like that in Japan or South Korea - 1Gbps up and down, delivered by fibre to the premises. And back it up with properly specified backbones and routing centres. Then you can come back and talk about using it for TV.
I think you'll find that Korea claims 100% by virtue of high speed wireless broadband coverage in rural areas, not fibre, and for the OECD broadband stats having only high speed smartphone access still counts as broadband. Whether having to watch all fifty TV channels simultaneously on a 4 inch screen works for them I can't say.
I for one welcome our sleepy ermine-clad overlords!
But seriously, I'm all for democracy and all- but the downside of the House of Commons is that there is no motivation for them to think much beyond a 4 to 8 year electoral cycle. Many issues, especially those concerning infrastructure, take place over a much longer time period, ideally benefiting voters who are not yet born.
I'd like to see them offer audio feeds too, for those of us who want to listen but don't need to waste bandwidth on video. Also useful at work where it's possible to wear headphones to listen while working, and not take a big bite out of the company internet bandwidth when doing so.
I would be interested to know how the power consumption compares between broadcast and internet; for example a TV transmitter might consume a few MW but serve maybe 100000 homes and with no additional costs as # users increase. A broadband pipe to each home could end up consuming considerably more power and will scale by user numbers. Comments?
This shows such an incredible lack of understanding of how the current UK internet backbone is not geared to deliver this and would be brought to its knees without huge investment.
No wonder science is so fucked up in this country as the idiots who make decisions all have history of art degrees.
But they're not talking about doing it now. We all know that it wouldn't work today, even if the core backbone was fine, many households don't have broadband, or don't have decent enough broadband.
That said, if they used multicast (as to not do so would be lunacy), then the main stumbling block would the required end-point upgrades. Selling off the spectrum to the mobile companies etc could create a huge pot of money with which to fund these with.
"Selling off the spectrum to the mobile companies etc could create a huge pot of money with which to fund these with."
No it wouldn't. Last time round they were fleeced over 3G, which they all felt compelled to bid for, raised about £20 billion that the government wasted on Lord-knows-what, and resulted in the significant value destruction for shareholders - in large part your and my pension pots. And even if it hadn't gone sour, the telcos would have needed to have raised that £20 billion plus economic return from your and my pocket as customers.
If anything, the uk 3G auctions made it less likely that we'd see fast roll out of broadband, because it was cash sucked out of the industry. You think they'd get it right this time?
Not sure whether it'll ever work in the medium term as a *replacement* for broadcast TV, but I think all the Freeview/Freesat channels should be strongly encouraged to provide an IPTV service. TVCatchup.com is all very well but an official standards-based IPTV, that you could buy a standard box for that plugged into your broadband, would be absolutely brilliant.
Setting aside the technical and capacity issues possibly arising from using what is, essentially, a point to point communications channel for broadcast purposes, the key issue with this for me is who pays for delivery?
In TV over the air broadcast, setting aside the UK licence fee as a contributor to cost, the broadcaster pays for delivery through contracting transmission services. In the current model of either cable TV or internet provision the customer pays for delivery through cable on ISP fees. It would seem to me that such a shift to wired provision only would end up transferring the cost of delivery to customers and away from producers. This seems like a bad idea to me as a consumer of TV, and an especially bad idea for people with low incomes, such as pensioners, who currently get TV delivery free of any charge. Even if there was a universal service requirement this would not be without a significant cost per home which must be met somewhere whilst with over the air delivery it is negligible.
However, there would also need to be some investment at the receiver end - those who don't want or need broadband for example (it would now become a necessary evil and additional cost to those on limited income).
Would meet the government view of every service to be web based - the smart TV sellers must be applauding this and rubbing their hands together (and yes I know it's just a recommendation).
But the limited resource here is the broadcast airwaves and the proposed solution doesn't necessarily use any of that. (In practice, end-points might use domestic wireless networks for the final few yards, but they needn't and it would be an affordable use of spectrum anyway because it is cellular.) You are trading efficient use of a scarce resource for a less efficient use of one that is orders of magnitude more plentiful.
If the Lords want to make terrestrial TV go away then the first thing they will have to consider is how to decouple broadband from the service that sits on top.
Broadband should be considered a utility like gas or water. The cable running to the door should not be tied to one provider. I should be able to switch providers if I wish, or choose none at all and still have access to TV, or mix and match my TV provider with my internet and phone provider. All over the same fibre.
There needs to be a standard such that I can plug an ethernet cable from my TV to a box in the wall, it discovers what TV providers and services (live, on demand, timeshift) are available, I can pick one and it all just works.
Once they legislate all this including something analogous for 3G/4G and ensure every household is adequately covered THEN they can start reducing the broadcast spectrum.
Maybe I just saw the future. A "national grid" ethernet network. A massive all-encompassing switched terabit ethernet running to every house in the country. Plug in a telly, it will connect to a built-in list of things: tv://bbc.co.uk etc. Plug in a phone, perhaps dial a friend using their IP6 address? phone://...... (from your contacts obviously, you' wouldn't be tryping an IP6 from memory :D)
> A "national grid" ethernet network.
An interwoven network of networks. Wow. You could call it something really slappy, like - oh, I don't know, an internet, or something like that?
> dial a friend using their IP6 address? phone://......
If you used "sip:firstname.lastname@example.org", you'd be standards-compliant...
Keep the spectrum for 4G and successors. However, why force people to have high bandwidth broadband (i.e. more than 2 Mbit/s) ? Even though I have 60 Mbit/s broadband, I'm more than happy with Freesat and the 20+ HD Olympics channels to view... My mother (70+) is happy with low cost broadband for looking up recopies and looking at the odd interesting YouTube video; many people won't want to pay for this.
"In a report entitled Broadband for All - An Alternative Vision, the Committee writes: "We recommend that the government, Ofcom and the industry begin to consider the desirability of the transfer of terrestrial broadcast content from spectrum to the internet and the consequent switching off of broadcast transmission over spectrum." "
There is a little known alternative called satellite TV.
I think "terrestrial" is in there. As in "...the transfer of terrestrial broadcast content from spectrum to the internet..." There's no reason why satellite systems couldn't share the load though.
Thing is, they want to free up this "spectrum" thing by killing TV transmissions so they can make more money by selling it to 4G, 5G(?) and whatever else. Doesn't it seem a bit odd that one of the main benefits of this brave new wireless world is that you can send and receive more mobile data... thereby providing bandwidth to allow all the happy new users to receive a TV signal anywhere? Unlike the current broadcast system which allows you to receive a TV signal anywhere.
That was my point. El Reg's interpretation of what the Lords said differs from mine.
"Rather than take up vital electromagnetic spectrum, TV should be delivered exclusively over the internet, the House of Lords' Communications Committee concluded."
Nothing exclusive about it. Having Freeview and Sky/Freesat doesn't really make sense to me.
I think that as a strategic vision, it does make sense; and as far as I can see, it is actually meant to be a strategic view, not something that they expect to happen anytime soon.
It appears that they do realise that the infrastructure is not in place and the reason for the recommendation is to try to see if they can then start a discussion on how to achieve that improvement in the infrastructure.
Now if they could find a way to translate that vision into reality, I would be very impressed. I might even buy them a pint
If national communications capability is so critical, why advocate going down a path which will consume a significant part of the fixed bandwidth for something which is really quite unimportant?
Whatever, if they are serious about this then I would find it acceptable provided that the cost to me as a broadband user for the extra capacity (to serve at least four independent users in my home) was no more per annum than I am currently paying for the TV license. If they can guarantee that, and that there would still be capacity for current broadband activities, then maybe I'd accept it.
Otherwise, My Lords, please concentrate on more important matters, like keeping an eye on the House of Commons.
"If national communications capability is so critical, why advocate going down a path which will consume a significant part of the fixed bandwidth for something which is really quite unimportant?"
Exactly. Reserving the best part of the spectrum for broadcast telly is just dumb.
Having started to read up on this committee and its findings yesterday I probably have a better view than those who have simply read this particular one.
The Committee has actually said that the current strategy of having the world's fastest broadband does not achieve what is needed for the UK see this story first
As for their current proposal, they are right that using the internet to deliver content is the way forward, ultimately all content (phone calls, video calls, radio and television) will be delivered by this medium. Whether we use a fixed line connection or have wireless connectivity wherever we go is really a matter of choice, the actual medium for delivery will be the given. Freeing up radio spectrum improves the chances of providing high speed internet access to all since it removes a major barrier to achieving it today (lack of spectrum at the right wave lengths). If Arquiva (today's broadcast TV monopolist) had any sense they would already be undertaking the necessary work to allow for their tv towers to be used to provide a high speed wireless broadband backbone network that can be used to support the 4G networks of next year.
As for issues of tv licenses, new models are needed to ensure that people pay for content. If we don't start to think about that now, then like the internet radio stations, tv companies will potentially price the product out of the broadcasters ability to pay (internet radio pays on a per stream basis with each individual user equal to 1 stream). The people who produce the content deserve a real return on their efforts in the same way as people who work in other industries.
I think that this Committee has done something that the last two Governments have failed to do, they have identified a clear vision of the digital future, they have proposed some but not all the actions that may need to be taken to get their and like Paddy Boyle they are attempting to make sure that everyone gets included and not just those who live in the brand new house with a piece of glass fibre linking it to the fibre equipped exchange next door.
As for me I am off to look at business opportunities that will make me rich whilst I live in my little village that as a result of this report may yet get a decent broadband speed which does not vary by up to 60% depending on the time of day.
But "billions" amortised over 15-20 years and coming with associated benefits (like, say, that fast internet connection that almost anybody claims to want and be willing to pay for if only the service was available in their area) might end up being substantially less than the cost of the tellys that people plug the cable into.
Look at it this way: Does anyone here think we *won't* have a network capable of delivering several megabits to any property that wants it by 2030? That's 18 years. Think how far we've come since 1994.
cant be bothered to read the utter rubbish supporting this dumb idea. At the moment you grab your tv off the airwaves. difficult for them to regulate individuals. Once its over the net they can pull the plug or meter it out at extortionate prices. British public are dumb and will probably sleepwalk into this one.
It is scary that the idea is to push terrestrial television onto broadband in order to free up more space for mobiles (no doubt sold to the highest bidder), given that we're either going to see a lot of viewers cut off due to slow internet, or a dramatic reduction in picture quality. Not to mention, is the infrastructure even capable of supporting this much data transfer - we could be looking at 2-4 channels simultaneously (parents, kids, recording...).
It seems highly bizarre that the Lords did not consider making more use of satellite services (as has been pointed out) given that it exists, is capable of reaching most viewers with no massive infrastructure changes, and accordingly offers higher quality pictures than squeezing down a congested pipe.
Then we get to the mobile devices themselves. The Lords are aware, I hope, that other EU countries use similar frequencies for their own terrestrial broadcasting?
Some years ago I foresaw the government trying to push tv delivery onto the internet - the only justification for 'high speed broad band' in the majority of cases is for streamed media delivery. Currently time shifted material is not subject to license fees, the broadcasters pay for the delivery and as many people in a household can watch when they like, timeshifting as appropriate.
Roll onto broadband del ...*buffering* ... ivery where the customer with be forced into paying for huge bandwidths of technically poor quality material, the customer will pay for the transmission infrastructure, the broadcaster will be able to implement pay-as-you-watch whenever they feel like it (or the license fee will extend to broadband connections and internet enabled devices), timeshifting of material can be blocked or restricted using DRM, restricted viewing per ip can be implemented so no more 'three tv sets per household', and if you have more than on connected dev ... *buffering* ... ice either quality will be awful or the inevi ...*buffering*... table will happen.
It's just the Lords pandering to the government saving loads of money and at the same time getting loads back in spectrum fees ... ie taxing the individual.
As a fag packet calculation, exactly what bandwidth connection would I need to service my three HD boxes, two HD tv's and three computers simultaneously? Perhaps 20Mbps is the absolute limit per channel, that's six channels plus 5Mbps for the computers *plus* any bandwidth used for time shift recording. For an average houshold a conservative minimum of 100Mbps and for comfort 150Mbps. I can barely get 4mbps now ... what's going to change? Where is BT going to find even 20Mbps of guaranteed raw backbone capacity to every household in Britain (they probably can't multiplex this type of data stream much but assume that's the minimum requirement per household)?
Mr Bolt is on the starting line, 30 million devices are tuned in at 20mbps ... I think the phrase 'talking out of their ars ...*buffering* ...
And when an emergency happens, which is easier to keep running:
a single transmitter, plus a number of battery operated receivers
a bunch of routers, head-end units, distribution units, and home routers, many of which won't be on any form of back up?
But I am worrying about nothing - it's not like there are power outages that take down hundreds of millions of people's power....
(I wonder why my contractor house hasn't been responding to my emails.... I'll have to ping Bhupesh about this poor performance.)
... considering this is supposed to be a tech website frequented by tech-savvy users and commenters.
The UK has seen a steady rise in broadband availability in rural areas for years now, and they aren't going to turn off terrestrial tomorrow. Like the article says, if it ever came near the drawing board, a required availability would be determined for the entire nation, and by that time we're likely to have broadband in more places at higher speeds regardless.
Paris, because even she can read.
Maybe I am too cynical but I suspect that the content of this report is driven by lobbying by organisations that want more mobile bandwidth to sell rather than by a technical vision to deliver better or more flexible television services to the general population. As such I'm not sure that judging responses based on technical merit has much value.
As someone who lives in a small village albiet one that has an exchange with 100 yards of my house the idea of watching streaming video on the Internet that isn't endlessly pausing while buffers are filled is a distant dream
I don't recall a single time that I've noticed the terrestrial TV signal being offline. However, I can recall multiple occasions in the past year when broadband has had outages - some minor, some longer - some local issues, some widescale issues.
Going to broadband for TV sounds like a major step back for reliability of the service.
As an industry professional for both TV and communications I answered a similar question a while ago on another forum, I've found my post and I will repost it here because it is so detailed, the question was "As IPTV gains in popularity, is there any merit in the idea to eventually use TV transmitters to broadcast broadband via wireless instead of DTT?":
There are two fundamental approaches to delivering content: 1) broadcast 2) unicast
On the basis of bandwidth efficiency, no matter what the technical mechanism broadcasting will always be the most efficient way to deliver popular linear content because if millions of people watch the same content at the same time it is efficient to deliver it to their homes by broadcast, serving millions of streams individually is possible but less efficient.
However the consideration becomes different when you ask if it is right to have linear channels or if you are going to have an entirely non-linear system. If all content is non-linear then you just ask about popularity and how you manage demand. Non-linear broadcasting reduces the cost for delivering the long-tail of legacy content but popular content accounts for the peak load of the system. If people are addicted to Eastenders, Corrie, Brookside, etc then as soon as it is made available it will get hit with a significant quantity of demand (obviously dependent on when you make it available). But if that load is manageable then unicast is a flexible way of delivering on-demand content which allows you to measure audiences well and tailor the advertising to the demographics of the audience and increase effectiveness.
The second part of this is the technical delivery aspect, in terms of carriage of packets the DVB systems are a very efficient way of delivering video compared to almost any of the internet based deliver mechanisms. IPTV has significant overhead in terms of packet delivery. But DVB is restricted in that it is used as a broadcast medium and so for delivery to individuals it isn't very effective (as currently implemented). Broadcasting a packet just for you over the entire region is not very efficient, but if you ignore the fact that we have these legacy transmitters you can start to envisage ways in which the broadcast spectrum can be used more efficiently.
The TV broadcast spectrum currently uses a significant quantity of bandwidth which if broken down might be used for wireless broadband instead. Using something like 4G LTE one could put many thousands of small transmitters (co-located with mobile phone masts) which service the local community. In terms of linear broadcasts you can still do it over wireless using multicast, but instead of broadcasting an entire multiplex of channels you only broadcast the channels that are wanted in the areas they are wanted in. If no one outside of a region wanted to watch a particular channel then it wouldn't be broadcast, but as soon as someone wanted to watch that channel it could be dynamically be broadcast to the entire community, the second person watching it is essentially halving the cost of broadcasting it, the third cutting it to a third and so on. If the collective household watches every channel then DVB Broadcasting is more efficient, but as you break down the transmitters into smaller coverage areas then less people watch fewer channels.
In terms of cost impact on consumers, you could essentially say that watching multicast channels does not need to impact your "allowance" but watching unicast (lone Welshman in a Norfolk village watching S4C) might cost you for the delivery because the entire stream bandwidth is being used just for you.
In addition such a system wouldn't need to be wireless because in many countries cable TV and IPTV over ADSL/fibre is dominant. Terrestrial broadcasting in the VHF/UHF range isn't the only way to do things but services rural communities well who get a worse wired connectivity.
It is a bit of a leap to say that the UK could change from being a DVB-T/T2 dominant nation, mainly because it will significantly impact the vulnerable in the medium term. The cost of replacing DVB-T in the UK is significant and that can't be laid on cash constrained people. Perhaps in 5-10 years we might be able to migrate the PSB channels entirely over to MPEG4+DVB-T2 (even if not actually HD channels) which is very much more efficient and would free up a significant amount of transmission spectrum. Then we would be in a situation where IPTV could be offered over some future form of wireless system.
Currently I see that IPTV over copper (combinations of xDSL, FTTC, FTTP, DOCSIS Cable, etc) from current telecoms suppliers will be the dominant force in showing how IPTV can be delivered. Projects like YouView, various Connected TV developments from manufacturers and whatever Sky will pull out of its hat, will lead the way before the mobile companies can act.
I wonder if anyone has also considered the effect this would have on the gov's new snooping attempts, we'll have MI5 and MI6 viewing broadcast footage just in case the terrorists and pedo's starting embedding subliminal messages or dodgy content in tv channels....
Who cares? This isn't like email of telephone messages. This is stuff that is currently broadcast to n-million people in the *hope* that a few of them will actually be paying attention rather than just "having the telly on".
And unless you are talking about free-to-air channels, the actual content will be encrypted so no, they won't have any idea what you are watching unless they've applied rubber-hose cryptography to the broadcaster, in which case they can already find out who is watching by browsing the broadcaster's customer list, finding your name and sniffing your bank account.
Bottom line, James Bond can already do all these things if he wants to, but Joe Public can't currently and won't be able to in the future either.
> the actual content will be encrypted so no, they won't have any idea what you are watching
The content might be, but the IP stream isn't (and can't be) and, unless all the broadcast encoders in the world are re-engineered, nor will the transport streams be. It's only the elementary streams that get encrypted.
> but Joe Public can't currently and won't be able to in the future either.
A single TS can carry multiple programmes. Anyone sniffing the traffic can tell trivially which TS is being watched. It's rather harder to tell which programme within that stream is being watched if it contains more than one.
Of course, once we go to IPv6, and multicasts are no longer (comparatively) scarce, it's quite likely that each programme will be carried in its own TS.
The TV networks are going to love this. Finally a way to grab control and force us to sit through the adverts, channel promo's and basically any other crap they want, as already implemented in the various internet catchup services.
You can bet they're already scheming in smoky backrooms, working out how to make the lockdown most intrusive, how much palm greasing needs to happen.
The problem with that scenario is that *advertisers*, who are supposedly bank-rolling the whole thing, probably don't want to make the product so unattractive that the only recipients are people who have nothing better to do with their lives. TV already faces the problem that people with large disposable incomes are finding alternative forms of communal entertainment.
This should come as no surprise really. Streaming is already taking over from broadcast and the next generation will consume most of their tellyvisual experience via the Internet. What we need to do is prepare for the inevitable and start planning and building replacement/additional exchanges to cope with the demand. BT should be forced to build new exhanges rather than overload old ones.
I kind of agree, especially as everything is duplicated on antenna terrestrial and satellite.
They may as well keep it all on satellite as that serves many countries, and use the terrestrial spectrum for something else. In the meantime, spend the money on better internet bandwidth.
Can they also either boost the DAB signal so it is useable or get rid of it.
How about a second fibre network. Sounds daft, but bear with me.
A DWDM-ed system would allow hundreds of broadcast HD channels to be kicked out over a fibre, each on a different wavelength. Drop to SD and you've got even more channels.
As the traffic is one-way you just need to kick it onto a fibre and anything downstream will pick it up (boosters may be required). As you're broadcasting to ANYONE on that fibre you don't need to worry about addressing or anything like that. Obviously you couldn't use TCP/IP or similar, I'm thinking more along the lines of sending a live MPEG stream into the transmitters and having the receivers simply decoding it (maybe including an encryption/decryption stage in there as well).
Loops like BBC Scotland can just be run on the scottish section of the fibre; you'd just block that wavelength from crossing the border in a Borders booster-station.
It also means they're running Fibre out across the UK. The most expensive part of laying a fibre network is the actual laying of the cable, and this is a cost that could then be split between ISPs, the government AND the content producers (in return for, say, legally-backed DRM on the broadcast signals and so on). Other big companies (Tesco or GE or suchlike) could be offered the chance to buy their own national fibre network (or just a wavelength or two on one) for their internal networks- improving security and increasing speed.
One single wavelength on one fibre could carry most of the radio that's currently blasted about, though I imagine multiplexed audio would be a little more complex than the video.
So with this plan you would get a free-d up EM Spectrum, TV that's still broadcast (so no massive IP-stlye bandwidth requirements) AND the potential for Gigabit-to-the-home.
Is that a solution that's full of win or what?!
The point was that a wallet full of public cash isn't needed; there are sufficient private entities who would be interested in harnessing this massively-multi-fibre network that they could all pay a relatively small amount and get a decent ROI.
Hollywood studios could 'rent' wavelengths on a fibre from the Government and stream only encrypted HD streams- so they'd have a decent lock on what you could watch (same as Sky can now). A direct HD-SDI feed straight to every house in the UK- that'd be worth a fortune.
Virgin Internet would rent lots of bandwidth- as would BT, Sky and every other ISP who wanted to survive.
Virgin and Sky TV would rent even more bandwidth to provide their Internet services
Phone providers would pop up to provide you with a phone-over-fibre service
Mobile phone networks would chew your hands off to get at plentiful, cheap, national backhaul bandwidth so they could start offering 'proper' Mobile Internet. They'd also, I imagine, like a solution that opens up more radio bandwidth for the same reason.
Apple would pay to get their own wavelength to distribute apps/TV/security/propaganda/advertising, then sue everyone for using the idea of measuring the length of a wave.
Companies could rent wavelengths for dedicated lines between sites- on a local or national level. This need not just be megacorps but could also include, say, providers of CCTV or other distributed services.
Another benefit is that fast, high-bandwidth hardware would become cheaper as a trillion more bits of kit get used- helping make it cheaper for the rest of the world to catch up.
The only potential hold-ups would be "not invented here" syndrome in BT et al, interference from local/national government, and Alex Salmond insisting that all the fibres north of the border be called "Fibre Scot-pics" and have a Saltire cross-section.
From a satellite. To millions of receivers at once
Vs hundreds of times, from local transmitters to a few hundred or thousands of receivers
The satellite route uses a LOT less power/infrastructure and is in frquencies which aren't valuable terrestrially.
Maybe the Lords ARE onto something.
The quality of iplayer nowhere near matches HD transmissions (it maybe OK on a small TV but not on a large one). I saw some of the Olympics opening ceremony live and the rest on iplayer - clearly inferior quality pictures. And with ultra-HD coming there will be even higher data rates required. I don't see the internet providing enough bandwidth. And why would broadcasters want to provide all programmes on-demand for download rather than pushing them over RF to everyone in one go?
And what is the point in having everyone download programmes when they can just record them on a PVR (given that video recorders will probably have long gone by the time this hair-brained idea would ever become reality)?
The Lords need a dose of reality
After two years discussion about the effect of using the 'White Space' between TV channels, the real questions start to come out: what entrenched interests benefit from closure of broadcast TV? What happens to the 'White Space' when the coloured space is re-allocated?
The infrastructure for this is pathetically weak at best, I can barely watch YouTube video's now let alone watch live tv through the internet
oh wait ... I forgot, no such worries for people in major cities, as per normal town and village folk get screwed over
it would be a a decent idea IF, and only if, the entire country had access to cable or fibre connections
When I posted that comment, I was thinking more of a slightly creepy marketing dimension.
VM customers with TiVo are already in the vanguard of this. VM knows not only what you watch, and when, it also knows how you skip the ads, and how you channel surf. Put all that data together, and you have enough for some pretty smart targeted marketing.
Now, who do you think are behind the Lords ?
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