This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced
by any process without prior written permission from the Commonwealth. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction
and rights should be addressed to the Manager, Communications and Publishing, Australian Communications and Media Authority,
PO Box 13112 Law Courts, Melbourne Vic 8010.
Published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority
The ACMA’s approach to trials of new technology 6
Evolving technology of 3D TV 8
Common features of all 3D technologies 8
Transmission and reception of 3D images 9
Viewer glasses 10
The future of 3D? 10
Questions for stakeholders 12
Spectrum requirements and availability 14
Spectrum availability 14
Temporary use of the seventh channel for 3D trials 15
Other uses of available spectrum 17
Mobile TV 17
Audio description 17
Testing of newer coding and transmission technologies 17
As yet unknown technologies 17
Consumer protection 18
Submissions to the ACMA
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is the Australian
Government regulator for broadcasting, radiocommunications, telecommunications and the internet.
This discussion paper seeks comment on the anticipated industry demand for temporary use of broadcasting services band (BSB) spectrum for the purposes of conducting trials of 3D TV or other new radiocommunications technologies. The paper also seeks comment on how access to this spectrum might be managed and how consumer protection issues might be addressed.
The closing date for comment is 5.00 pm AEST on Friday 15 October 2010.
Submissions received after this date may not be taken into consideration.
Persons wishing to make submissions are encouraged to email them to: 3DTV@acma.gov.au.
Written submissions marked ‘3D TV’ should be posted to:
Operational Policy for Allocations and Licensing
Australian Communications and Media Authority
P.O. Box Q500
Queen Victoria Building
Publication of submissions
In general, the ACMA publishes all submissions it receives. However, the ACMA will not publish submissions that it considers contain defamatory or irrelevant material.
The ACMA prefers to receive submissions which are not claimed to be confidential.
However, the ACMA accepts that a submitter may sometimes wish to provide information in confidence. In these circumstances, submitters are asked to identify the material over which confidentiality is claimed and provide a written explanation for confidentiality claims.
The ACMA will consider each claim for confidentiality on a case-by-case basis. If the ACMA accepts a confidentiality claim, it will not publish the confidential information unless required to do so by law.
When can the ACMA be required by law to release information?
The ACMA may be required to release submissions by law under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) or for other reasons, including for the purpose of parliamentary processes or where otherwise required by law (for example, a court subpoena). While the ACMA seeks to consult and, where required by law, will consult with submitters of confidential information before that information is provided to another body or agency, the ACMA cannot guarantee that confidential information will not be released through these or other legal means.
Sharing of information
Under the Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005, the ACMA may disclose certain information to the Minister, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy including authorised officials, Royal Commissions, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, certain Commonwealth authorities such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the authority of a foreign country responsible for regulating matters relating to communications or media.
If information is accepted by the ACMA as confidential, the ACMA will seek to consult with the submitter of the information where the ACMA intends to share that information.
Trials of 3D TV were recently held in seven locations around Australia. These trials appear to have provided valuable information to industry on the application of the new ‘frame compatible’ method of 3D transmission. The trials tested this method from the point of production (creating original content by filming live sports events), through transmission (mostly using existing transmission infrastructure) to reception (using new 3D-enabled television sets with active shutter viewing glasses).
The tests also provided viewers possessing 3D TV receivers within the test transmission areas with the opportunity to experience a new and still-evolving form of broadcast television.
The ACMA approved the Australian trials, which were reportedly the first free-to-air trials of 3D broadcast technology in the world, under a policy for testing new radiocommunications technology. This policy draws on the ACMA’s powers under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992 to make spectrum in the broadcasting services bands available for temporary periods for trials that are ‘scientific’ in nature, and relate primarily to the testing of technical functions.
The ACMA is aware that there is interest in conducting further free-to-air 3D TV trials, and has recently authorised additional limited trials for September/October 2010.
Importantly, 3D TV has emerged as a viable broadcast technology at a time when a limited amount of broadcasting spectrum is available for use on a temporary basis.
The 7MHz digital television channel that has been used for 3D TV trials is available for only a limited period pending completion of the transition from analog to digital television. As part of this transition:
analog television will be progressively closed in locations around Australia between 2010 and 2013;
UHF channels 52 through to 69 will be cleared through the progressive closure of analog television in order to create the 126 MHz digital dividend recently announced by the current government.
The process of clearing digital television services from UHF channels 52 through to 69 is often referred to as ‘restack’ and is the subject of a direction given to the ACMA by the current Minister in July 2010. The restack is to be achieved by moving services from channels between 52 and 69 to VHF channels or UHF channels below channel 52. Consequential changes to some services operating on VHF or UHF channels below channel 52 may also be needed in order to efficiently restack the channels and achieve other planning objectives.
The unassigned digital channel used for the 3D TV trials (currently available in most areas of Australia and commonly referred to as Channel B) will be subsumed in the replanning process associated with UHF clearance and restack.
Given the demonstrated interest in conducting 3D trials, but the limitations that must nonetheless necessarily apply to the use of this spectrum, the ACMA has decided to suspend consideration of any further trials beyond 2010 while it considers the policy environment relevant to the digital transition and any other issues (including consumer issues) that might arise as a result of further 3D TV trials.
This discussion paper serves as a basis for the ACMA’s consideration of these matters and the ACMA encourages all interested stakeholders to contribute to this review.
The ACMA is particularly interested in understanding the likely developments in 3D transmission and reception technology, and the potential level of demand for spectrum for 3D trials over the next two to three years. The ACMA is also interested in assessing likely demand for access to the temporarily available spectrum for purposes other than 3D TV trials.
This discussion paper therefore seeks comments on the likely direction the Australian industry will take on 3D TV, and on any other emerging technologies.
The paper also seeks comment on the implications for consumer equipment. While the recent trials demonstrated the potential of 3D technology, they also highlighted some potential problems in trialling a new technology that is likely to have significant consumer interest while standards are still evolving. There have been reports of consumer concern about the limited geographical coverage for the trials compared to the major networks. The ACMA considers it important that when purchasing 3D TV receivers, consumers understand the reduced level of coverage typical of trial transmissions; the limited duration of the current trials; and the fact that as technical standards for consumer equipment have not yet settled, the current generation of 3D receivers might be not be compatible with future transmission methods. The ACMA is interested in stakeholders’ views on how—if these risks are real—they might be managed or better appreciated.
The ACMA plans to consider submissions to this paper and, in the first instance, decide whether to call for specific expressions of interest in conducting further 3D trials in the 12 months to the end of 2011. The ACMA expects this review of its approach to 3D trials to be completed by the end of 2010 and has decided not to consider further authorisations of 3D trials until this process is finalised.
As the ACMA is the Australian regulator for radiocommunications and broadcasting, the primary focus of this paper is on 3D TV in relation to free-to-air television. However, the ACMA recognises that 3D technologies are still evolving and welcomes contributions from stakeholders who have interests in the subscription television, motion picture, DVD and gaming sectors.
Recent trials of 3D TV
Trials of 3D TV on the digital terrestrial platform were first conducted in Australia between May and July 2010. The ACMA made spectrum available and issued licences following applications from the Nine Network, SBS and WIN Television to conduct trials of 3D TV in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle and Wollongong. These free-to-air 3D trials were preceded by a 3D broadcast conducted by subscription broadcaster Foxtel on 24 May 2010.
The licences for the free-to-air trials allowed the broadcasters to utilise UHF spectrum between 19 May 2010 and 19 July 2010 to broadcast 3D TV coverage of the State of Origin rugby league series and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The UHF channels allocated for the trials were unassigned television channels. These channels (commonly known as Channel B) are discussed later in this paper in the section addressing spectrum requirements and availability.
When issuing the trial licences, the ACMA placed conditions which required the licensees to make information available to the public that highlighted the temporary nature of the trials and provide details for a telephone hotline facility to deal with viewer enquiries.
The trials were broadcast using transmitters especially configured for the purpose. Transmission network operators Broadcast Australia and TXA worked closely with the trial broadcasters in setting up these transmitters, with further transmission infrastructure installation needed at some sites.
The trials were licensed for the following transmission parameters:
Effective radiated power
Agreement between the host broadcasters—Nine Network and SBS—allowed for a centrally assembled program stream to be fed to each of the transmission sites from a play-out facility at Nine’s Willoughby studios. The switching between live feeds from the specialised 3D TV broadcast production facility located at each of the State of Origin venues, the incoming satellite feed of the World Cup matches in South Africa, and locally assembled highlights packages and promotion material, was coordinated at this location.
The ACMA has now approved additional trials to be conducted in September and October 2010 by the Seven Network and the Nine Network. Details of these additional trials are available on the ACMA website.
The ACMA’s approach to trials of new technology
The ACMA considers applications for the issuing of scientific apparatus licences for the purposes of conducting trials of new radiocommunications technologies on a case-by-case basis, applying principles and following processes outlined in Dealing with Applications for Apparatus Licences for the Trial of New Radiocommunications Technologies—Guidelines. Scientific apparatus licences are issued under section 100 of the Radiocommunications Act 1992.1 Spectrum in the broadcasting services bands is made available on a temporary basis under section 34 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
In accordance with the guidelines, licences are made available to perform trials of new radiocommunications technology that relate primarily to trialling technical functions. However, trials may include incidental market testing or testing of other aspects of the technology such as performance testing. A common feature of trials is that they are limited in duration, with the period of time on air related to the purpose of the trial. While the ACMA takes a wide view of who may trial new radiocommunications technologies, permission to conduct a trial in no way pre-empts or constrains future planning decisions. In particular, allocation of spectrum for a trial confers no rights to use of that spectrum other than for the purpose and duration of the trial.
Where spectrum is available and the ACMA receives an application which meets policy guidelines, the ACMA may decide to issue a licence. Some of the matters which the ACMA may take into consideration when assessing an application for a scientific apparatus trial licence include:
the purpose of the trial, including whether it is for the purposes of marketing a new service
the nominated date for commencement of the trial and its duration
spectrum availability (having regard to the location and time of the trial)
whether the trial could practicably proceed using a different location or spectrum
resources required for interference management
the need for and relevance of the information to be obtained through the proposed trial
the willingness of the applicant to work with the ACMA where the information gathered from the trial could be of interest to the ACMA or the Australian Government, as well as the person or group conducting the trial
the time necessary to assess the proposed technical specifications compared to the duration of the trial
whether the proposed service will meet relevant licence conditions.
If the ACMA receives competing applications for spectrum to conduct trials it is the ACMA’s preference that applicants resolve competing demands through a process of negotiation. However, if negotiation does not produce a workable solution, the ACMA may have regard to the following matters when reaching a decision:
the purpose of each of the trials
the date and order in which the applicant expressed an interest in conducting the trial
the preparedness of each applicant to commence a service on the nominated date
the nominated date and duration of the trial
whether the trial could practicably proceed using a different location or frequencies.
A full copy of the guidelines is available on the ACMA’s website.
Evolving technology of 3D TV
Although audiovisual 3D technology has existed since the 1950s, the leap in quality of both cinematic and broadcast 3D content in 2009/2010 has resulted in worldwide interest in 3D TV. The rapidly changing environment for 3D TV is demonstrated by the fact that recent Australian digital terrestrial TV trials conducted by the Nine Network and SBS were the first of their kind in the world, and that these trials followed only a matter of days after the first Australian 3D TV broadcast on the subscription television channel, Fox Sports.
Importantly, the technical approach used to conduct the Australian free-to-air trials is not the only approach for providing 3D broadcasts. The ACMA is interested in stakeholders’ views on the direction that 3D broadcast technology is likely to take in Australia and internationally, and on ways of managing some of the uncertainties that currently exist with this new technology.
Given its role as Australia’s regulator of broadcasting services which use radiofrequency spectrum and the current temporary availability of such spectrum, the ACMA is primarily concerned in this paper with the application of 3D technology in the free-to-air broadcast environment and the extent to which spectrum should be made available for further 3D trials. This section of the discussion paper—together with the following sections on spectrum availability, licensing and consumer issues—therefore focuses primarily on free-to-air television, rather than on other broadcast platforms such as direct-to-home satellite and cable delivery which can also deliver 3D TV, or the use of 3D in the cinematic, DVD, Blu-ray and gaming environments. Nevertheless, the ACMA recognises that 3D TV is emerging as a consumer application more generally. It is interested in understanding the evolution of 3D technology across any relevant platform.
Common features of all 3D technologies
3D TV (otherwise known as ‘stereoscopic television’) is still evolving. International commentary on 3D technology does not yet display consistency in the categorisation of transmission and reception methods or in the timeframe and direction for further development, and technical standards have not yet been established.2 Nevertheless, most analysis positions current 3D technology between the traditional ‘anaglyph’ system (using standard 2D transmission and reception equipment and relying on coloured viewing glasses) and further improved versions such as a ‘full HD 3D’ (providing a high resolution picture using some specialised transmission and reception equipment) and the ‘auto-stereoscopic’ model (which does not require glasses).3 While the method of conducting the recent high definition digital 3D broadcasts represents a significant improvement on the old anaglyph approach, most commentators suggest that a version of 3D where the viewer does not need to wear glasses is some years away.
All forms of stereoscopic 3D technology involve the creation of separate streams of information for a viewer's left eye and right eye. These separate streams, when combined in a certain way, create an illusion of depth, or the ‘3D effect’. The images can be initially captured by two cameras that produce the two streams of information, or the separate streams can be computer-generated during the production process. The two independent streams of information are then reconstructed in the receiver (i.e. the 3D TV set), with viewer glasses presenting a coherent image with the illusion of depth.
Despite these common features, there are different methods of transmitting a 3D TV signal, and different ways for assembling the signal in a receiver. There are also different ways of using viewer glasses to present the assembled picture to the viewer.
This paper does not attempt to provide a comprehensive explanation of 3D technology, and the ACMA encourages stakeholders to offer comments on the ways in which 3D technology can be characterised, as well as the likely direction of further standards development. However, some understanding of the principal transmission methods and of the receivers and glasses currently on the market in Australia is necessary in order to consider the ways in which the technology may evolve and the policy settings that might assist further development while providing appropriate consumer safeguards. This section provides a brief overview of the method used for the recent Australian trials, as well as an alternative method that has been the subject of discussion within the Australian industry and in international commentary.
Transmission and reception of 3D images
The two techniques for transmission of 3D images discussed in this section are known as the ‘frame compatible approach’ and ‘non-frame-compatible approach’.4 The Australian trials used the 'frame-compatible' approach.
In the Australian trials, separate high resolution images (one for the right eye and one for the left eye) were compressed into a single frame showing side-by-side images. These were then transmitted through the existing broadcasting chain. 3D receivers took the side-by-side images that had been compressed together in the transmission process and expanded them so that they each occupied a full frame shown one after the other in rapid succession. The 3D glasses performed the final function (explained in more detail below) by controlling the view in such a way that the viewer saw only one image with the desired depth.
The alternative approach (the ‘non-frame compatible’ approach) also involves sending two streams of information, but does not involve compressing two high resolution images together into the one frame. The content of the streams and the ways they are assembled can vary. One technique (sometimes known as ‘left eye + delta’ or ‘2D + delta’) produces a first stream carrying a single, high resolution 2D image for the left eye. The other stream then carries data that supplements that main stream, carrying the information about the difference between the left eye and right eye images (which, combined with the main stream, is used to reconstitute the signal for the right eye). As in the frame-compatible approach, a 3D TV set and viewer glasses work to present a coherent picture with the illusion of depth.5 Importantly, both the frame compatible and non-frame-compatible approaches rely on 3D-enabled receivers (in practical terms, a high definition TV set equipped with an additional 3D processor) to perform key actions in the 3D broadcast chain.
In the Australian trials, certain receivers that were not 3D-enabled were able to display side-by-side pictures but not assimilate them into the desired single frame. These are receivers that are compatible with the newer method of encoding and data compression known as MPEG-4. MPEG-4 enables significantly more data to be provided than with MPEG-2.6 In the non-frame-compatible approach—not yet trialled in Australia by free-to-air television—receivers using MPEG-4 without a 3D processor (i.e. 2D televisions) should display a single high resolution picture. Receivers using MPEG-4 with a 3D processor should insert the additional data into the high resolution picture to create the required picture with 3D depth.
As noted above, the final element in the 3D broadcast chain is the glasses that viewers must wear to make sense of a 3D picture. In the 1950s and until recently, glasses used in cinemas featured red and green filters to differentiate elements of the total picture. In the ‘anaglyph’ method, two images are presented simultaneously, with coloured glasses being used to superimpose one on the other. The anaglyph method is sometimes still used, with amber and blue or cyan now replacing the red and green filters.
The newer approach presents an improvement on the anaglyph method and is based on the rapid presentation of alternative rather than simultaneous images. The presentation is in fact so rapid that the brain sees the images as one. In currently available consumer 3D TV systems, electronic shutter glasses are used. This approach involves the electronic shutters in front of each eye opening and closing in sync with the alternating images displayed on the screen for the left eye and then the right eye. This synchronised displaying and blocking provide one single view with the illusion of depth. A viewer without the shutter glasses sees both images superimposed on one another.
An alternative approach, typically used in cinemas, is for the two images to be displayed simultaneously but using polarised light. Glasses containing polarising filters are used to separate the two images. The polarised approach has not yet been incorporated in consumer equipment.
The future of 3D?
In circumstances such as the recent Australian trials, where the ACMA was able to make available a separate digital television channel for 3D broadcasts, the frame-compatible approach offers significant advantages to broadcasters because it enables them to combine parts of existing 2D transmission infrastructure with new 3D production equipment. And while the compressing of the high resolution images into a single frame does result in some loss of resolution, the final product is still a high quality 3D image.
A key difference between the frame-compatible approach and the non-frame compatible approach—and one that is of particular interest to the ACMA—is that the non-frame-compatible approach provides a usable picture to all viewers with MPEG-4 receivers, even those without a 3D display. In contrast, the frame-compatible approach provides only a blank screen to viewers with non-3D-enabled MPEG-2 receivers and a squashed, side-by-side image to viewers with non-3D-enabled MPEG-4 receivers.
The non-frame-compatible approach is also more efficient in the amount of spectrum it requires, since (at least in the version discussed above) it does not rely on the transmission of two high resolution pictures. For example, during the recent trial broadcasts of the State of Origin rugby league, the Nine Network transmitted four near identical images: two for 3D viewers (left eye and right eye) and two for 2D viewers (standard definition and high definition). A non-frame-compatible approach could potentially replace three of these images (left eye, right eye and HD) with the equivalent of around one and a half images (a 2D HD signal plus the delta signal).
This efficiency suggests that the non-frame-compatible approach may offer the potential for free-to-air broadcasters, in time, to employ 3D technology as part of the suite of services provided on their own dedicated multiplexes. Access to spectrum is discussed in more detail in the next section.
Despite this potential, it should be noted that there is a concern over the adaptability of 3D production techniques for 2D viewing, on account of the different camera angles used in each. If this is the case, the potential for the non-frame-compatible approach may be more limited.7 One significant issue that arises with both of the two main transmission methods is their dependency on receivers that use MPEG-4. Most receivers in Australian homes use MPEG-2, and although some are MPEG-4 compatible, very few are 3D-enabled.8 This means that even if 3D broadcasts were to use the non-frame-compatible approach, very few people (only those with a 3D-enabled MPEG-4 set) would see the 3D version; some would see the 2D version, but most would see nothing.9 Given the small numbers of potential viewers, broadcasters are unlikely to see this as a viable option for their single HD channel, with the result being the spectrum-saving potential of the non-frame-compatible approach is not likely to be realised, at least in a commercial context, until there is more widespread take-up of MPEG-4 receivers.
A further complication that appears to arise for both approaches is that there are currently a number of different models of 3D TV receivers available to Australian consumers. Although many existing HD TV digital receivers (including those compliant with Freeview technical specifications) and all 3D-enabled receivers are MPEG-4 compatible, the 3D processors used for the frame-compatible Australian trials in 2010 may not support transmissions using non-frame-compatible methods, or even later incarnations of the frame-compatible transmissions. A related problem is that although a technical standard for glasses is expected in the next 12 months, the absence of agreed technical operating standards means that currently shutter glasses suitable for one brand of receiver are not generally suitable for others.
Of course, it should also be recognised that for some consumers the importance of broadcast 3D content will be secondary to other applications such as DVD viewing or gaming. In addition, the problems of ‘backwards compatibility’ should not be overstated as the current generation of 3D-enabled TV sets are in fact high quality HD receivers that serve a purpose over and beyond occasional 3D broadcasts.
Finally, a further contributing factor to the current level of uncertainty in 3D technology is the existence of different methods of producing 3D TV content. Stable production methods and receiver standards will generally foster production of 3D content and the availability of content will be a key factor in the take-up of 3D TV by consumers. Take-up in turn will be a key driver in program investment, particularly important with production costs significantly higher than those incurred in producing content in 2D—even in 2D HD. The availability of premium content is expected to be particularly important if prospective consumers need to be convinced that their recently-purchased 2D consumer electronic equipment needs to be replaced in order to access 3D content.
Despite higher production costs, there is an increasing amount of content being produced in 3D. This includes major motion pictures, which are increasingly being released in 3D versions. For broadcast television, one of the most significant drivers of 3D TV content internationally has been sport. In addition to the live matches of the recent FIFA World Cup which were broadcast in 3D, other major sporting events captured in 3D include the 2010 US Masters golf tournament, the 2010 French Open tennis tournament, and the UK’s Premier League soccer. In addition to films and sport, ballet performances, natural history documentaries and concerts by popular recording artists have also been produced in 3D. It remains unclear, however, which program genres will be a desirable target for 3D production, and whether there will be a reasonable stream of international 3D content over the next few years.
Questions for stakeholders
The spectrum access implications of the different 3D transmission methods are discussed in the following section. Risks for consumers are examined in more detail in the final section of this paper. Before considering those aspects, however, the ACMA is interested in seeking views from stakeholders on the benefits and limitations of the two transmission approaches outlined above, as well as any other evolving approaches, including likely developments at an international level. The ACMA is also interested in stakeholders’ views on the likely direction and timeframe for technical standards that apply to transmission and consumer equipment, and the likely availability of 3D content. While the ACMA is mainly interested in the digital transition period through to the completion of analog closure in 2013, comments on the long-term prospects for 3D are also welcome.
1. The ACMA invites comments on the suitability of frame-compatible and non-frame compatible approaches (and any other approaches that might be under consideration) in the Australian broadcasting environment.
2. The ACMA also invites comments on whether 3D transmission technology is stabilising and when technical standards for consumer equipment might be completed.
3. The ACMA invites comments on the likely demand for and availability of 3D content during and beyond the digital transition period of the next two to three years.
4. The ACMA welcomes comments on other aspects of 3D TV, including any observations on the different environments presented by satellite and cable delivery, as well as the application of 3D technology in motion pictures, DVDs, Blu-ray and computer games.
Spectrum requirements and availability
The previous chapter provided an overview of the frame-compatible approach adopted in the recent Australian free-to-air trials, and noted an alternative (non-frame-compatible) approach that might present opportunities for further efficiency in the use of spectrum.
Spectrum use is of particular interest to the ACMA, as Australia’s regulator of radiocommunications and as the authority able to make UHF digital television channels available in a number of locations on a temporary basis. This section of the discussion paper briefly outlines the basis on which this spectrum can be made available, and seeks comments from stakeholders on the potential use of available spectrum for further 3D trials. Other potential uses of this spectrum are considered in the next section.
Currently five digital television channels are used by the ABC, SBS, and commercial broadcasters in most areas of Australia. Two additional channels (sometimes known as Channel A and Channel B) have been planned in each area. These channels are referred to as ‘unassigned channels’ because they have not been made available permanently for particular services. In November 2009, the current government announced that spectrum representing one of the channels (Channel A) was to be allocated on a temporary basis to community television in the five major metropolitan areas until 2013, with licence conditions which preclude the carriage of other services.10
Following the community television announcement in November 2009, in June 2010 the government announced that it would seek a UHF digital dividend of 126 MHz to be delivered by the switch-off of analog television.11 A dividend of this size requires clearance of television services from UHF channels 52 through to 69, with the consequent reorganisation (‘restack’) of all television services into the remaining channels.
In July 2010 the government issued the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Realising the Digital Dividend) Direction 2010. The objective of the direction is set out in the Explanatory Memorandum:
The Direction requires the ACMA to plan for the release of a contiguous block of 126 MHz of broadcasting spectrum in the upper band as a digital dividend. Accordingly, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is directing the ACMA to clear broadcasting services from the frequency range 694 to 820 MHz (that is, channels 52 to 69 inclusive).
Restack will only leave room for six 7 MHz TV channels offering the same coverage as existing television services. Accordingly, the seventh TV channel planned for each area will cease to be available once television services are restacked.
While the seventh channel is likely to remain available for temporary use (such as 3D TV trials) until it is required as part of the restack process, any authorisation of trials using this spectrum must necessarily be for a limited period of time. The availability of the Channel B channels will vary depending on the clearance timetable which is yet to be determined, but Channel B is expected to remain available in most locations for the next 18 months and possibly longer in some locations. It is unlikely that the channel will be available in any location beyond 2013.
Future use of the remaining sixth channel (Channel A) after 2013 is a policy decision for government and any interim arrangements implemented by the ACMA using Channel B should not be taken as an indication of further availability of Channel A.
Temporary use of the seventh channel for 3D trials
Most Australian free-to-air television broadcasters currently carry one HD and two SD services on their digital television multiplex using MPEG-2 encoding and the DVB-T transmission standard. A typical 7 MHz UHF digital TV channel, when using the DVB-T transmission standard and MPEG-2, provides a bit rate of up to 23 MBit/s. Using DVB-T and MPEG-4 to provide a frame-compatible 3D transmission, the recent Nine Network trial used a total bit rate of 14.5 MBit/s. Using this approach it is not currently possible to carry a 3D TV signal of satisfactory viewing quality on the same multiplex in addition to carrying one HD and two SD services. In order to maintain their existing suite of 2D services and also provide additional 3D content, broadcasters would require access to additional spectrum to conduct trials.
As there is a demonstrated interest in conducting 3D trials at a time when broadcasters are not able to adequately conduct 3D trials on their own multiplexes, and as there is a digital television channel available in most locations for a limited period of time, the ACMA is considering continuing to make the seventh channel available for 3D trial broadcasts.
It is likely that if further trials are to be authorised, the ACMA will call for expressions of interest later in 2010.
At this stage, however, the ACMA is seeking an indication from stakeholders whether there is likely to be continuing interest in access to the seventh channel on a temporary basis in the period prior to digital television restack. The ACMA is also interested in gauging the willingness of industry to develop a cooperative strategy to manage access to the available spectrum in circumstances where there may be competing applications.
5. The ACMA invites broadcasters and other interested parties to indicate the likely level of demand for access to spectrum to conduct further 3D trials.
6. The ACMA also invites interested parties to identify events for which they might consider conducting further terrestrial broadcasting trials of 3D TV, should the ACMA issue a call for expressions of interest later in 2010.
7. The ACMA invites comment on the best method of managing industry interest in using the temporarily available BSB spectrum for the purposes of conducting trials of 3D TV.
Other uses of available spectrum
As noted in the previous sections, 3D TV may not be the only emerging radiocommunications technology which industry may wish to trial in the available spectrum. Broadcasters or other interested parties may also wish to trial other types of radiocommunications technologies while the spectrum remains available.
Mobile TV is a television platform which can be received using mobile handsets rather than fixed antenna and receiver systems. Between 2005 and 2008, the ACMA approved a number of trials of DVB-H mobile TV technology. Further trials of DVB-H or other mobile TV technologies may be one purpose for which spectrum could be allocated temporarily.
Audio description technology refers to technical systems which carry additional information broadcast in conjunction with standard television programming for use by viewers who may be visually impaired. To the extent that broadcasters wish to test audio description technologies without impacting on existing services, additional spectrum may be required.
Testing of newer coding and transmission technologies
Australian broadcasters currently transmit MPEG-2 encoded services using the DVB-T standard. Since digital TV commenced in Australia, the newer technologies of MPEG-4 and DVB-T2 have been developed. The available spectrum could potentially be used to undertake trials of these technologies.
As yet unknown technologies
P 8. The ACMA invites broadcasters and other interested parties to nominate new radiocommunications technologies apart from 3D TV for which they might consider conducting trials using temporarily available BSB spectrum. resently unknown broadcasting or other radiocommunications technologies may emerge over the period during which the spectrum is temporarily available. Broadcasters and others may wish to access spectrum in order to trial these technologies as they emerge.
Previous sections of this discussion paper have explained how the availability of spectrum being used for 3D TV trials is limited and how technical standards for consumer equipment (as well as transmission equipment) have not yet been established.
These aspects of uncertainty regarding 3D TV have prompted the ACMA to consider whether there is a risk of consumer expectations of widespread and continued availability of free-to-air 3D TV services. If information does not reach consumers that free-to-air trials of 3D TV are limited in duration, it is possible that consumers may purchase a 3D-ready television receiver because they believe that they will have access to a regular free-to-air 3D TV service.
A further possible risk is that the consumer making the purchase may be in a city or region in which trials are conducted, but not in the coverage area for the trial. The lower power levels used to transmit the trial services mean that coverage areas are generally smaller than those for regular digital television services.
During the recent trials there were media reports of people purchasing 3D TV receivers in the expectation of receiving the broadcasts, when in fact these people resided in areas that were outside the coverage area of the trial, or in an area for which broadcasters had not sought approval to conduct trials. The trial report provided by the Nine Network also indicated some confusion by consumers. This was despite information from those conducting the trial and the ACMA which clearly outlined the limited nature of the trial broadcasts.
This experience could suggest that public information advising of the limited nature of the 3D TV trials has not been successful in reaching all consumers.
Finally, the earlier section of this paper dealing with 3D technology discussed the evolving nature of receiver standards and indicated that with 3D TV technology still in its relative infancy, receivers are more prone to premature obsolescence. There is a significant financial outlay currently needed to acquire 3D TV receivers, and it is possible that there will be further costly transitions to successor generations of equipment.
The ACMA certainly recognises that technical evolution and backwards compatibility are matters affecting consumers of all digital electronic devices. It is also true that free-to-air 3D TV is only one of a range of 3D media offerings which a 3D-ready TV receiver could be used to access—pay TV, Blu-ray, computer games, as well as high definition 2D broadcasts.
These circumstances have prompted the ACMA to consider whether it should be concerned that some people may purchase a 3D-enabled receiver under the false assumption of a continuous or ongoing free-to-air 3D TV service or that they will be in a coverage area for further 3D trials.
The ACMA is also considering whether the fact that 3D-enabled digital television equipment might quickly become obsolete during the transition from analog to digital television might give rise to serious consumer detriment.
The ACMA has noted media reports on health concerns associated with 3D TV. If the ACMA receives any complaints about adverse effects on health, or if it appears that there is significant evidence of such effects, the ACMA may seek specialist advice and give separate consideration to this issue.
9. The ACMA invites comment on the issue of consumer expectations surrounding 3D TV—whether there is a risk that consumers will invest in 3D TV sets on the understanding that 3D broadcasts will be ongoing, and if so, what measures might be adopted to help ensure that those interests are properly protected.
1 Scientific licences are specified in the Radiocommunications (Transmitter and Receiver Licences) Determination and the Radiocommunications (Interpretation) Determination 2000.
2 The ACMA is aware of standards development work being conducted by various international bodies including the International Telecommunication Union, the European Broadcasters Union, and the MPEG Industry Forum.
3 For a discussion of ‘full HD 3D’, see the May 2010 Informa report, Global 3D TV Forecasts, available at: http://www.marketresearch.com/product/display.asp?productid=2661811&xs=r.
4 For a discussion of these techniques, see the report published by Broadcast Australia in July 2010, 3D or Not 3D: The road ahead for TV. http://broadcastaustralia.com.au/media-room/media-releases/2010/3d-or-not-3dthe-road-ahead-for-tv. This paper adopts the term ‘non-frame-compatible’ approach as used by Broadcast Australia.
5 Further information on the 2D + delta approach can be found in the article by Ericsson, ‘3DTV – Taking Television to a New Dimension’, published in June 2010. http://www.tvbeurope.com/white-paper-content/full/ericsson-3dtv-taking-television-to-a-new-dimension;jsessionid=254B9AA39AE61D8B147632B1BB850223.
6 MPEG-2 has been used in Australia with the transmission standard DVB-T since digital television commenced in 2001. These standards typically enable the transmission of one high definition service and three standard definition services on a digital multiplex using 7 MHz of spectrum.
7 For a discussion of this issue, see the article by Ericsson, ‘3DTV—Taking Television to a New Dimension’.
8 In its report on the first free-to-air 3D trial, the Nine Network indicated that by the end of trial in July 2010 in excess of 16,000 3D receivers had been sold.
9 The Nine Network also reported that some older digital receivers provided audio but not video content.
10 See the Minister’s media release: http://www.minister.dbcde.gov.au/media/media_releases/2009/100.
11 See the Minister’s media release: http://www.minister.dbcde.gov.au/media/media_releases/2010/062.