Freeview Updates: TVS off the air, Ch 7 “New Channel” Coming Soon

As I haven’t been watching TV very closely as of late due to my excessively busy schedule, I hadn’t noticed that two relatively major things have happened in the Sydney Freeview space.

On 20th December 2015, our community TV station named TVS went off the air permanently due to the revocation of their broadcasting rights under the leadership of the then communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull. The idea was that community stations could just use the internet as a medium instead, although at the same time, the Liberals have crippled that too with an alternative NBN that’s yet to get any real solid traction or idea whether it’s going to be FTTN, FTTdp (which is so close to FTTP that they might as well do it, but they won’t due to their political agenda), and/or mixed with HFC and other technologies of various sorts with sketchy bit-rate commitments.

Given how shaky my ADSL2+ line has been of late, and my absolute dependence on the internet to be most productive, I have always wished for better speeds and better reliability, but as of yet, I’m still only on 9.1Mbit/s down and 1Mbit/s up on a good day. It’s not as bad as some others, but it could be a lot better, especially when you’re trying to upload >18Gb of high definition video to YouTube for some of my more recent postings.

As a result, the channel at 536.500Mhz is now vacant and quiet. The last UHF channel from the main Sydney transmitter has gone quiet, so all people tuning into Gore Hill will need is an antenna that covers about 174 – 230Mhz and they’ll be sweet. Likewise, those running home TV servers now need only five tuners to cover all channels. Maybe this channel will be re-used in the future for broadcasting trials, be it 4K H.265 video, 3D (again) or even DVB-T2 … I would love to see some innovation on the air.

The 18th December 2015 also saw Channel 7’s multiplex start carrying a new LCN, number 77, called “New Channel” with a static image:

static-image

This is still being broadcast today, along with a reshuffle of the Channel 7 bitrates. No statistical multiplexing was evidenced, however, the bitrate for 7mate and 7TWO have increased dramatically likely to cater for discerning viewers of the tennis.

ch7-new

The bit-rates were read off the mux graph quickly hence the lack of decimal precision, but it’s clear that the main service is now encoded at a much lower rate. The “New Channel” takes up about 941kbit/s of information rate, the audio being LATM encapsulated taking a multiplex rate of roughly 70kbit/s. On the whole, the null bit-rate fraction was observed to be less than 500kbit/s, which represents a more normal distribution to that seen in the previous major analysis.

At the moment, the new-channel slide is only in SD, and they have chosen to use MPEG-4 audio as well, but the audio channel appears to be silent for now. When the final re-organization happens, a similar result to Channel 9’s HD service is expected to appear, but we will see what choices are actually made. If they stick to HE-AACv2 audio, it may cause more compatibility problems than using the standard MPEG-1 or Australian DVB-T mandated AC-3.

Regardless, owners of older first-generation integrated TV tuner sets and external HD set top boxes will probably find they won’t be able to access the HD service fully when it launches, as the bitrate budget seems to mandate the use of H.264 compression.

We sit and wait to see when the change will happen. No firm date has been announced as of yet, however, it seems possible it will be in time for the Australian Open (18th January). Also judging from speculation, it seems that the whole foreign language service idea floated earlier last year might not come to fruition after all which is a bit sad.

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6 Responses to Freeview Updates: TVS off the air, Ch 7 “New Channel” Coming Soon

  1. Justin L. says:

    I feel really sorry for you – your internet even in comparison to the rest of Sydney and Australia is quite slow – apparently the aim of the NBN was to get the people who don’t have a “functioning” broadband line (at least 10Mbit/s down) to a faster network. Even my ADSL2+ in Melbourne has a speed of 15Mbit/s down and 1.2Mbit/s up, but it can slow down to 100KB/s down at times…

    • lui_gough says:

      Still considered fortunate compared to those on “off-net” situations stuck with even 8/1 or less ADSL1 mode and those who might suffer additional backhaul congestion to which the ISP has no recourse, however, where I am now, we had 13.8/1 about 7 years ago until more neighbours and redevelopment pushed the crosstalk levels up so high that the rates for everyone dropped collectively. This is a common issue with phone-line based data transmission modes that use radio-spectrum, as phone lines aren’t designed to contain the transmissions very well, so they mutually interfere. More and more bad pairs keep cropping up as the cables keep getting soaked, and some have been forced over to HFC because they have no spare pairs to offer.

      Unfortunately, the other house isn’t better. The projected rate for the other place is about 4.7/0.5 so I didn’t bother with ADSL2+ there as we only stay there rarely, and sadly, both houses land in coverage holes for the first three years of deployment on the original Labor FTTP plan … and with the Liberal plan right now, we don’t know what we’re getting and when we’re getting it. At least I’m back to regular service and the line hasn’t flaked out, but I am getting about 10/1 with a reduced downlink margin of just 4dB (trading off stability for that extra ounce of speed).

      Got to say though, one of the biggest things I feel is missing is the upload rate – even guys on HFC with 100/1 are really missing out because the uplink constrains what they can do. Skype only does good HD 720p voice calling at 3Mbit/s symmetric, and in my family, it’s not uncommon to have two video calls simultaneously vying for the limited upload. Serving your own website, running your own private web-accessible NAS, streaming surveillance video and running your own house-to-house VPN for across-house sharing of resources is something that’s realistically possible should we have the necessary infrastructure. I was looking forward to 100/40 under FTTP, but I only have to look across at Singapore’s fibre GPON to see that 2Gbit/s down and 1Gbit/s up is not unattainable on a very similar deployment given the right gear, and in an affordable quota-unlimited way (ViewQwest, SG$89.95/mo = AU$89.24/mo). Having 1Gbit/s up at several houses can mean VPN rates as good as LAN rates … but eh, I’m just dreaming again … 🙂

      – Gough

  2. Ian Nugent says:

    Hi Gough, can you run rerun the channel 7 bitrates? I believe they recently had a reshuffle, and I am keen to find out what has happened – more services to mp4?
    thanks
    Ian

    • lui_gough says:

      Thanks for the tip-off. Will have a post by tonight – need some time to do the analysis, but as a prelim, the New Channel (7flix), TV4ME and Racing Channel are MPEG4, rest remain MPEG2 at this stage.

      Spot readout on the bitrates:
      7flix – 1.2Mbit/s video + 70kbit/s audio, both MPEG4.
      TV4ME – 1.08Mbit/s video + 35kbit/s audio, both MPEG4.
      Racing.com – 1.9Mbit/s video, 70kbit/s audio, both MPEG4.

      Note all rates with packetization overhead, implies payload rate of 64kbit/s and 32kbit/s HE-AACv2 audio.

      – Gough

  3. Ian Nugent says:

    thanks, looking to seeing your post

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