Inter-ministerial meeting on ‘Direct to Mobile’ technology next month

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

While the government has not yet made a call to allow the technology in India, the upcoming meeting will seek to further clarify its scope in India and compile findings from feasibility studies to date, officials said. It could also clear up the confusion over whether only public broadcasters like Prasar Bharti would use it or even private broadcasters would be allowed, she added.

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

“Furthermore, such a broadcast can deliver the content to a large audience simultaneously, without the need for 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 said.

As part of the consultations so far, telecom providers and device manufacturers have spoken out against the technology. TSPs are concerned about losing revenue from video consumption, an important segment that continues to grow. The technology could also force a rethink of telecom companies’ 5G strategies.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is yet to publish a consultation paper on the matter, an important precursor to any new policy or technological change in the telecom space.

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

There are still many challenges

An article published by IIT Kanpur in 2022 noted that currently available mobile devices do not support this technology as it requires Advanced Television Systems Committee 3.0 standards. The standards define how television signals from various networks, including terrestrial, satellite and cable networks, are transmitted and interpreted by devices.

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

Device manufacturers have resisted the change in technology because incorporating a separate baseband processing unit would significantly increase smartphone costs and potentially disrupt the internal design of LTE and 5G networks. The band for D2M also requires larger antennas which can pose integration issues within current smartphone design.

Furthermore, the current network infrastructure lacks the ability to transmit signals for D2M. This technology requires 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 in contrast to DTH, which uses fixed roof antennas linked to broadcast satellites.

What is D2M?

D2M is a proposed broadcast technology that can transmit multimedia content to consumers’ smartphones without the need for an active Internet connection. By enabling handsets to pick up terrestrial TV signals, it can stream live TV. D2M would disrupt the existing system of live TV viewing, where users require either a data connection or a DTH (Direct-to-Home) connection.