Even 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 Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
While the government is yet to decide on allowing the technology in India, the upcoming meeting will attempt to further clarify its scope in India and collate the findings from feasibility studies so far, officials said.
It may also address the confusion regarding whether only public broadcasters like Prasar Bharati would use it or if private broadcasters would also be allowed, they added.
Officials said the meeting will also discuss the draft technical report released by the Telecommunication Engineering Centre (TEC) under DoT in August, on which industry comments were sought.
In the report, the TEC had labelled D2M a “game-changing content delivery approach” that would satisfy the need for personalised, on-demand content on smartphones.
“In addition, such broadcasting can deliver 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 localised content, such as news, weather updates, and advertisements,” the draft report had said.
As part of consultations so far, telecommunications service providers (TSPs) 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 telecommunications companies.
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 telecommunications space.
The proposed D2M network operates in the sub-gigahertz band — 526 megahertz (MHz) to 582 MHz. 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 television (TV) transmitters.
Many challenges remain
A paper published by the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur in 2022 noted that currently available mobile devices do not support this technology since it requires the Advanced Television Systems Committee 3.0 standards.
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The standards define how TV signals from different networks, including terrestrial, satellite, and cable networks, are broadcasted 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 technology since incorporating a separate baseband processing unit would significantly increase smartphone costs and potentially disrupt long-term evolution and 5G networks’ internal design. The band for D2M also requires larger antennae that may pose integration challenges within the current smartphone design.
Additionally, the current network infrastructure cannot 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 direct-to-home, which employs fixed rooftop antennae linked to broadcast satellites.