ETSI Adds Hybrid TV Interaction Channel In MHEG Middleware Update

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

LONDON, UK — IMPALA, the International MHEG Promotion Alliance, today announces that ETSI – the European Telecommunications Standards Institute – has published the latest version of the market-leading public standard interactive TV middleware as a formal European standard.

Version 2.1.1 of ETSI standard 202 184 – to give it its official title – contains a raft of very significant updates to the original ETSI MHEG specification from 2004, representing the most important increase in the technology’s capabilities since its inception. These include support for the IP-based MHEG Interaction Channel, which enables hybrid broadcast broadband receiver operation via an IP connection – already being used by Freesat in the UK for catch-up TV services – and full support for HD graphics with increased colour depth and screen resolutions.

The latest version of MHEG was submitted to ETSI in late September and has now been fully ratified. David Cutts, MD of S&T, a Founder Member of IMPALA, says, “The publication of the new version of MHEG by ETSI is a significant milestone for the world’s most popular open standard interactive TV middleware. These developments are a step change in the capabilities of the globally deployed technology providing broadcasters with a cost-effective route into a new world of hybrid service provision and therefore revenue growth.”

The ETSI Work Group, which was set up in October 2008, used the MHEG sections of D-Book 6 as the basis for its work. D-Book 6 (and now 6.1 and 6.2) is published by the UK’s Digital TV Group (DTG) – the independent, platform-neutral and technology agnostic industry association for digital television in the UK – and provides a clear and ongoing technological roadmap for the middleware.

The MHEG Interaction Channel uses a sophisticated ‘Hybrid File System’ that enables broadcasters to create common applications that can work on both IP-connected and unconnected receivers in a seamless and user friendly way. The MHEG-IC allows the application to determine whether or not an IP connection is possible (i.e. the receiver is equipped with the appropriate hardware and software) and whether or not it is actually available (i.e. has the user actually connected the receiver to the home network?).

The system enables decoding of MPEG-4 or MPEG-2 streams using the same hardware used for broadcast content and can be used to deliver ‘catchup’ TV to a connected receiver or set top box.

Other hybrid technologies currently remain unratified with no publication date yet set.

The founder members of IMPALA are Strategy & Technology (S&T), Cabot Communications and Echostar Europe.