Cellular-broadcast network rationale

Plumb and Farncombe have produced a report on a change of infrastructure for the future of spectrum management for the European Commission. Their conclusions state that it is not clear that a move from broadcast (high power high tower) to cell based (Low Power Low Tower) transmission is beneficial.

The crux of the matter lies in the question posed and the scenario assumptions. The report works with scenarios to avoid making a choice on developments; which include the continued need for linear services over the air to TVs as well as mobile devices (see figure). The question is whether the trend can be predicted more accurately and/or be created using a little vision (we need the French for this).

SpectrumScenarios

Surely in the near future the whole of the European Population will need a (fixed location) broadband infrastructure. This is economically speaking probably more essential than today’s TV. This has been a priority for years in the EC, and for good reasons. Fiber and cable speeds, augmented by ADSL and wireless, at minimum 20Mbit/s, but as a rule 100Mbit/s and above.

Such a broadband infrastructure should be able to handle the “public” task of delivery of linear and VOD TV services to every home. It may not be completely free (at least the BB connection is not) but VOD and linear viewing can be seamless; which would be a huge step forward for all. Given where things are moving linear viewing may be out for all but a few main-public live-oriented channels. The rest of the content on today’s linear channels will be much better off being delivered through VOD. The freed up spectrum (possibly in higher frequency bands) might be partially given to Wifi local connections. If these start to run out of spectrum that may bring more value to society than even more bandwidth for cellular services.

Whether linear services should be offered for mobile applications is dubious. The demand for this (outside the home) today is very modest, market value very low; it is unclear whether it will grow. Wifi based on underlying BB infrastructure is the rule for TV on mobile. DVB-H was a total flop; is there a reason to repeat this. I.e. forget about the right two scenario in the figure, specifically the bottom-right. The emphasis (for TV) should be on the top left.

The case should be investigated to stop investing in DTT completely, certainly in UHD, and even in HEVC and DVB-T2. Instead the focus should be to create a BB based TV infrastructure as soon as possible that includes delivery of public services should be investigated with the highest priority. Of course one could offer a limited set of key channels on a modest quality via a DTT for an extended period to bridge the gap.

Should the conclusion of the Plumb and Farncombe report be revised if the above bears merit: no! There indeed is no reason to think that a combined network makes sense. The,  key business for it, mobile linear TV, is very weak, and probably better options exist that free up even more spectrum for new uses (cellular, Wifi).

Argument for converged broadcast platform unresolved

Plumb and Farncombe executive summary

Plumb and Farncombe full report