Twenty-two participants, in what was Celtic's biggest operation to date, subjected the DVB-H broadcasting standard for handheld devices to rigorous validation testing. Their overall aim was to demonstrate the technology's outstanding performance in providing mobile TV services. Now, the European Commission has endorsed their achievements. Furthermore, the project earned the Celtic Excellence Award!
The race to establish a telecommunications standard for bringing digital television to people on the move has been won in Europe by EUREKA-Celtic's Wing-TV project.
The DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting - Handheld) specification successfully passed technical testing by 22 participants from eight countries. DVB-H is one of three prominent mobile standards that are vying for the attention of broadcasters and manufacturers of cell phones and other handheld devices. Now, Wing-TV's validation has ensured that DVB-H will be the accepted European standard. The standard has earned the support of broadcasters, network operators, and device manufacturers, as well as gaining European Commission endorsement.
A good, collaborative atmosphere was evident from the beginning, even between competing manufacturers.
The DVB Forum (an industry-wide consortium for developing digital broadcasting) devised DVB-H to link digital terrestrial broadcasting (DVB-T) and mobile telephone networks. The next stage to realising the vision for ubiquitous wireless broadband access was testing and validating the specification; this is where Celtic's Wing-TV project played a central and ultimately decisive role.
Key objectives for the two-year Wing-TV project included verifying the compatibility of DVB-H with terrestrial digital services, checking the interoperability of appliances, and setting goals for broadcasting services. Overall, the aim was to sustain European leadership against competing standards, notably those developed in South Korea and the USA. Participants, who met regularly, conducted country-specific field trials, laboratory tests, channel modelling and simulation activities.
The project coordinator was Fernando López, a senior engineer at Abertis Telecom, a leading provider of infrastructures and services based in Barcelona. "We achieved most of our objectives," he said. "The performance data we provided to several standardisation bodies will help the industry to use DVB-H networks, and to develop competitive equipment and progress further business opportunities."
The project confirmed just about all expectations for the technology; these included delivering significant benefits at each end of the broadcast channel. Operators can avoid new costs by making use of existing TV infrastructure. Through the system of broadcasting signals in ultra-short bursts - "time slicing" - consumers save up to 90% of a device's battery power. Furthermore, time slicing helps avoid overloading the present third generation (3G) mobile communications networks. The high bandwidth of DVB-H also proved superior, with the capacity to carry more than 50 programmes.
The project also strengthened and developed new aspects of the standard. Pekka Talmola, Senior Technology Manager for Nokia's research division, who was prominent in devising the DVB-H standard, led Finnish participants in modelling and trialling an improved channel model for pedestrian use.
Another problem was indoor reception, it was poor, especially on lower floors. Finding a solution was the responsibility of Davide Milanesio, a research engineer with RAI, Italy's public broadcaster, who led Wing-TV's analysis of network issues. He explained, "We had to change our mind about DVB-H coverage as traditional broadcasting only enables digital signals to be received clearly in the open, or via a rooftop antenna. Consequently, we verified new planning methods for providing more transmission power, including extra transmitters."
Gérard Faria, co-Founder and Executive Director of TeamCast, a France-based company that designs and produces OEM equipment for digital TV broadcasting, headed Wing-TV's laboratory testing activities. He too, has played a leading role in establishing the DVB-H standard. "Laboratory test campaigns enabled us to design an automatic test-bed that simulated real transmissions to mobile receivers, enabling a systematic exploration of the DVB-H system. The many experiments Wing-TV performed have greatly helped receiver manufacturers to tune designs, and allowed participants to increase their knowledge about broadcasting to handheld devices."
Wing-TV was the biggest project ever undertaken at that time by EUREKA-Celtic. The 22 participants included six broadcasters and network operators, 11 manufacturers and providers of related services, and five universities; more than 50 people, all experts in their own field, worked on the project.
The many experiments Wing-TV performed have greatly helped receiver manufacturers to tune designs, and allowed participants to increase their knowledge about broadcasting to handheld devices.
Leading personalities on the project shared their opinions on its progress and achievements.
Project coordinator Fernando López: "Progress was slow at first - understandable for such a large and diverse consortium. However, a good, collaborative atmosphere was evident from the beginning, even between competing manufacturers. A working rhythm was soon established, enabling us to achieve our goals within the two-year time frame, and on budget."
Pekka Talmola: "Nokia and other members of the DVB Forum needed a 'home' for the international verification task that we envisaged for the DVB-H standard. We chose Celtic, instead of an EC-funded project, for a variety of reasons, including Celtic's reputation in getting complex projects up and running quickly."