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YouView spec out, more set top players show their hand

The UK’s long awaited OTT/DVB-T hybrid set top box from YouView is taking shape, with new partners announced this week and a detailed technical specif

By PETER WHITE

Published: 21 April, 2011

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The UK’s long awaited OTT/DVB-T hybrid set top box from YouView is taking shape, with new partners announced this week and a detailed technical specification published for potential hardware partners.

YouView has always been working with Cisco, Humax and Technicolor on set top designs for YouView, and has now opened the spec and signed up with a wider range of partners, adding Huawei, Pace and Vestel and the Manhattan Technology, which turns out to be a local UK software operation called Pixsan Digital Software working with Skardin Industrial Corp of Taiwan.

The process is supposed to echo how FreeView was brought to market in the UK, which was a pioneering DVB-T service which ended up with $50 set tops for digital terrestrial TV, which became a completely retail proposition with over 10 million devices shipping in around 5 years. However there have been lots of delays around YouView and it has strong political opponents and a few rivals, which Freeview never had. Major consumer electronics manufacturers have been less inclined to line up and so most of these players with the exception perhaps of Humax are more traditional set top suppliers.

The YouView Core Technical Specification sets Linux as the operating system, mandates Ethernet, with 802.11n Wi-Fi optional with at least 320GB of hard drive capacity of which 30GB will be used for push VoD. The thing must have two USB ports, both DVB-T and DVB-T2 tuners and an HDMI 1.3 output. Analog ports are banned and the processor must operate at 950 DMIPs (Dhrystone MIPs) – for guidance the latest top of the range Broadcom set top processor delivers 3 times that and so will the Intel CE Atom range. Internal content encryption while within the box has to be AES or Triple DES. And of course the device must by HD capable, up to at least 720p. MPEG 2 and H.264 codecs must be supported.

“We’re delighted to confirm the final launch specification for YouView to help any manufacturer develop a connected TV device. Through promoting common technical standards for connected TV, consumers will get the widest possible range of devices supporting high quality content,” said Richard Halton, CEO, YouView.

It will now try to convince the CE world that this device too will ship in millions, and given that it has most UK broadcasters behind it, including the BBC, there is some chance that the jump from Freeview to YouView will be almost seamless. However with the project delayed until 2012, YouView must be conscious that it will not be the first mass market Over The Top video effort ready in Europe, and it may well have to be satisfied with a much smaller market share than what is being seen as its predecessor, Freeview.

Notably rival free satellite services Freesat, has standardized, probably quite sensibly, on the HbbTV specification which European broadcasters will be using, almost certainly because it wants to compete with YouView and this is the only way it can get a cheap device, by taking those ready made for France and Germany. Many of the TV channels on Freesat are owned by players in those countries, and it will be a common development environment for them. Add to that the 65,000 requests that Virgin has had for TiVo OTT boxes and perhaps YouView is be marginalized.

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