D2M For Smartphones And Telecoms – Boon Or Bane?

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Direct to Mobile has become the talk of the town in India! But is it all white, or is there a gray patch lying hidden? Explained in under Three Minutes, you decide!

The Government of India will soon test direct to mobile (D2M) technology in 19 cities. The technology will enable broadcasted video streaming in mobile phones without the internet or having a SIM card. Using Prasar Bharti’s Infrastructure, the pilot would be done and a mass- scale rollout call will be taken. The technology is mature and its service is expected to be launched by 2025.

This would mean real-time on demand video content without buffering even in densely populated areas. It focuses on delivering content optimised for the screen sizes, resolutions, and capabilities of smartphones and tablets at a nominal fixed monthly price.

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The broadcaster can provide personalised content and targeted advertisements by monitoring user statistics. The technology includes measures for content protection and digital rights management.

Costlier smartphones?

The adoption of D2M hardware in devices may increase the cost by around Rs 2,500 ($30). Saankhya labs said 120 to 200 rupees when bought in bulk.

Smartphone makers may have to mandatorily include the necessary hardware, a baseband unit, for D2M in the phones. Although no such mandate has been announced yet. 

Telecom Outlash?

More than 80% of users access the internet through mobile phones amongst which 82% is video content. So, this may trigger an outlash from the telecom industry. Although, being a densely populated country, India’s video content requirement is ever growing and D2M tech will serve as a helping hand. Moreover, to the places the internet cannot reach yet, D2M will. It will be like sharing the load, not replacing the internet.

The technology will be integrated with traditional mobile networks which means it could act as an additional data channel. This can help decongest the network from heavy bandwidth consuming applications. 

DG of TSDSI Ms Pamela Kumar said that this is the right time for broadcast broadband convergence to be launched in India. India should pioneer and pilot it because we have the biggest need, being the number one data consumer in mobile communication.

Government Agenda

Currently, there are around 800 million (80 crores) active mobile phone users in India, projected to increase to 1 billion (100 crores) by 2026. On the contrary, there are only 200 million (20 crore) users. Thus, for maximum reach in the time of need and otherwise, smartphones are a better option for broadcasting. 

This will benefit the users in low or no internet signal zones the most. The government can broadcast content of national importance like emergency alerts, public safety social services etc., directly to citizens without depending on the internet. Educational content can be provided in no internet availability areas and to those who cannot afford data packages. It will also enable firmware upgrade over the air (FOTA) for automobiles.

Vs established technologies

Current broadcast and unicast (used for over the top or OTT services) technologies lack the ability to fulfil ever growing video consumption demand cost effectively. As the trend of listening to audio using internet based mobile applications is rising, traditional radio infrastructure may go obsolete in upcoming times.

The traditional high-power high-tower (HPHT) broadcasting system, which relies on single, powerful TV towers and linear video distribution has some limitations addressed by NGB. The same frequencies can’t be reused in adjacent areas, leading to inefficient spectrum utilisation. Also, due to low signal levels, these systems support limited bandwidth capacity for mobile devices, resulting in poor coverage and lower throughputs.

The  hybrid network used in NexGen Broadcast (underlying technology) combines High Power High Tower (HPHT) with Low Power Low Tower (LPLT) systems, along with precise RF (radio frequency) planning. This is expected to enhance both outdoor and indoor coverage for public broadcasters.

D2M and 5G convergence
From IIT Kanpur White Paper
Underlying Technology

D2M broadcasting uses NexGen Broadcast (NGB) architecture tailored for public broadcasting. It can be enabled in the devices that have hardware to support D2M. An NGB can be viewed as an extension to the content delivery networks (CDNs), which allows seamless integration into the OTT ecosystem and architecture.

Based on the internet Protocol, NGB technology converges broadcast and unicast infrastructure (thus 4G/5G networks) for cost effective content delivery. The unified broadcast architecture enables broadcast to smartphones, television and set top boxes.

As part of the Next Generation Broadcast (NGB), dense Single Frequency Networking (SFN) is a key innovation. This architecture uses lower power transmitters but provides better indoor signal coverage. It allows for both mobile and fixed TV viewing, with the possibility of distributing content and advertising over a cluster of broadcast cells or localising it to a single cell.

‘D2M Broadcast & 5G Broadband Convergence Roadmap for India’ suggests a spectrum from 526MHz to 582 MHz.

D2M & 5G Convergence Roadmap 

In June 2022 IIT Kanpur organised a conclave on D2M Broadcast & 5G Broadband Convergence Roadmap for India in collaboration with Prasar Bharti and Telecommunications Standards Development society. In the conclave, IIT Kanpur presented the proof of concept along with a whitepaper.

IIT Kanpur has partnered with wireless communication and semiconductor company Saankhya Labs for hardware requirements including Chipset, radio, etc. Saankhya Labs specialises in solutions for broadband, satellite and broadcast applications including 5G NR, Direct To Mobile (D2M) Broadcast, rural broadband connectivity, satellite communication modems for IoT applications and multi-standard DTV modulators and demodulators.

Telecommunication Engineering Center (TEC), Delhi is currently working on and published a draft report on Television Broadcasting to Mobile Handheld Devices – Direct to Mobile (D2M) Broadcasting, last August.

 “It’s a win-win for all the stakeholders as Direct-to-Mobile (D2M) Broadcasting will enable viewers to watch unlimited Videos at a very low cost. There will not be any buffering in the videos,” the conclave press release said.

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