OT: HDTV’s and dutch digital tv subscription options

By ramon
January 30, 2007
0

This is not really an on topic post for bloggingabout.net so hence the OT: in the title in usenet style formatting.

DAR, PAR

Lets say you have a nice large screen that is able to display 1080p content. The analogue signals are ‘only’ PAL (720x576i@50Hz) so now you see all those low resolution details on your beautifull HD screen. This is not what you want thus you go searching for digital providers. There are four types in the Netherlands:
 – Your cable providers digital system (digital cable, DVB-C)
 – Your ISP video-ip service (in Netherlands only ADSL)
 – Canal digitaal (digital satelite, DVB-S)
 – Digitenne (digital air, DVB-T)

We have a PAL signal in the Netherlands which corresponds to the previous 720x576i@50Hz (SDTV). HD signals should be one of the following:
– 1920 x 1080 progressive @ 24/25/30Hz (Full HDTV)
– 1920 x 1080 interlaced @ 50Hz/60Hz
– 1280 x 720 progressing @ 24/25/30Hz

All HDTV resolutions above are in 16:9 but PAL standard is 4:3. This is where it gets interesting! The dutch RTL group (RTL4/5/7) have said that they will go to the 16:9 factor for all of their programs in the near future. But the cable providers will send this signal in 4:3! This will result in a 720x576i@50Hz signal that will only use 720×432 pixels! So a resolution that is even worse then NTSC (720×480@60Hz) while PAL is superioir over NTSC quality because of the extra 92 scanlines and 50Hz frequency because the motion pictures use 24fps for their recordings. Digital providers will use this to say “hey our digital channels offer superiour quality over analogue channels with 16:9 channels!”. This because digital SDTV uses the full 720×576 resolution for 16:9 channels in the same way as DVD’s. Most PAL DVD’s are mpeg2 streams in 720×576@25Hz where the original factor of the movie is

Digital cable (DVB-C)
The cable provider in Rotterdam is offering digital television. You
would expect that the quality of those digital channels would atleast
be the same as the analogue ones right? This is not the current
situation. The bitrate for most channels is that low that you see all
sorts of compression artifacts on screen. This is because the allocated bandwith on the cable is too low to have enough bandwidth for all channels.

But lets take a look at the channels that you can receive by
subscribing to a extra channel pack. The subscription costs some
additional money so I would assume that I would get high bitrates for
these channels then. Obviously the anwser is no 🙁 The quality is even
worse! It almost looks like the video quality of YouTube posts which is
rather poor to say the least.

But what is even worse is that the digital channels arent HD 1080i/p! Not even HDTV 720p but just SDTV! So bye bye UPC!

Video-ip
Some dutch ADSL providers (KPN, Planet and XS4ALL) have a video over op service (mine tv). This service is just SDTV and I cannot find any information about upgrading this service to HDTV specifications. SDTV requires a bandwidth of only 1.5-3mbps. Which most ADSL subscribers have. The problem with this service is that the videostream is send when it is needed thus you do not receive all channels simultaniously like satellite or cable. Ipv4 is also not really suitable for this kind of network traffic. Ipv4 has multicast support but not in the way that ipv6 has. It amazes me not one dutch ISP supplies native ipv6. Full HDTV is possible with ADSL2+ but have have a serious with bandwith if you would want to record one channel and view another.

Digital satelite (DVB-S)
So lets take a look at ‘Canal digitaal’. I discovered after some browsing that most channels that UPC digital cable provides are bitcopied streams from ‘Canal digitaal’. They have an agreement. But most forums say that ‘Canal digitaal’ provides better quality. It seems that some channels are re-encoded to a lower bitrate for the cable networks available bandwidth.

Digital air (DVB-T)
Then the last digital system that is available here. Digitenne by KPN. This system is currently not even worth mentioning. Quality is not on par with good cable and worse then digital cable and probably is about the same in quality as the current video-ip services.

So I was wondering. Why is it that these providers don’t have good digital channels (dutch and foreign)? It seems that almost none of the mainstream channels here is digital thus it is currently not interesting to ‘go digital’ as the current ‘Canal digitaal’s’ slogan is.

You can see how many channels are in HD digital video and/or in AC3 (Dolby Digital) at King of sat.

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