MultiChoice extends its services to mobile devices, using DVB-H broadcasting
In 2006, MultiChoice, a satellite broadcaster based in Johannesburg, South Africa, extended its services to mobile devices using DVB-H digital terrestrial broadcasting.
After a brief evaluation of the available options, MultiChoice signed a contract with Grass Valley in April, with the intention to be on-air in June for the FIFA World Cup. The Grass Valley systems' turnkey approach was vital to meet the deadline.
Site acceptance tests were completed on schedule at the end of May. A successful live capability demonstration ran throughout the World Cup. The trial has since grown to 4000 trialists (or 4 cities) around the country. Trial results have been positive, with audience appreciation still on the rise. Subject to regulatory approval, MultiChoice is operationally and technically ready to launch a commercial DVB-H service.
The mobile TV headend housed at the MultiChoice headquarters uses Grass Valley Argos H.264 mobile TV encoders, supporting 20 channels, and two more for redundancy. The encoders are automatically controlled by the Lazulite network management system. A Grass Valley Opal DVB-H IP encapsulator packages the channels into a single IP stream, with the electronic service guide (ESG) automatically generated by Grass Valley's Jade. The design is based on a n+1 redundancy architecture at each level of the chain (SDI, IP, ESG).
The service is managed by a SmartVision Mobility platform, which is currently confi gured for up to 30,000 licensed users. As well as controlling subscriber access, SmartVision manages the content and allows interactive services and video on demand to be added as consumer demand grows.
The IP stream is directly routed to local DVB-H transmitters and sent via satellite using the Opencast multiple fi le transfer system to more remote areas. To provide the ability to transmit regional content, a package called Eyegate provides signal fi ltering as well as satellite demodulation and bit rate adaptation. As the whole DVB-H broadcast is on a single frequency, Eyegate also incorporates a GPS receiver for precise synchronization.
An important part of the turnkey system was a Cobalt DVB-H data stream analysis tool, which allows MultiChoice to fi ne tune its transmissions to ensure a consistent quality of service. A scaled down set of equipment for use in the laboratory was also supplied. This allows the company to hold its own test and evaluation trials, such as qualifying new handsets. Currently, Sagem handsets receive the broadcasts.
MultiChoice is so confi dent in the system's ability to provide coverage in South Africa that it has begun a second venture to bring DVBH mobile TV to neighboring countries.