A leading advocate of the DVB-MHP platform for interactive television has said that claims by promoters of the rival MHEG-5 standard are “absurd and outdated”. He said that MHEG-5 is an old technology that is “not designed for next generation services,” urging broadcasters to thing about future services that would benefit from MHP.

Anthony Smith-Chaigneau of Alticast, a provider of systems based on DVB-MHP and its derivative Tru2way, is an authority on the MHP standard.

He claims that MHEG-5 has only been successful in the United Kingdom because manufacturers have no choice, not because broadcasters really use it or even offer sophisticated interactive services.

MHEG-5 was originally developed in the mid-1990s and was accepted as an open ISO standard. It provides primitive support for basic interactive television functions but is regarded by some as rather limited compared to more complete programming languages.

The European DVB project developed Java-based MHP as a successor to MHEG-5 following its deliberations on middleware back in 1998. However, it became embroiled in industry politics and concerns over the cost of deployment.

Support for the legacy MHEG-5 standard is required for Freeview compliant digital terrestrial television receivers in the United Kingdom and has also been adopted for the Freesat digital satellite service. MHEG-5 has also been adopted for similar services in New Zealand.

Technology providers S&T and Cabot Communications together with EchoStar Europe founded the IMPALA initiative to promote the MHEG-5 interactive television standard around the world.

IMPALA recently reacted to news that licensing fees for MHP would be dropped for free-to-air broadcasters, saying that it would not affect the success of MHEG-5 in providing interactive television opportunities for broadcasters worldwide.

“MHEG-5 still provides by far the most cost-effective standards-based solution in the free-to-air world,” said Giri Valliappan of IMPALA in a statement. “This change to MHP licensing does nothing to address the key issue of receiver cost, where MHP still carries a very significant premium and is what we believe has significantly hampered take-up even in the small number of countries that initially opted for MHP.”

At the BroadcastAsia conference in Singapore last week, LG Electronics announced that they were joining the IMPALA initiative to promote MHEG-5.

“MHEG-5 is very suitable because it has low system dependency and a light software structure that results in low upfront cost,” said Sven Reuter, who is responsible for standards in television and media applications for LG Electronics in Europe.

In a statement to informitv, Anthony Smith-Chaigneau responded by pointing out that MHP and its GEM or Globally Executable MHP derivatives are operational across terrestrial, cable, satellite and IPTV and that BD-J provides interactive features for Blu-ray.

He said that MHP and GEM have been successfully deployed in Italy, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Poland, Norway, Switzerland, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and have been adopted for cable television in the United States in the form of the MHP derived Tru2way standard.

“MHP is more sophisticated that MHEG-5 because it was designed to be so,” he said. “The hundreds of thousands of people in the Java based development community makes the 40 or so MHEG-5 developers look like a shaky proposition.”

He urged broadcasters that are considering adding interactive television not to be duped by price scaremongering but to choose the technology that will lead the into a convergent world of hybrid interactive television scenarios, including combinations of digital terrestrial, satellite, cable and broadband television, as well as Blu-ray discs.

“We agree that MHP does cost slightly more at receiver level but the boxes are of better quality, have more bells and whistles and are from 70 Euros upwards in retail,” he added. “70 Euros is not expensive, I am sorry, but it is just not.”

For further information about MHP, MHEG-5 and other interactive television standards, informitv offers a range of independent advisory and confidential consultancy services to broadcasters, platform operators and technology vendors.