WorldDMB - defining the standards for DAB, DAB+ and DMB
Gunnar Garfors is president of the International DMB Advancement Group (IDAG) and a key component in the WorldDMB machine. He has pioneered mobile services for over a decade and is author of acclaimed blog garfors.com, when it comes to mobile TV, Gunnar has earned an enviable reputation. I got the chance to pick Gunnar’s brain in a very revealing interview:
Photo by Jannecke Sanne
Gunnar, for the benefit of our readers that don’t know – what is the WorldDMB?
WorldDMB is the organization that maintains the open de facto standard for digital radio and mobile television. The standard consists of DAB+ (and the older version DAB) which is for digital radio and DMB which is for mobile television.
Who are its members?
All sorts of companies that deal with digital radio and mobile TV are members, including broadcasters, chipset manufacturers, software development companies, receiver manufacturers and various organizations.
At Mobile TV World, we often find confusion, or rather disagreement on what mobile TV actually is. In Layman’s terms – what is mobile TV?
Mobile television is about being able to receive a good quality television signal wherever you are, whenever you want. Most viewing is done live, from a sports event, a concert or news. That means that the offering will have to be based on a broadcasting technology to avoid the increasing problems of lack of bandwidth in telecom networks. Then the telecom networks will be used for on demand services for those that require individual content at specific times. The important issue is to combine the technologies; the viewers shouldn't really care whether a programme is broadcast, streamed or downloaded.
How big can it get and what needs to be done to get it there?
Mobile television can become huge now when the standards battle has been settled. This is also thanks to the fact that we have a standard that has originally been made for radio which requires robustness in order to ensure mobile reception. These characteristics are also very much needed for mobile TV. In addition, a number of additional and parallel services are part of the standard, again increasing its attractiveness.
With such potential and increasing user demand – why has mobile TV struggled to make an impact globally?
No wonder, there have been so many disappointments so far, notably due to constraints of telecom networks that cannot cope with synchronous services that continuously require a lot of bandwidth over time and the idiotic push by Nokia and some telecom operators of DVB-H, a technology that was doomed from the start.
It’s not an exaggeration to say you are innovator within the industry, you are credited with the worlds first personalized ad’s in a mobile TV service - how important is advertising in the development of mobile TV?
It will be quite big, although different than today. The combination of broadcasting and the internet means that ads can and will be interactive. Touch screen shopping will be rather widespread, ensuring much closer contact between viewers and advertisers, and a much higher value for the latter.
Can you give us an example?
Imagine that you watch a car advert and that you simply touch the screen to see additional video footage or to book a test drive. That a music video is played and you touch the screen to buy the track or the album. Or that you watch a Red Bull advert and touch the screen to get a coupon for a 30% Red Bull discount at the next 7-Eleven that you pass.
Is it true you set a world record – visiting 5 continents in the same day?
(Laughs) that was a crazy idea that had to be explored. On June 18, 2012 I was in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America. It was a slightly manic day, all filmed by Adelia Television which is making a documentary about the world record setting trip.
Tell us about your work as CEO of the Norwegian Mobile TV Corporation (NMTV).
It's not too much to tell. I head the company and get to work with a number of very talented people. It's a great job, and the timing of holding the position is perfect with all the developments currently happening with new receivers and new countries going for the technology. The most special thing with NMTV is that it is was started by the three biggest broadcasters in Norway, NRK - public service broadcaster and TV 2 and MTG, two private ones. Fierce competitors do in other words see that they can all benefit from cooperation on technology, while still competing on programming.
Do you think this will be used as a blueprint in other countries?
It means lower costs and higher profits for all. A no-brainer, really. I think that we will see more such companies in various countries and various businesses.
4G will be rolled out in the UK later this year and is promising better download speeds and internet connections to mobile devices. Does WorldDMB see 4G as a dampener on future plans for Mobile TV Broadcasting within the UK?
4G is a natural evolution of the telecom networks, and improves capacity - but not enough. Neither will 5G, 6G, etc. Telecom does have a huge problem. There are currently 5 billion connected devices world-wide (mobile phones, tablets, PCs). In 2015, the figure will have tripled! And in 2020, there will be 50 billion connected devices world-wide. Conversely the population will have only gone up from the current 7 billion to 7.6 billion. The increase in M2M communication is incredible, and the networks cannot cope.
So broadcasting is the answer?
4G and other improved mobile telecommunication networks will give us 4 times the bandwidth we have today by 2020, according to Cisco. But we will, as just explained, already have 10 times the number of devices. And users will of course be more active, which means that we require 40 times the bandwidth. A linear increase of supply cannot solve a geometric increase in demand. Broadcasting is clearly needed in this picture.
DVB-H was once vaunted by the EU as the broadcasting system to take Mobile TV to the next level of consumer adoption but now after full rollouts and many trials from Telcos within the EU its struggled to find it’s footing - is it fair to say its day has been and gone?
DVB-H is dead. It is currently in use only in Nigeria and parts of South Africa. All the initiatives across Europe following Nokia's brainwashing attempts have been closed down after hundreds of millions, if not billions of Euros were wasted.
The main international formats for mobile Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) and Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) are Satellite (DVB-S), Terrestrial (DVB-T), Cable (DVB-C), Handheld (DVB-H) Satellite (DMB-S) and Terrestrial (DMB-T) - which of these formats in WorldDMB’s opinion offers the best solution for global uptake of Mobile TV?
DMB (DMB-T) is the clear front runner. DMB-S is used by a minority in South Korea. The main strengths are the coupling with digital radio and all the benefits this carries (both being very mobile media), the current uptake of the technology and the complete ecosystem that comes with it. Everything from transmitters, antennas, chipsets, receivers, conditional access systems and other backend solutions, software, etc. have been developed and tested.
Having a “Freeview TV chip” inside your phone has often been said to be the game changing device for Mobile TV adoption - do you at WorldDMB foresee a time when a mobile version of Freeview TV will be built in to UK mobile devices as standard?
DMB is it, thanks to the coupling with digital radio. Some channels may be free, others will cost money to view. There are some frequency issues in the UK, although more frequencies are available (but not yet regulated), and the transition to DAB+ from DAB will free up more space.
The UK is currently focusing on digital radio, and I think that they first need to get a switch off date for FM so that all the players involved are given the security and confidence they need to possibly invest properly for the future.
The USAs Mobile Digital TV standard ATSC M/H (Advanced Television Systems Committee Mobile/Handheld) became in 2009 the US national standard for Broadcasting Mobile TV. Since then adoption of the standard and public interest has moved slowly
One of the main problems is the adoption of the standard on mobile devices and this seems to be the same problem in many other countries with their versions of the technology.
What encouragement can be made to the device manufacturers to build Mobile DTV chips into their products?
The same argument applies. There isn't enough bandwidth! Broadcasting is needed and can even help introduce new business models (i.e. touch screen shopping). They should however have looked more to radio and gone for a technology that incorporates digital radio. It may not be too late to do so.
On 1st December 2005 Korea became the first country ever to launch a consumer facing mobile TV service via DMB. Since then the technology has since proven popular on a worldwide scale: 14 European countries and 9 further countries have carried out test or trials - what is the future for DMB and what plans are afoot for expansion?
The future is bright with more than 40 countries carrying DMB and/or DAB+ services. We see a lot of interest from new countries on 4 continents, and only a month ago electronics giant Samsung started selling their first DMB/DAB+ device outside Korea. Others will follow. The only inhabited continents where there is a lack of DMB are the Americas.
Mobile TV has ling been touted as a ‘game changing’ technology for almost a decade – do you still believe this ideology will hold today in 2012?
It certainly does, but it isn't a game changer. And never was. The telecom industry does however love buzz words and hype. Mobile TV was once just that, and of course it could never live up to any of it thanks to the tragic DVB-H push and the never ending lack of bandwidth of telecom networks.
A lot of our readers and staff are football mad, so, as an ex pro-footballer – who’s your tip for the Champions League this season?
Well, I was semi-pro at best. I support Tottenham in Premier League. I just watched them destroy Manchester United at Old Trafford at La Viking bar in Dakar yesterday.
Sounds like you enjoyed yourself, it was a great game
Rather satisfying, I must say. They didn't qualify this year, unfortunately, so I will have to go for Barcelona. Not an original tip as there's a certain amount of talent on that team, but that does at least give them a reasonable chance.