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Mon 29 Oct 2007 10:27 AM

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Dubai hosts DVB-H trial

Dubai Media City has joined with du, DMI, EMI and Nokia to conduct a $2 million DVB-H trial in the emirate.

As part of its efforts to assess the technical and commercial viability of the Digital Video Broadcasting on Handhelds (DVB-H) standard in the UAE, Dubai Media City (DMC) recently conducted a trial of the technology.

The $2 million project, which is the second major DVB-H trial to be staged in the Middle East after Qatar, was awarded to Rohde & Schwarz (R&S), and went on air officially on June 1, 2007.

DMC distributed 500 Nokia handsets to users involved in the trial.

"The objective of this trial is to study the technical and commercial feasibility of DVB-H services and prepare the ground for its commercial roll out," says Amina AlRustamani, executive director of Media, TECOM Investments.

"The trial also aims to identify content preference of users along with their timing and location preference. Further advanced analysis will conclude in-depth opportunities for creating refined and customised packages for Mobile TV users," she confirms.

DMC partnered with UAE telco du as well as the country's state-owned broadcast giants, Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI) and Emirates Media Incorporated (EMI) to facilitate the trial.

A new DVB-H SFN (single frequency network consisting of three transmission sites) was deployed as part of the experiment.

"The project included the supply and installation of a DVB-H transmitter and an antenna at the DWTC and a playout centre at Samacom Teleport. We were also responsible for the network planning and field strength studies," says Viswanathan Skandakkumar, regional broadcast manager, Rohde & Schwartz Emirates.

The second phase included the installation of two additional DVB-H transmitters - one at Shatha tower near DMC and one at Umm Suqueim Broadcast station. These transmitters boosted DMC's coverage within Dubai. There are plans for future expansion with additional transmitters to achieve 100% coverage across the emirate.

"In the first two months, technical evaluation of the system and signal coverage was completed," explains Skandakkumar.

At present, DMC continues to transmit 12 channels through its DVB-H network and provides a fairly extensive portable outdoor coverage within Dubai.

"We have established reasonable portable outdoor coverage from Deira to Jebel Ali with three DVB-H transmitters in operation. However, for indoor coverage, especially within shopping malls, DMC will need indoor on-channel low-power repeaters.

This is due to the heavy attenuation posed by the various layers of walls and glass in these buildings. Commercial networks require excellent indoor coverage in malls as these are the areas where people try to access mobile TV services," says Skandakkumar.

Both of the UAE operators offer mobile TV services through 3G streaming.

Globally, it is thought that DVB-H technology provides a more cost-effective Mobile TV solution than 3G as the latter is limited by the mobile operator's bandwidth.

This is because 3G technology operates on a one-to-one basis, where the signals have to be streamed to each individual phone. This consumes mobile phone networks' bandwidth, which means the operator has to compromise on the number of subscribers depending on the available bandwidth.

This is unlike DVB-H technology, which enables broadcast on Ultra High Frequency (UHF). Here, the service becomes available on-air to an unlimited number of phones that have a DVB-H receiver and are within the coverage area. These phones can receive the available programmes, if they are free-to-air. Subscription programmes are also available.

If the project is successful, DMC plans to operate the venture on a commercial basis. "DVB-H is set to be one of the technologies that will define the future of media and entertainment," confirms Al Rustamani.

"The real value of this trial is to provide new platforms for both media and technology partners to showcase their offerings, as well as granting them the chance to expand their market share and to prepare for the commercial launch of Mobile TV."

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