How not to replace TVs in the hotel because of DVB-T2?

DVB-T2

How not to replace TVs in the hotel because of DVB-T2?

Replacing DVB-T MPEG4 broadcasting with DVB-T2 HEVC

 

There are only a few months left until the first terrestrial TV transmitters in the DVB-T MPEG4 transmission system are switched off. They will be replaced by the new, more efficient DVB-T2 H.265 HEVC standard. More and more hoteliers are wondering what effect this change will have on the reception of TV channels in the hotel. If the facility is equipped with new televisions or those that are no more than 4 years old, directors and owners of such facilities can rest easy. In other cases, it is necessary to check whether the TV models in the hotel will work. It is best to use our search engine.

Contrary to popular opinion, the whole “problem” with TV sets does not lie in the change of broadcasting from DVB-T to DVB-T2, because most 6-7 year old TV sets currently found in hotels have the ability to receive the signal in both standards. The problem arises from the change of the signal compression technology from MPEG4 (more precisely H.264) to H.265 compression, i.e. HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding). Without hardware support from the device, there is no chance of signal decompression. And such decompression takes place on the end device, i.e. on the TV.

But what if it turns out that your TV sets do not support H.265 / HEVC compression?

Is the only way out of replacing all TV sets or resigning from receiving terrestrial TV channels?

 

On internet forums and discussion groups gathering people related to the hotel industry, discussions are taking place on how to adapt to the upcoming changes. People participating in the discussion can be divided into supporters of the “distributed” solution – installation of external receiving devices (so-called set-top boxes) in each room and a central solution, where the terrestrial TV signal is adjusted to the old standard. There is one more solution that also has a large group of supporters. It can be considered that it combines both of the aforementioned, that is, distributed and centralized. It’s about IPTV. Scattered, because in most cases an additional IPTV receiver should be installed in each room. Centralized, because in one central place (headend) you have to convert the DVB signal into an IPTV stream. This is a topic that would need to be started with a thorough explanation of the term IPTV. Because many people use the term IPTV in a wrong way. I promise that the next post on our blog will be dedicated to this technology. In short, IPTV is a technology for transmitting television signals over broadband networks based on the IP protocol. This is not Internet TV! This one, in a way, meets the basic criteria of IPTV, but has its own rules. It also does not stream content to televisions or display information to guests in rooms. IPTV is another way to transmit a TV signal. The same signal that is sent in the traditional way via coaxial cable in digital DVB standards. There is also no difference in the quality of the transmitted image, because it depends on the TV set. Or rather, the display used in it. An example borrowed from plumbers – regardless of whether the water flows in a plastic, metal or rubber hose, it will always be the same water. The only difference is in the medium and the way it is transmitted. This is the difference between DVB and IPTV. This should be enough to understand the heart of the challenge of changing the way terrestrial television broadcasts. More about the changes themselves in the previous article.

DVB-T2 set-top box in every room.

It seems that a better, cheaper and simpler solution is to install external DVB-T2 / H.265 set-top boxes with each TV set in each room. After all, such a decoder is inexpensive, available in supermarkets and relatively easy to use. However, this solution will work only in small, several-room facilities. Why? Here, I will take advantage of my over twenty years of experience with hotel TV. The challenges begin at the very beginning. That is, the installation of the device in a hotel room. It is best to do this in such a way that the device is invisible to the visitor. Often, however, such an assembly is not possible.

Dekoder DVB-T2 w pokoju hotelowym

By mounting STB (Set-Top Box) in a maximally concealed way, we block access to the device. And from the point of view of a hotel technician, access to the device should be quick. Why such access? Let’s not delude ourselves that a cheap set-top box from the market will work stably. The guest is unlikely to be able to deal with the problem on his own. And often a quick way to “fix” or restore it to normal operation is to restart the device. In most cases, in order to restart a device, you need to access it directly. Such “suspensions” also occur with STB in IPTV technology, especially in those of the lower shelf. Many hotels in Poland know about the constant freezing of IPTV “set-top boxes”.

I have witnessed such situations quite often:

The guest enters the room, turns on the TV and… nothing works. He calls the reception desk, a technician comes and pushes the furniture away, unfastens the cables, restarts the device and… It often ends with a change of room and a guest’s comment on booking portals.

The price works wonders.

Such a low price of devices must come from somewhere. After all, professional DVB-T2 H.265 set-top boxes do not cost 80 – 100 PLN, only a few hundred zlotys more. However, for this price, apart from the stability resulting from the more expensive technologies used, they also guarantee the manufacturer’s support. Contact with the manufacturer’s development department allows you to effectively eliminate problems with devices. In the case of cheap devices, it is rather impossible. Because it is not known who their producer really is. In many cases, they are the same devices, only with a different logo printed on them. “Mr. AliExpress” will not help, but the comments and remarks of guests often spoil many years of work on the hotel brand. Apart from the failure rate, there is also the “black magic” of two pilots. One for the set-top box, the other for the TV set. Only a few devices can be controlled with one remote control. And often for guests, handling such a solution is just “black magic” and a torment.

Therefore, it seems that such cases can be afforded by small objects that can quickly cover several devices in the rooms. And they include such situations in the low cost of purchasing devices. In the case of larger facilities, the involvement of technical staff in “taking care” of set-top boxes is growing exponentially. Before implementing this solution, all “costs” must be well calculated. Often the costs related to the operation and maintenance exceed the costs associated with the purchase of the devices themselves.

IPTV is not an alternative to DVB-T2 / HEVC.

The second solution promoted on internet forums is the aforementioned IPTV. Honestly, I don’t understand too much why? As in the “decoding” of rooms described above, if the TV set does not have the ability to receive the IPTV H.265 HEVC TV signal, it is required to install an external STB supporting this technology. But the cost of the IPTV H.265 set-top box is definitely higher than that of DVB-T2 H.265 set-top boxes.

STB IPTVIf the hotel has a LAN infrastructure, i.e. hotel rooms are connected with a “twisted pair” to the server room or multi-storey shafts, this technology can be considered. Especially that it also brings a lot of added value, not only the transmission of the TV signal. However, when implementing this type of solution in a facility where there is no ready infrastructure, the costs related to the construction of the network should also be included. Laying cables, floor switches, configuration of the whole thing is quite a big expense. At the top of the costs related to the launch of the IPTV network in the hotel, there should be a headend that will convert the DVB-T2 signal into IPTV transmission.

By the way, I would like to deny the erroneous information, often appearing in discussions on internet forums, that if a hotel already has an IPTV system, the changes related to the way of broadcasting terrestrial television no longer apply to it. Yes, but only if the TV sets or set-top boxes support the H.265 HEVC codec. Otherwise, the situation is exactly the same – replacement of TV sets or set-top boxes with ones compatible with H.265 HEVC encoding. In addition, it may turn out that you also need to replace the headend that will receive the DVB-T2 signal. And even the entire system, because the manufacturer did not provide “support” for devices that are several years old or are simply no longer available on the market.

Stability and full control.

The solution, which could be safely called central or centralized, consists in the appropriate preparation of the DVB-T / T2 signal and distribution of this signal in the hotel antenna network. The advantage of this solution is that there is no need to replace TV sets with new ones or to install additional set-top boxes in the room. As a result, it will allow you to reduce the investment costs associated with the purchase of TV sets or set-top boxes. Works with both networks based on coaxial cable and IPTV. This is a very innovative solution, so I will describe it based on the materials provided by the manufacturer, the German company GSS Grundig System GmbH from Nuremberg. GSS is a European manufacturer of headends, devices known for their stability and failure-free operation.

Stacja czołowa MTX 5 16 CT CI

The system is based on the GSS.compact MTX 5-16 CT CI headend, which enables the reception of TV signals from various sources:

  • DVB-T / T2 digital terrestrial television
  • DVB-C digital cable TV
  • Digital satellite TV DVB-S / S2
  • Digital TV IPTV SPTS / MPTS

On the output side, it allows for retransmission of television signals in the DVB-T or DVB-C standard and in parallel in the IPTV standard.

The second important element of the system is the GSS SHLS 720 server with proprietary and innovative software that works practically in real time (with minimal delay).

 

How it’s working?

The DVB-T2 signal is received at the GSS.compact headend and transcoded into an IPTV stream, which is then sent to the GSS SHLS 720 server.
GSS SHLS 720

The digital TV signal is the 0 and 1 strings. The codec appropriately transforms these strings to make them more optimized and take up less space or more efficiently use their space. The server software optimizes and converts “on the fly” data of TV channels to the H.264 MPEG4 standard. The data is then sent back to the MTX 5-16 CT CI headend and modulated for DVB-T or DVB-C transmission. In the version for IPTV systems, there is no need for modulation and the IPTV stream (SPTS) can be sent directly to TV sets. Such prepared TV signal can be received on any devices – TV sets or set-top boxes with DVB-T, DVB-C and IPTV receivers compatible with MPEG 2 and MPEG 4 codecs. That is practically all available receivers that are currently installed in hotels. Especially the few years old. The MTX 5-16 CT CI headend also allows the reception of satellite channels, which may additionally enrich the TV program offer in the hotel. Especially foreign-language ones. In one place, without entering the rooms with guests, we have full control over the TV. Especially that almost everything can be checked and changed remotely via the Internet.

The system is able to handle up to 30 TV channels in HD and SD version, which is more than currently available on terrestrial TV. It is an attractive financial alternative to replacing TV sets in medium and large hotel facilities.

Brak sygnału DVB-T2There are many solutions not to change TV sets and not to be afraid of changing terrestrial broadcasting. I haven’t even mentioned many here. Each solution has its advantages and disadvantages. In fact, what solution will be used in a hotel depends on the size of the facility, the size of the pocket, the ability to make compromises and several other factors. In 2020, our southern neighbors, the Czechs, introduced exactly the same changes that await us in the spring of 2022. Despite earlier information, many hotels saved the situation after switching off the DVB-T transmitters. Many guests of Prague hotels were surprised when they turned on their TV sets in the morning of January 19, 2020. On that day, the first DVB-T transmitters were turned off.
They saw a black screen, but the TV was correctly picking up the DVB-T2 signal. The EPG (channel guide) was working, there was even sound, because it is broadcast in plain MPEG. The black screen indicated that the TV was unable to properly reproduce the TV picture due to the lack of the H.265 codec.

The changes in the Czech Republic started with Prague. In Poland, it will be the south-western part of the country – Dolnośląskie and Lubuskie voivodships. I spent a few weeks in the Czech Republic “saving” the situation. The experience gained then is priceless. Especially since the Czechs have been preparing for a few years for changes. They carried out parallel DVB-T broadcasts and the same channels in DVB-T2 H.265 and a wide-ranging information campaign. In Poland, the topic “surfaced” only in recent months, although it was known much earlier. In May 2017, the European Parliament and the Council issued a Decision on the use of the 470-790 MHz frequency band in the European Union, pursuant to which EU Member States were obliged to make the 700 MHz band available for broadband services by June 30, 2020 or in justified cases by June 30, 2022 at the latest. So for 5 years …

If you are interested in the subject of changing the way of broadcasting terrestrial television and how it will affect the reception of television in hotels or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Piotr Morawski

O autorze

Piotr Dariusz Morawski iBeeQ
Piotr Morawski
piotr.morawski@ibeeq.com | + posts

IT engineer. Over twenty years in the hotel television industry. Currently, he advises hotels on television for hotels and Wi-Fi networks for guests. It works directly with leading manufacturers of devices dedicated to hotels.