1 November 2010 marks the launch of DVB-T2, HD, MPEG-4 terrestrial transmission in Sweden. Across multiplexes 6 and 7, channels SVT1, SVT2, MTVN, National Geographic, and Canal Sport have all begun DVB-T2 HD transmission; TV4's HD broadcasts will begin in December. However, nine national HD licenses have been allocated across the DVB-T2 multiplexes. As a consequence, DVB-T2 HD channel counts could rise by three beyond 2010.
In spite of DVB-T2's low penetration, the rationale for adopting T2 in lieu of T - from a pure bandwidth perspective - is clear: within an 8MHz wide multiplex, and given a fixed signal-to-noise ratio, T2 transmission carries a data rate that is roughly 60 per cent greater relative to a DVB-T transmission. This data rate availability is a prerequisite to carrying additional HD content on the DTT platform.
More broadly, Sweden's DVB-T2 launch prompts a re-examination of the markets for, and the complementarity that exists between, MPEG-4 compression and DVB-T2 transmission. In Western European, the DTT landscape is comprised of some 95 DVB multiplexes, of which a mere 7 are distributed using DVB-T2. Of the roughly 500 encoded video streams present across these 95 multiplexes, 350 streams are MPEG-2 encoded.
As such, there is significant scope to increase the use of MPEG-4 encoding on the DTT platform. For a given means of transmission, the switch from MPEG-2 to 4 offers substantial bandwidth savings of its own. Because the advantages to DVB-T2 adoption are magnified in the presence of advanced compression, the pre-existence of a robust MPEG-4 market within a country can increase the attractiveness of T2 deployment. Conversely, the adoption of DVB-T2 lends scale to the market for T2 modulators, which is likely to depress the price of the hardware; such price movements may independently increase the attractiveness of DVB-T2. To the extent that price changes influence a country's decision to adopt the standard, a consequent DVB-T2 launch is likely to accompany the use of MPEG-4 compression.
Although the transmission and encoding markets interdepend, and can in effect cross subsidize one another, the DVB-T2, MPEG-4 market opportunity is not without its barriers. On the consumer premises end, DVB-T2 tuner prices have yet to approach the commodity levels of DVB-T tuners. From an infrastructure perspective, the launch of a DVB-T2 multiplex perpetuates the costly, laborious process associated with transmitter switch-out and digital switchover.
On balance, Sweden's deployment should be seen as an element of the embryonic - but growing - market for DVB-T2 transmission.