Senior representatives of Europe’s satellite and broadcasting industries have called for policy initiatives that will integrate satellite technologies and terrestrial broadcasting better to serve consumers in the next generation Ultra-HD digital era.
Speaking at a policy debate organised by the European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) on Innovation, Evolution & Convergence: Ensuring access to ‘next generation video’ anytime, anywhere and on any device, DG Connect Deputy Director General Roberto Viola said that Ultra High Definition video was clearly a key driver of future user demand. “Satellite and terrestrial broadcasting are the most efficient means of delivering it to users over a wide area. I hope that in Europe we will soon see the emergence of converged approaches that integrate satellite and terrestrial technologies that allow the provision of high speed Internet applications and high definition video services.”
ESOA and the EBU note that IP traffic is set to continue to increase with the emergence of new video applications and services and the emergence of ultra-high quality video. These trends will all drive user demand for more data anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
According to the pair, video delivery requires several Zettabytes of data per year to reach users over the globe. To ensure an affordable, quality user experience and not one of frustration, experts in Europe warn that the EU needs to adopt a policy approach that is holistic and that pulls on the strengths of each transport and access technology.
“Users are already used to being able to watch video in high-definition, whether it’s on TV or online. With today’s Internet resources, 45 per cent of European viewers are already left out of the HD experience. Without hybrid solutions that integrate satellite and terrestrial solutions, that number will rise to 80 per cent as ultra high-definition content becomes available. The policy goal must be to transcend stand-alone networks and delivery infrastructures to create user-driven hybrid networks that can provide high speed, reliable and affordable services everywhere and at any time, on fixed and mobile devices. This is the way to protect users from a new digital divide,” commented Michel de Rosen, CEO of Eutelsat and Chairman of ESOA.
Opening the event at the European Parliament, ESOA Secretary General, Aarti Holla, noted that the BBC iPlayer is seven years old and although very popular, iPlayer consumption still only represents less than 3 per cent of all BBC content viewing: “The rise of on-demand video consumption already dominates terrestrial broadband networks. Satellite can facilitate the advanced viewing experience, whether live high quality or on-demand, by combining regular satellite broadcast and intelligent satellite caching. The new European Commission must take a bottom-up approach rather than prescribe specific technology solutions or spectrum requirements. This is key to realising the 5G ecosystem,” he stated.
“With popular enticement for new programmes, series and major events still growing combined with enhanced viewing quality in the pipeline, TV is here to stay and is still fostering innovation in many different ways,” noted Ingrid Deltenre, Director General, EBU.”From a policy perspective this translates into a simple message: make sure that free-to-air TV reception remains available for all Europeans. Digital Terrestrial Television ensures dissemination of public service programmes to all Europeans at near zero-cost for the viewer, and it hinges upon sufficient UHF radio spectrum. We cannot see our needs for UHF spectrum significantly decrease, even in the long term, and this is all the more clear with the development of ultra-high definition viewing standards which will require an cost effective production chain and for distribution appropriate spectrum capacity,” she advised.
“European’s citizens value choice, as much as they value quality, with their video content. Neither broadband nor broadcast on its own can deliver both choice and quality on its own. This is why hybrid solutions – that can use broadcast for mass-market, appointment-to-view, television events, and which can draw on broadband networks for the delivery of more niche content – is the more viable way forward,” suggested Paul Lee, Partner and Head of Research, Deloitte.
“The challenge for telcos is to ensure a high quality experience for all of the standard Internet applications our customers expect while managing the explosive growth of online video,” noted Freenasp Modbejina, VP Group Strategy and Business Development, TeliaSonera.
Over 500 million Ultra HD screens are forecast be sold in Europe by 2025, and that at least 55 per cent of European consumers will own an Ultra HD TV; that over 1000 Ultra HD channels will be available and more than 400 million Ultra-HD set-top boxes installed.
Analysts predict that on-demand HD-quality video throughout Europe requires 35 times more gigabytes of video per month than currently consumed in each household. On-demand Ultra HD will need 100 times than is currently consumed, the cost of which can be optimally met through hybrid solutions.
In Europe, trying to accommodate the faster speeds on terrestrial infrastructure alone requires complex technology upgrades and additional terrestrial connections, at the cost of no less than an estimated €150 billion, with additional billions of Euros for operating costs over time for ground installations.
Hybrid solutions using the latest satellite technology and terrestrial solutions are best suited to provide the backbone of an ubiquitous, flexible, and future-proof digital space. Satellite networks are capable of providing an advanced TV experience on any screen, live and on-demand, accelerating the delivery of triple-play services and delivering innovative video and public services to any home device anywhere.
Experts agreed that this discussion was an inherent part of the 5G debate and that EU R&D support is required under Horizon 2020 to develop standards for advanced compression systems and a true Ultra HD TV signal chain from the camera to the viewer with integrated network management and digital rights management.
The European Commission can also play a major role by fostering a standardised full Ultra HD TV ecosystem, which will bridge the gap between advanced media technologies and the production of European Ultra HD content. Ultra HD content is currently generated in the US as part of drama, and in some sports productions and in Japan where broadcasters already drive full Ultra HD TV.