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The Government of India is experimenting with the Direct to Mobile (D2M) technology that will allow users to download multimedia content directly in mobile phones without an active internet connection. Through this native technology, the GoI wants to beam information directly to the citizens, counter fake news, issue emergency alerts and assist in disaster management.
According to a Deloitte study, India had 1.2 billion mobile subscribers in 2021, of which about 750 million are smartphone users. Further, the report stated that demand for smartphones in India is expected to increase at a CAGR of 6 percent. By 2026, India is forecasted to have 1 billion smartphone users. The growth in smartphone users will be fueled by 5G technology and fast adoption in rural areas.
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Hence, the Department of Technology (DoT) is conducting a feasibility study of a spectrum band for offering broadcast services directly to users’ smartphones.
Last year, public service broadcaster Prasar Bharati also announced a collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur to test the feasibility of the D2M technology.
Earlier this month, IIT Kanpur organised a conclave with support from Prasar Bharati and TSDSI (Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India) on ‘Direct-to-Mobile & 5G Broadband – Convergence Roadmap for India’ in New Delhi.
What is D2M tech?
The concept of D2M technology is a lot similar to FM radio, where a receiver within the device can tap into radio frequencies. The tech is a combination of broadband and broadcast, using which mobile phones can capture territorial digital TV signals. Using D2M, multimedia content can be beamed to phones directly.
“It’s an indigenous ‘Made in India’ technology, and it is the first of its kind in the world. D2M is going to revolutionise content delivery, especially video content. Consumers today are watching videos on their phones; most of the things are consumed on phones, and with D2M tech, they would be able to receive video content without having to pay for data plans,” Parag Naik, CEO Saankhya Labs told Prachar Bharati News Services.
Band 526-582 MHz is envisaged to work in coordination with both mobile and broadcast services. “DoT has set up a committee to study this band,” K Rajaraman, Secretary, DoT, said while speaking at a conclave organised by IIT Kanpur.
Currently, the Band 526-582 MHz is used by Prachar Bharati (DD) or Terrestrial TV Broadcasting. Many Analogue, Digital Ready, and Digital Terrestrial TV transmitters are operating in the band.
How is it helpful?
The government is getting behind the technology big time because it can be used to send citizen-centric information directly, even to those who do not have access to the internet.
The cable and DTH sectors will be hugely impacted if the tech takes off. This is because it will entail broadcasting coming directly to the consumers’ homes without the need for an intermediary, and this will be a very big change, according to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) Secretary Apurva Chandra.
The technology will have benefits for businesses too. It will allow telcos and internet service providers to offload video traffic from their mobile network onto the broadcast network, thus helping them decongest valuable mobile spectrum. Offloading video traffic means it will improve the usage of the mobile spectrum. At the same time, it will free up bandwidth which will directly result in reduced call drops and increased data speeds. As per Statista, India has around 622 million active internet users in 2020. Another report revealed that India’s monthly data consumption reached 17GB per user in 2021.
From a consumer point of view, smartphone users can access multimedia content from Video on Demand (VoD) or Over The Top (OTT) content platforms without exhausting their mobile data. This will help consumers cut down on their spending on data. According to a EY report, OTT users in India are also expected to exponentially grow in the coming years.
Further, most of India’s population still lives in rural areas where the access to the internet is few and far between. D2M will solve this problem for users in such places with limited or no internet access, they will still be able to watch video content.
Also, the tech could be immensely useful to schools and colleges, especially in remote areas with poor internet connectivity. It will help students in such areas access quality educational content.
Farmers, too, could access information on farming and irrigation practices or weather forecasts based on which they can plan their crops.
DoT is currently carrying out a feasibility study. The technology is still at a nascent stage. The biggest challenge in front of the government is to bring in different stakeholders, including the telcos, on board in launching D2M technology on a wide scale. To get different stakeholders on board, the government must develop an attractive proposition for them or policy reforms for the tech to flourish.
To launch the technology on a large scale, the government has to overcome the infrastructural challenges as well. Making the technology available in every corner of the country is not going to be easy.