The Centre’s move to create a broadcast stack that will enable the transmission of channels and video content directly to mobile phones using terrestrial TV towers has hit a snag with multinational tech players raising concerns around the proposed standard being considered for the services.

According to documents seen by businessline, the Telecommunication Engineering Centre — the body which is carrying out the consultation process for the new stack — has proposed to adopt the ATSC 3.0 standards to support the direct airing of video technology onto mobile handsets. This technology can be envisioned as an antenna for a mobile handset, directly loading video content on portable devices, without connecting to the internet.

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However, tech companies have contended this standard was developed by North American broadcasters for adoption into their market and is not compatible with the broadcast standards currently employed in India. “India, in 2008, adopted the DVB standard for its digitalisation of terrestrial network. The DVB system transmits compressed digital audio, digital video, and other data in an MPEG transport stream. But there exists no support for the MPEG transport format in the documents released by TEC,” said an industry expert.

Content protection

Another major concern is around content protection especially for premium content like live sports and movies. Many streaming players, including Apple TV, do not support digital management rights used with ATSC 3.0. “Without the support for DRM, the products implemented based on these standards may not comply to Indian regulations. Such a technology will become obsolete or of limited value as identified in the TEC standardisation guide,” Qualcomm said in its submission.

Qualcomm observed that in some cases even if one adopts this standard on its devices, the device would still require internet connection to air the video content.

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According to an executive at a US tech major, ATSC3.0 is a linear TV technology that has not been adopted into mobile devices. The test and certification ecosystem for this technology on TVs does not evaluate its performance in mobile devices. Performance metrics including emission characteristics, battery life performance, etc. are not well understood. Under given circumstances, the receiver performance of this technology in mobile and portable devices can be at best categorized as ‘unknown’,” the executive said.

Fading tech

Korean major Samsung said due to lack of ecosystem, business models, and consumer acceptance on mobile, these standards are fading over time, and there is no interest from the industry. For example, in Korea, digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB) services were launched in 2005, and due to declining viewership they are fading away, especially with the rise of real-time IP and on-demand media services that are supported by mobile broadband. “ It is imperative that broadcast content providers fuel market demand for broadcasting devices. Unless broadcast content providers are not offering attractive applications for mobile devices, device vendors will have limited interest to contribute in creating a device ecosystem for broadcast services that are based on terrestrial digital broadcast standards,” it said.