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Inter-ministerial meeting on D2M technology next month

As the debate over the proposed Direct to Mobile (D2M) technology grows, an inter-ministerial meeting on the issue will be held in early December, between the Information & Broadcasting Ministry and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

While the government is yet to take a call on allowing the technology in India, the upcoming meeting will try to further clarify its scope in India, and collate the findings from feasibility studies so far, officials said. It may also clear the confusion on whether only public broadcasters like Prasar Bharti would use it or would even private broadcasters be allowed, they added.

Officials said the meeting will also discuss the draft technical report released by the Telecommunications Engineering Centre (TEC) under the DoT in August, on which industry comments were sought. In the report, the TEC had called D2M a ‘game-changing content delivery approach’ that would satisfy the need for personalized, on-demand content on smartphones.

“In addition, such broadcasting can deliver the content to a large audience simultaneously, without requiring an internet connection. It can also ensure emergency communication and public safety. It can be used to deliver localized content, such as news, weather updates, and advertisements,” the draft report had said.

As part of consultations so far, telecom service providers and device makers have argued against the technology. TSPs are concerned about losing revenue from video consumption, a key segment that continues to grow. The technology may also force a rethink on the 5G strategies of telcos.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is yet to float a consultation paper on the same, a key precursor to any new policy or technology change in the telecom space.

The proposed D2M network operates in the sub-GHz band (526MHz – 582MHz). The DoT had set up a committee to study the band which is expected to work in coordination with both mobile and broadcast services. The band is currently used by Prasar Bharati, along with many analogue and digital terrestrial TV transmitters.

Many Challenges Remain
A paper published by IIT Kanpur in 2022 had noted that currently available mobile devices do not support this technology since it requires the Advanced Television Systems Committee 3.0 standards. The standards define how television signals from different networks, including terrestrial, satellite, and cable networks, are broadcast and interpreted by devices.

To make devices compatible with supporting next-generation broadcast networks under these standards, a separate baseband processing unit is needed, along with an antenna, low-noise amplifiers, baseband filters, and a receiver, it had flagged.

Device manufacturers have resisted the change to the technology since incorporating a separate baseband processing unit would significantly increase smartphone costs and potentially disrupt LTE and 5G networks’ internal design. The band for D2M also requires larger antennas that may pose integration challenges within the current smartphone design.

Additionally, the current network infrastructure lacks the capability to transmit signals for D2M. This technology necessitates a dense network of terrestrial towers to receive signals from satellites and transmit them to streaming devices, reducing the size of the device’s antenna. This is unlike DTH, which employs fixed rooftop antennas linked to broadcast satellites. Business Standard

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