French move towards TNT3.0 with DVB-T2, HEVC and UHDTV

The French HD-Forum and the French CSA (spectrum regulator) are the key players in moving forward the French DTT network evolution. The CSA is keen on freeing up existing DTT spectrum to permit more cellphone broadband connections. However, the French DTT network is using a lot of the spectrum and is still the anchor of TV in France. Recently the HD Forum wrote a recommendation to the CSA that implies ways forward even though not everything is clear. Please pay special attention to the suggestion of mandation of DVB-T2 and HEVC in new TVs, indicated in blue below.

Despite this UHDTV may prove to be a bridge too far for DTT: it will still take many years for it to become viable for DTT; 2020 may even be optimistic. In the mean time DTT is loosing ground every year to more capable communication media, IP being the latest. So whether the world is still waiting for UHDTV on DTT by that time is somewhat doubtful. But the leap forward with HEVC and DVB-T2 is something the French may need to get done even without the ttraction of something like UHDTV for the end consumer.


Letter summary

The HD forum points out the magnitude of the investments made in the current DTV infrastructure in France and the financials that are based on a long term depreciation of these investments, the still ongoing efforts to expand the HD transmissions of new channels (finished n 2015), the financing model for content creation in France and the ground-setting role of DTT for receiving TV in the country.

The letter points out that the 800MHz spectrum has already been released to LTE and that there is pressure on the 700MHz spectrum as a consequence of WRC decisions.

MPEG4/HD is compulsory since 2012 in TVs, so a gradual phase out MPEG2 can start in due course. HEVC is much more efficient and could become mandatory in TVs (screen size dependent) in around 2 years from now. DVB-T2 has to be phased in conjunction with HEVC so as not to create incompatibilities with existing receivers. This should be considered as part of to be adopted regulations.

The letter suggests that new mobile spectrum should not be used to duplicate broadcast TV transmissions for mobile applications; that would be a waste of spectrum.

Furthermore the letter reminds the CSA that there should be a positive incentive for customers of new receivers and that the introduction of DVB-T2 was not considered viable recently due to incurred cost for consumers and that those arguments are applicable to new technology introductions.

The introduction of new technologies requires significant planning lead times for manufacturers and broadcasters which should be adequately accounted for. Potential UHDTV introduction will also require significant investments in the production chain. The term of any new licenses should consider the required investment recuperation – the suggested 5 years is very short.

The HD Forum suggests that rigorous planning is used for a new system transition and that adequate dialog is in place to ensure key stakeholders can participate.