Lords call for the end of TV transmissions
Stream it over the net instead, says upper house
The UK House of Lords has recommended ending broadcast television and re-allocating for mobile data usage the spectrum currently used to transmit digital TV signals.
Rather than take up vital electromagnetic spectrum, TV should be delivered exclusively over the internet, the House of Lords' Communications Committee concluded.
In a report entitled Broadband for All - An Alternative Vision, the Committee writes: "We recommend that the government, Ofcom and the industry begin to consider the desirability of the transfer of terrestrial broadcast content from spectrum to the internet and the consequent switching off of broadcast transmission over spectrum."
The then-free spectrum would then be used to deliver more, faster mobile data services, allowing decent-speed broadband to become available to Brits wherever on these islands they are.
The notion is that since most folk watch TV in fixed locations, it's better to feed those TV sets with signals from a fixed-line system - cable or broadband, though there's increasingly no difference between the two - rather than an over-the-air system better suited to mobile applications.
As we reported yesterday, the Committee's recommendation is part of a broader set of suggestions offered with a view to improving the quality of fixed-line and mobile broadband in Blighty, central as it is to the economy.
Current and past governments have failed to understand the importance of broadband to Britain's future prosperity, but future administrations - and the Coalition, if it's smart - need to get with the programme.
"Our communications network must be regarded as a strategic, national asset," the Committee said. "The government’s strategy lacks just that – strategy."
One option considered by the Committee is the imposition of what it called a "Universal Service Obligation (USO)" - a legally binding minimum level of broadband speed and reach. The Committee rejected such a move in the short term. But, reading between the lines, it's clear it has something like this in mind.
"While we do not support the introduction of a USO at present, we do believe that broadcast media will increasingly come to be delivered via the internet," the report states.
"As and when that happens, and particularly in circumstances where this applies to PSB [Public Service Broadcasting] channels, the argument for recommending a USO becomes stronger. The Government should begin now to give this active consideration."
So, as and when PSB channels - the BBC and Channel 4, basically - go exclusively online, the government will need to implement a USO to ensure that PS broadcasters' accessibility mandates can be maintained, the Committee is saying - after already recommending putting PSB channels, and others, exclusively online. ®
Re: I'll be damned...
I *hope* you are being sarcastic. I've just looked at the membersip of the HoL Communications Committee. Not an engineer among them - it's a mixture of meeja types (Joan Bakewell, Melvyn Bragg), lawyers, and pensioned-off career politicians, plus a bishop...
Even given the cost of all the transmitters & the distribution infrastructure, and the imputed value of the spectrum, I reckon it's still much cheaper than a fibre/wire network for multicast to the necessary specification. I've got three TVs and a PVR that can record 2 channels simultaneously. That's potentially 5 different HD channels required simultaneously - say 60-70Mbit/sec with all the network overhead. And I'm sure I'm nowhere near what some households would require. And I live right out in the sticks with no prospect of getting anything better than ADSL2 (not even 2+) in the forseeable future.
A wire network is much more controllable by the State too...
Re: I'll be damned...
> Lords... with a good idea for the future of tech? Blimey.
Usually, but not today. TV is broadcast, so why do it point-to-point?
Unless they are suggesting peer-to-peer content transmission... :p
then they nail everyone with a broadband line for a tv licence fee...
"Current and past governments have failed to understand the importance of broadband to Britain's future prosperity"
Not sure that there's much evidence to suggest that broad band has any effect on prosperity. It provides convenience for some things but buying a book via a Web Site instead of a local shop doesn't make us richer, for example.
On the subject of TV via the internet: I don't see this working well in rural communities where there is often no, or limited ADSL and no mobile signal either.
Multicast is of the essence
My first thought was the same as petur's. Multicast is one of those options thoughtfully built in to the Internet protocols by the nice folks at the IETF, and then neglected by the stupid money-grubbing people who actually provide Internet connectivity. (Yes, BT, I do mean you).
The Lords are right in principle, but unfortunately you can be right in principle and come to grief spectacularly because someone didn't work out the implementation properly. The Internet as we know it in the UK today is emphatically NOT appropriate as a medium for everyone to start watching TV. It's barely adequate for traditional browsing, email, and file transfer. If you want a perfect example, consider the coverage of the London Olympics right now. The BBC told us for years that they would cover everything at the Games. Then, a day or two before, they casually mentioned that you could only get their 30 parallel streams if you subscribe to Sky or Virgin or Freesat. So off to the BBC Web site to see what's available there. Yes, it's a 500Kbps grainy feed that stops every 30 seconds for about 30 seconds. Overloaded, do you think? Even the official Olympic Web site's "live scores" tend to be minutes or more behind. Pathetic.
So get your priorities right, government, better still, hire a competent project manager - although I know it goes against the grain to be organized and have plans you stick to for more than ten days. First, give us ALL broadband like that in Japan or South Korea - 1Gbps up and down, delivered by fibre to the premises. And back it up with properly specified backbones and routing centres. Then you can come back and talk about using it for TV.