Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB)

Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) is a suite of internationally accepted open standards for digital television. DVB standards are maintained by the DVB Project, an international industry consortium with more than 270 members, and they are published by a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) of European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) and European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The interaction of the DVB sub-standards is described in the DVB Cookbook. Many aspects of DVB are patented, including elements of the MPEG video coding and audio coding.


DVB systems distribute data using a variety of approaches, including by satellite (DVB-S, DVB-S2 and DVB-SH; also DVB-SMATV for distribution via SMATV); cable (DVB-C); terrestrial television (DVB-T, DVB-T2) and digital terrestrial television for handhelds (DVB-H,DVB-SH); and via microwave using DTT (DVB-MT), the MMDS (DVB-MC), and/or MVDS standards (DVB-MS).

These standards define the physical layer and data link layer of the distribution system. Devices interact with the physical layer via a synchronous parallel interface (SPI), synchronous serial interface (SSI), or asynchronous serial interface (ASI). All data is transmitted in MPEG-2 transport streams with some additional constraints (DVB-MPEG). A standard for temporally-compressed distribution to mobile devices (DVB-H) was published in November 2004.

These distribution systems differ mainly in the modulation schemes used and error correcting codes used, due to the different technical constraints. DVB-S (SHF) uses QPSK, 8PSK or 16-QAM. DVB-S2 uses QPSK, 8PSK, 16APSK or 32APSK, at the broadcasters decision. QPSK and 8PSK are the only versions regularly used. DVB-C (VHF/UHF) uses QAM: 16-QAM, 32-QAM, 64-QAM, 128-QAM or 256-QAM. Lastly, DVB-T (VHF/UHF) uses 16-QAM or 64-QAM (or QPSK) in combination with COFDM and can support hierarchical modulation.

The DVB-T2 standard is expected to be published at the end of June 2008 and is expected to be approved and submitted to ETSI during 2008.

The DVB-T2 standard will give more-robust TV reception and increase the possible bit-rate by over 30% for single transmitters (as in the UK) and is expected to increase the max bit-rate by over 50% in large single-frequency networks (as in Germany, Sweden).

Encryption and metadata

The conditional access system (DVB-CA) defines a Common Scrambling Algorithm (DVB-CSA) and a physical Common Interface (DVB-CI) for accessing scrambled content. DVB-CA providers develop their wholly proprietary conditional access systems with reference to these specifications. Multiple simultaneous CA systems can be assigned to a scrambled DVB program stream providing operational and commercial flexibility for the service provider.

DVB is also developing a Content Protection and Copy Management system for protecting content after it has been received (DVB-CPCM), which is intended to allow flexible use of recorded content on a home network or beyond, while preventing unconstrained sharing on the Internet. DVB-CPCM has been the source of much controversy in the popular press and it's said that CPCM is the DVB's answer to the failed American Broadcast Flag.

DVB transports include metadata called Service Information (DVB-SI, ETSI EN 300 468, ETSI TR 101 211) that links the various elementary streams into coherent programs and provides human-readable descriptions for electronic program guides as well as for automatic searching and filtering.

Recently, DVB has adopted a profile of the metadata defined by the TV-Anytime Forum (DVB-TVA, ETSI TS 102323). This is an XML Schema based technology and the DVB profile is tailored for enhanced Personal Digital Recorders. DVB lately also started an activity to develop a service for IPTV (DVB-IPI, ETSI TR 102033, ETSI TS 102034, ETSI TS 102814) which also includes metadata definitions for a broadband content guide (DVB-BCG, ETSI TS 102 539).