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DoT, MIB and IIT-Kanpur exploring D2M for rural India

The Indian government is exploring the potential of a new technology called, direct-to-mobile (D2M), which would enable mobile users to watch live TV channels on their smartphones without an internet connection. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and IIT-Kanpur are working on the details, sources said.

Last year on June 1, IIT-Kanpur released a white paper on D2M Broadcasting in collaboration with Prasar Bharti and Telecommunications Development Society, India. In that white paper, D2M was termed as a part of NextGen Broadcast (NGB) that combines multiple existing technologies to bring maximum outcomes.

With over 800 million mobile users in the country, the government aims to harness this technology for content delivery, especially for education purposes and emergency alerts.

However, telecom operators may oppose the proposal as it could impact their data revenue and business plans.

What is Direct-to-Mobile (D2M) technology?
The science behind D2M is similar to that of an FM radio, where a receiver within the device can tap into different radio frequencies. This new-age technology is a combination of broadband and broadcast that uses mobile phones to capture territorial digital TV signals. Using D2M, multimedia content, including live TV matches, can be streamed to phones directly without using the internet.

“It’s an indigenous ‘Made in India’ technology, and it is the first of its kind in the world. D2M is going to revolutionise content delivery, especially video content. Consumers today are watching videos on their phones; most of the things are consumed on phones, and with D2M tech, they would be able to receive video content without having to pay for data plans,” Parag Naik, CEO of Saankhya Labs told Prachar Bharati News Services.

Band 526-582 MHz is envisaged to work in coordination with both mobile and broadcast services. “DoT has set up a committee to study this band,” K Rajaraman, Secretary, DoT, said, while speaking at a conclave organised by IIT Kanpur.

Currently, the Band 526-582 MHz is used by Prasar Bharati (DD) or Terrestrial TV Broadcasting. Many Analogue, Digital Ready, and Digital Terrestrial TV transmitters are operating in the band.

What is the need for this technology?
With increasing consumption of content shifting from TVs to smartphones, it is becoming the key driver of mobile data growth in India. Hence, it becomes crucial to bring direct broadcasting capabilities to mobile phones.

As per IIT-Kanpur’s study, the broadcast-capable smartphones will be able to stream multiple high-quality video/audio services, optimally utilising valuable spectrum and easing the burden on cellular networks.

Apart from this, with the growing use of smartphones, the dissemination of fake news and viral content has also posed a wide variety of challenges to governments at all levels. During the COVID-19 lockdown, crises of national significance and other incidents of natural disasters, the nation witnessed the importance of broadcast media and the unreliability and bias of the Internet media.

How D2M can be utilised on a mass scale?
The ability to broadcast directly to millions of smart devices and smartphones will be an imperative strategic capability for the national interest. According to the white paper released by IIT-Kanpur, various ways were suggested in which D2M can be utilised effectively on a mass scale.

D2M can ensure-

  • Emergency Alerts are delivered directly, reliably and without dependence on internet/cellular networks.
  • Disaster Management audio content is delivered directly and authentically in a targeted manner.
  • A terrestrial fallback is available for broadcast of public content of strategic or national importance in the event of catastrophic satellite failures.
  • Valuable spectrum, land, manpower and other public resources are conserved by converging Radio services to a common shared broadcast infrastructure where both audio and video broadcasts can be received through a single interface on smartphones or smart devices.

Telecom operators fear D2M revenue loss
D2M technology could significantly benefit consumers by allowing them to access live TV on their mobile phones without using data and on the lines of direct-to-home (DTH). This would also help content providers reach a broader audience.

Despite these advantages, telecom operators are concerned about losing revenue from video consumption. Besides that, they also fear the potential harm to their 5G strategies.

Challenges involved
DoT is currently carrying out a feasibility study on D2M technology. It is still in the development stage. The biggest challenge in front of the government is to bring different stakeholders, including telecommunications, on board in launching D2M tech on a wide scale.

To get different stakeholders on board, the government must develop an attractive proposition for them or policy reforms for the tech to flourish.

To launch the technology on a large scale, the government has to overcome infrastructural challenges as well. Making technology available in every corner of the country is not going to be easy. WION News

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