Interactive service for Singapore's free-to-air TV

Interactive TV may be common in Singaporean households next year, says software engineer working on a project with MediaCorp.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor
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SINGAPORE--Interactive TV may be a common fixture in Singaporean households come 2010.

According to Wang Yi, a software engineer with Zentek Technology Singapore, local broadcaster, MediaCorp, will be carrying out interactive TV trials in "one to two months' time", which are expected to last between half-a-year to a year.

Wang told ZDNet Asia at a Media Development Authority (MDA) press briefing Thursday, MediaCorp will roll out 50 Internet-capable set-top boxes developed by Zentek to selected households. This figure was initially set for 100 boxes, but was reduced to 50 due to a "management decision".

Video, as well as interactive content applications, will be streamed to the set-top boxes over MediaCorp's Digital Video Broadcast-Terrestrial (DVB-T) signal.

He carried out a demonstration of an overlaid application, running social interaction capabilities, on MediaCorp's free-to-air high definition (HD) version of its Channel 5.

Wang also added that Zentek has three applications ready, and will unveil more at the BroadcastAsia exhibition next week, to be held under the imbX (Infocomm Media Business Exchange) 2009 show.

Christopher Chia, CEO of the MDA, said IPTV (Internet Protocol television), together with 3D technology and HD would take center stage at the Singapore pavilion at the show. He added that the local media industry is thriving, worth an estimated S$22 billion (US$15 billion) as of the end of 2008's financial year, supporting some 54,000 jobs.

Chia said the size of this year's Singapore showing at the regional trade exhibition would match last year's.

He acknowledged that IPTV hasn't taken off in the country yet, but noted that it is still "early days". He drew the comparison to the growth of HD technology, which was relatively unheard of in the country some three years ago, to a widely-adopted technology today.

IPTV is already found in some niche services, and will hit the tipping point to mass adoption as services get cheaper, said Chia.

Zentek's Wang said IPTV requires large bandwidth to support it, and said the country's planned next-generation national broadband networkmay provide "good opportunity" to boost IPTV take up.

While Zentek's set-top box currently supports the Digital Video Broadcast-Multimedia Home Platform (DVB-MHP) specification version 0.3, the company is developing the box to support DVB-MHP version 1.1, which will make the boxes IPTV-capable. He declined to specify when the update would be complete.

DVB-MHP is an open standard for interactive digital TV.

Zentek's Singapore base was started with some funding from the MDA. Its parent company is headquartered in Japan.

According to imbX's organizer, this year's BroadcastAsia event is expecting to feature some 647 companies, with 85 percent based overseas.

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