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The three-screen challenge

Written by  Laurence Peak
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Laurence PeakIssue:Asia-Pacific III 2007
Article no.:16
Topic:The three-screen challenge
Author:Laurence Peak
Title:Vice President for sales, Asia-Pacific
Organisation:Verimatrix
PDF size:332KB

About author

Mr Laurence Peak is Verimatrix’s Vice President for Sales in the Asia-Pacific region. Mr Peak has 25 years of experience in entertainment technology and five years of working in Asia. Previously, Mr Peak has held key positions with telecom consultancy Access Point Asia, telecoms equipment vendor ECI Telecom, Shell UK and British Telecom.

 

Article abstract

Pay-TV is now available on three screens - TVs, the PC and mobile phones. There are about three billion potential pay-TV customers in Asia, but given the high levels of piracy, relatively few wish to pay. New security systems that control access to the content on all three screens are now available, but the variety of standards, infrastructure and regulation has thwarted their large-scale deployment. New software-driven security systems use cryptographic techniques and can support all existing and proposed standards.

 

Full Article

Pay-TV operators are increasingly trying to reach the three billion consumers in Asia by offering them information and entertainment that can be enjoyed using any one of three screens - via TV, PC or mobile devices. The concept is an attractive response to the lifestyle demands of thoroughly modern consumers, but there are a number of practical difficulties in delivering this type of service throughout the varied and dynamic Asia-Pacific region. Operators face challenges both domestically and regionally in the form of standards, infrastructure and the regulation of the content itself. As a critical example, in a ‘three-screen world’, it is especially cumbersome and expensive to operate a number of different content security systems. Accordingly, the new challenge to the content security suppliers is to offer unified three-screen support - ideally via one convergent head-end system that can manage a diversity of receivers, over both RF, radio frequency, and IP, Internet Protocol, networks, whether for fixed or mobile reception, for both broadcast or cellular networks, and for any or all of these simultaneously. Viren Popli, the Senior Vice President, (interactive) of Star India observed that, “The VCR gave back to consumers the concept of time; the mobile will give them back the concept of space. You can consume entertainment when you want and where you want it.” This, of course, is more complicated than it sounds. One key reason for this is the plethora of standards in Asia-Pacific that have been explored and adopted by local governments. It would be fair to say that, so far in Asia, 3G has not taken off as envisioned, so planning for adoption is difficult. In China, there are likely to be two mobile TV standards: TDBM developed by Datong Telecom, a research body of China’s Ministry of Information and Industry, MII; and, TD-SCDMA, proposed by China’s Academy of Broadcast Science and State Administration for Radio Film & TV, SARFT. It doesn’t help matters that MII and SARFT are in something of a political battle for authority on technology and content regulation in China. Two also-run standards are T-MMB, Terrestrial-Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting, and CDMB, China Digital Multimedia Broadcasting, which were recently dismissed in September 2007 by Du Baichuan, former CTO of SARFT. In the Philippines DVB-H mobile TV services are being rolled out in 40 cities by broadcaster ABC. Meanwhile, in India, the Congress could not decide on spectrum allocation and licences for 3G and is still using GSM and WCDMA. In Malaysia, the 3G services rolled out in 2005 have only met 50 per cent of the original subscriber projections. The lack of common standards in mobile is repeated in both the TV and PC markets. While largely inheriting the TV standards of NTSC and PAL from the west, the move to HD has created opportunities for some Asian countries to explore their own technologies. Nowhere is this truer than in China, where the government wants to secure patent royalties for domestic manufacturers. As a result, it has been supporting the development of Digital Multimedia Broadcast-Terrestrial/Handheld, DMB-T/H. This was heralded as the beginning of the end for the small Chinese trials of Europe’s DVB-T standard. China had wanted to see 100 million DTV households by 2008, when it plans to air HDTV content from the Summer Olympics in Beijing. But by the end of 2005, only 4.1 million households were using DTV services, mostly based on cable, according to government figures. The challenge in China is to guarantee a sufficiently large market to convince manufacturers to commit resources to producing DMB-T set-top boxes. For companies interested in content security for pay TV the need to have solutions compatible with both legacy and emerging technologies is a must. This leads us to the issue of infrastructure, which is another challenge for media companies planning to offer entertainment seamlessly across platforms. On the network level Korea had 70 per cent broadband penetration back in 2003 and, by 2007, had greater than 50 per cent mobile broadband penetration. China, however, has only ten per cent broadband penetration and less than five per cent mobile broadband penetration. At the other end of the spectrum, in 2004 only 0.5 per cent of Indians had domestic Internet access, a number now growing partly due to the deployment of WiMAX rather than fixed-line services. Ownership of infrastructure in Asia is also varied. Many governments are still involved in owning both the lines and the ISPs or, as is the case in Singapore, with SingTel and SingNet, through corporate entities. Finally the issue of post-paid vs. pre-paid services exists, notably in developing countries where families share homes, don’t hold bank accounts and credit is limited. In countries where subscribers top up their cards with small denominations, offering viable premium pay-TV services is a challenging business model. Under such circumstances, the operators are looking for the most cost-effective solutions to support their operations, while minimising theft of service challenges. The Motion Picture Association of America believes that some US$1.2 billion of potential revenue is lost to piracy each year in Asia-Pacific and over US$6 billion globally. This theft is to some degree ironic considering the importance that most governments in Asia place on controlling the content delivered to the audience. In Singapore, the Media Development Authority regulates the content broadcast on the seven TV channels that belong to the government-owned Media Corp. Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world with 400 million people, has 12 broadcasters that are both state and privately owned and regulated by the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission, KPI. Piracy occurs in the form of illegal DVD copies and, more recently, via the Internet. Governments are taking steps to close down illegal operations for political, economic and social reasons but, as long as people can buy low cost DVDs or download movies for free, the attraction of pay TV is limited. One commercial scheme to protect content on all three screens has been the legacy smartcard-centric hardware approach to content security. Now, there are also proven software-based security solutions that provide a cost-effective combination of set-top box and PC client security in the home and, as well, enable mobile devices to access content within flexible broadcast or on-demand models. One such software-driven mobile solution I will call SDMS has been designed for use with connected devices without requiring a handset hardware security component. The benefits of this approach include lowering the cost of the handset as well as eliminating the logistics of card distribution and renewal. SDMS uses many of the same advanced cryptographic techniques that support Internet commerce and supports the DVB Simulcrypt standard providing for seamless integration with head-end equipment from major vendors. At the handset level, SDMS utilises the receiver subsystems and secure processing capabilities found in the modern mobile system-on-a-chip, SOCs, designs. SDMS couples the built-in handset security features with client and entitlement management methods. Using a common security and key management approach, SDMS supports broadcast delivery over DVB-IPDC, unicast streaming of VOD/clip-based content over 3G/GPRS networks, integration of a mobile handset within a home WiFi network, and secure delivery of memory card-based content files, which may be pre-recorded or converted from other pay-TV delivery systems. SDMS is flexible enough to support operators that, in the future, adopt multiple mobile TV standards such as MediaFLO/FLO Forum and S-DMB/T-DMB and other formats that countries in Asia-Pacific may decide to develop or adopt later on. Operators delivering content in Asia via any or all of the three screens will need to navigate the diversity of technical standards, inconsistency of infrastructure, and decisions of local political institutions. Nevertheless, those who meet subscriber’s expectations across the boundaries of network and device type are likely to be rewarded with loyalty and broad-based growth in a region with three-fifths of the world’s population. As their network grows, they will need tools to detect and minimize theft of service through fraudulent client devices and the layered protections of watermarking that content owners will demand for premium material. Above all, the content security architecture must offer tools that support varied and complex price and service choices for their subscribers. They will require an open, flexible solution that transcends the platform, offers a consistent user experience and maximises revenue for the media company. Content security will enable people to consume entertainment when they want and where they want it, as long as they pay for it.

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