RCS & RDS Digital Cable TV

RCS RDSIn mid 2010 I upgraded my CATV subscription from analog to digital, and I tried to get some data about the service specifications, more than available on the company site.

Some service details

As of today (updated on June 4, 2012), in my location (Bucharest, Sect. 2) there are 115 TV channels (103 SD + 12 HD) and 8 radio channels (plus two reserved channels, Test7 and Test8).

The transmission is DVB-C, and currently uses 13 multiplexes. It looks like the reserved frequency range is 306-498 MHz, with 25 channels, separated by 8 MHz. As reported by the STB (set-top box), the Symbol Rate is 6900 and the modulation is 64 QAM and 256 QAM.

According to the DVB-C wiki, the total bit-rate of the 64 QAM multiplex is 38.47 MHz and 51.29 MHz for a 256 QAM. If I understand it right, this is the total channel bandwidth. By accounting the Reed-Solomon error correction overhead (188-byte packets sent in 204-byte), and the common 3/4 tuple packing, this translates to 26.59 Mbps/64 QAM multiplex and 35.45 Mbps/256 QAM multiplex.

As RDS packs (in average) 9 SD programs or 3 HD programs in a 64 QAM multiplex, or 4 HD in a 256 QAM multiplex, this translates to 2.95 Mbps/SD and 8.86 Mbps/HD. Again, these are average values; due to the variable speed of the MPEG compression, instantaneous values may be lower, for static scenes, or higher, for dynamic scenes.

SD programs are compressed using MPEG-2, and the observed quality is quite high, I could not see any compression artefacts, even on dynamic scenes.

HD programs are compressed with MPEG-4 and all seem to be 1080i. Unfortunately, the usual STB provided by RDS does not decode MPEG-4, so first I was not able to report on this, but later, in February 2012 I bought a new TV, with integrated DVB-C tuner, and, at least the free HD channels seem also ok.

To be noted, one 1080i frame has 1080×1920/2 = 1.036.800 pixels (the 720p frame has 720×1280 = 921.600 pixels) and one 576i frame has a maximum of 576×768/2 = 221.114 pixels, so a relative size of 4.69 between 1080i (4.16 for 720p) and SD, higher than the 3 ratio used by RDS. However, since compression of HD programs is better (MPEG-4 vs. MPEG-2), it seems that the average bandwidth of HD programs is reasonable.

The provided set-top box

The provided STB is Humax Digi+C, probably a custom version, since I could not find it on the Humax site.

Apart from running a bit too hot (but not dangerously hot, considering the case is provided with enough venting holes), the box is fine and easy to use.

For the encrypted programs, the authentication is performed with a Nagravision smart-card. Activation is done by phone, and the operator will ask for the card serial number (printed on the card and shown on screen), and for the box number. This is a bit strange, since this number is not the serial number shown on screen, it is only printed on a custom label.

This procedure makes using other authentication devices (like CAM/CI+) very questionable, since I do not know if the operator will process requests without this custom label.

The defaults are functional, so there is not much to do, the box will automatically enumerate the available programs. It is possible to create 5 Favourites list, and the order of programs can be easily changed.

In addition to the SCART connector to be hooked to the TV, the box also has separate audio outputs, including an optical SPDIF, so is is very easy to route the audio signal to a separate audio amplifier or A/V receiver.

Another great feature is the volume control; the STB has it’s own volume control, so you can adjust the volume and even mute the TV by using the same remote control used for changing programs.

Aspect adjustment between 4:3 and 16:9 is also done automatically as long as you connect the TV using the SCART connector and the TV implements the SCART  pin 8 functionality.

Please note that on Jan 25, 2011, RDS updated the firmware for the Humax Digi+C and HD channels are no longer visible while performing channel searches.

Programs, grouped by multiplex

The multiplexes are listed by frequency (KHz), signal rate (kS/s) and modulation (QAM).

The $ sign in front of the program name marks the Pay TV programs. Some of them (but not all) are encrypted, unavailable without the access card.

The Radio marks the radio programs.

  1. 306000, 6900, 64 (3 HD)
    1. TVR HD
    2. Digi Sport 1 HD
    3. Nat Geo HD
  2. 314000, 6900, 64 (9 SD + 2 FM)
    1. $ Pro TV
    2. Realitatea TV
    3. $ AcasaTV
    4. $ Nat Geo Wild
    5. $ ProCinema
    6. MTV Romania
    7. Taraf TV
    8. 6TV
    9. Money Channel
    10. Radio – Kiss FM
    11. Radio – Radio 21
  3. 322000, 6900, 64 (9 SD)
    1. $ National TV
    2. TVR Info
    3. Eurosport 2
    4. $ Discovery Romania
    5. $ Disney Channel
    6. H!T Music
    7. $ Favorit TV
    8. Etno TV
    9. Trinitas TV
  4. 330000, 6900, 256 QAM (3 HD + 5 SD)
    1. $ Digi Film HD
    2. $ AXN Crime
    3. $ AXN SciFi
    4. $ Mezzo
    5. OTV
    6. $ CNN
    7. $ SuperONE HD
    8. $ HBO HD
  5. 338000, 6900, 256 QAM (4 HD)
    1. Pro Tv HD
    2. Sport.ro HD
    3. AcasaTV HD
    4. Nat Geo Wild HD
  6. 346000
    • not used
  7. 354000, 6900, 64 (1 HD + 8 SD)
    1. Digi 24 HD
    2. AcasaTV Gold
    3. $ Zone Reality
    4. Diva Universal
    5. $ AXN
    6. $ Minimax
    7. Disney Jr.
    8. U
    9. Music Channel Ro
  8. 362000, 6900, 64 (9 SD + 1 FM)
    1. Prima TV
    2. B1
    3. Digi 24 (SD)
    4. Digi Sport 2
    5. $ Nat Geo
    6. $ Animal Planet
    7. Kiss TV
    8. Music Channel Hu
    9. PVTV
    10. Radio – Europa FM
  9. 370000, 6900, 64 (10 SD)
    1. TVR 1
    2. TVR 2
    3. Digi Sport 3
    4. $ Paprika
    5. $ Discovery World
    6. $ Discovery Sci
    7. Discovery TLC
    8. Investigation Discovery
    9. TVS Oradea
    10. Analog TV
  10. 378000, 6900, 64 (8 SD + 4 FM)
    1. $ Digi Film
    2. $ Digi Film Premium
    3. TV5 Monde
    4. RTL Television
    5. $ SuperONE
    6. $ HBO Romania
    7. $ HBO Comedy Romania
    8. $ Cinemax
    9. Radio – Radio Guerrilla
    10. Radio – Radio ZU
    11. Radio – Radio Maria RO
    12. Radio – Sport Total
  11. 386000, 6900, 64 (11 SD)
    1. $ Viasat Explorer
    2. $ Viasat History
    3. $ TV1000
    4. Universal Channel
    5. $ Boomerang
    6. $ VH1
    7. Giga TV
    8. Euronews
    9. Fishing and Hunting
    10. BBC World News
    11. GSP TV
  12. 394000, 6900, 64 (9 SD + 1 FM)
    1. RTV
    2. $ Duck TV
    3. Hora TV
    4. TVH 2.0
    5. Bloomberg TV
    6. 4 Story TV
    7. Speranta TV
    8. RAI 1
    9. VOX Channel
    10. Radio – Pro FM
  13. 402000, 6900, 64 (1 HD5 SD)
    1. UTV HD
    2. m2
    3. Magyar ATV
    4. RTL2
    5. Super RTL
    6. CCTV News
  14. 410000
    • not used
  15. 418000
    • not used
  16. 426000
    • not used
  17. 434000
    • not used
  18. 442000
    • not used
  19. 450000
    • not used
  20. 458000, 6900, 64 (1 HD + 6 SD)
    1. Digi Sport 2 HD
    2. Transilvania LOOK
    3. Transilvania LIVE
    4. Antena 2
    5. Test 7
    6. Test 8
    7. TVR3
  21. 466000, 6900, 64 (7 SD)
    1. Digi Sport 1
    2. Romantica
    3. Cartoon Network
    4. TV Neptun
    5. $ N 24
    6. RAI 3
    7. ProSieben
  22. 474000, 6900, 64 (9 SD)
    1. $ Antena 1
    2. Kanal D
    3. Antena 3
    4. $ Sport.ro
    5. Eurosport
    6. Euforia Lifestyle
    7. TVR Cultural
    8. Duna
    9. Nota TV
  23. 482000
    • not used
  24. 490000
    • not used
  25. 498000
    • not used

Conclusions

Initially I was a bit reluctant to upgrade to digital, my concerns being the quality of the STB (the digital/analog conversion quality, the software quality, reliability, etc) and an unreasonable high compression rate.

Finally the image quality seems to be great, superior to the analogue version by all criteria.

I’m looking forward to the next upgrade, a box able to decode HD programs, with HDMI output.

Comments

  1. I have a different opinion about artefacts. Some ‘usually-not-too-animated’ programs do exhibit artefacts if the decoded scene contains a highly animated video. As an example, try to look at water flows on Realitatea TV.

  2. Thanks for your comment; I’ll look more carefully and come back with details, when available.

  3. I confirm Milu’s opinion, the overall quality of Realitatea TV is just average, lower than, let’s say, the german programs. Very animated scenes tend to exhibit artefacts.

    Does anyone know how the server used to prepare the multiplexes is configured, does it use live averages, static values, or a combination of both to decide on a fair split of the total bandwidth between programs?

  4. One more HD channel was added to the 3rd multiplex: Acasa HD. There are currently 8 HD channels available.

  5. The number of TV channel reached 102, with the addition of Hora TV.
    Three more channels are now encoded: Zone Reality, Movies 24, AXN-Crime.

  6. Au mai intervenit ceva modificari in grila DIGI, ar trebui sa reeditati lista.

  7. The number of TV channel reached 103, with the addition of Discovery Investigation.

  8. On Nov 1st, RDS dropped a message into my Humax STB mailbox, informing us that there will be some changes in the program list on Nov 3rd.

    The program grid is the same, the changes affecting only the frequencies where some of the multiplex are sent.

    - the HD channels from 322 MHz were moved to 338 MHz, and the modulation was changed from 64 to 256 QAM
    - the multiplex from 410 MHz was moved to 306 MHz
    - the multiplex from 450 MHz was moved to 314 MHz
    - the multiplex from 458 MHz was moved to 322 MHz (just freed by moving it to 338 MHz)

    The list of channels specially marked by my receiver contains 17 channels, down from 26:

    - Discovery World (NA)
    - Discovery Sci (NA)
    - Discovery T&L (NA)
    - Discovery Investigation (NA)
    - Digi Film (NA)
    - Digi Film PPV (NA)
    - Private Spice (NA)
    - HBO Romania (NA)
    - HBO Comedy Romania (NA)
    - Cinemax (NA)
    - Comedy Star (NA)
    - Action Star (NA)
    - Playboy TV (NA)
    - Cine Star (NA)

    - Nat Geo Wild HD (NA, VA, MG)
    - AXN-Crime (*)
    - Bebe TV (NG)

    [Nov. 5 Update] My understanding was that NA means Nagravision encryption, but the last three channels were reported to be free to view without the access card.

    • /bucuresti. /just cable and a tv with dvbc. no rds box. saw your comment about changes and set tv to search for channels.

      i also can see

      - Nat Geo Wild HD – no ro/en subtitles
      - AXN-Crime
      - Discovery T&L (starting from today? didnt see it before)
      - Bebe TV

  9. Dear sir, as a person that works first hand with the digital streams that are provided on DVBC, i can confirm that most of the channels are passed on the digital cable as they are received from the providers. Very few (under 10) are transrated – for bandwidth limiting, and few others are transcoded or reencoded for other purposes, so the overall quality of the channels is the same as the signal provided by the channel producer.

    Also, the channels marked with NA, aren’t necessarly encrypted. The DVB standard specifies a flag that specifies “the channel MAY be encrypted” or “free to air”, it doesnt necessarly say “this channel IS encrypted”, so the flag is set by the operator but the encryption could be set to 0.

  10. thx a lot for this litlle help :)

  11. Today RDS published a firmware update for the Humax Digi+C set-top box, v1.00.12.

    There might be many other changes, but the major one seems to be that the box no longer displays the channels that it cannot decode (for example the HD channels), so currently there are only 95 available channels, not 103, since 8 of them were HD.

  12. rds changed some channels , they put new channels like hbo hd, digi film hd

  13. they have right now 108 channels and 8 radio stations, the new channels are: digi film premium, digi film, digi film hd, hbo hd, super one hd. Digi film ppv is not working anymore.
    pro tv hd, acasa hd and sport.ro hd have new frecvencies

  14. as of today my STB reports only 104 channels, 94 of them SD, the rest are hidden, probably the HD channels.

    changes:
    - on multiplex 8: Kanal D (moved to channel 12) was replaced by 10 TV
    - on multiplex 10: Info Pro FM was replaced by Sport Total
    - on multiplex 12: Vox News was replaced by Kanal D; Pro FM was added

  15. Dragos Cinteza says:

    Can anyone tell me the frequencies for the 2 new HD channels? Although they’re probably encrypted

  16. For dragos:
    Hbo Hd, Digi film Hd is at 474000kHz, 6900, 256 QAM

  17. florin_lazar18@yahoo.com says:

    buna ziua ..am contract cu digi tv pe numele popa nicolae dr. turnu severin jud mehedinti. am facut contract cu dvs acum o luna de zile,si lam schimbat de trei ori pentru ca nu functioneaza.toate trei aparate mi-au fost date uzate.eu am platit pentru un an de zile si nici macar o data nu ma-mn putut uita linistit la tv.va rog frumos sa luati masuri daca nu doresc ca banii sa imi fie returnati.

  18. On March 1st, 2012, RDS changed the list of channels, adding:
    - Digi 24 SD/HD
    - Giga TV
    - Speranta TV
    - TVH 2.0
    - Fishing and Hunting
    - 6TV
    - H!T Music
    - RTV

    Between the removed channels are:
    - 10 TV (defunct)
    - DW-TV EUROPA

    Some channels were moved from one multiplex to another.

    The image quality seems not affected.

  19. Cristian says:

    Eu am versiunea de soft v1.00.13. dar de foarte multe ori se blocheaza imaginea si nu se mai poate face nimic decat daca se scoate din priza!A mai patit cineva asa ceva?

  20. Cristian says:

    I have software version v 1.00.13. but very often blocks the image and you cannot do anything unless it is removed from the socket!Someone has something happened?

    • My (old) SD receiver reads:
      - Hardware Version: NEO REV 1.0
      - Software Version: RMCNA 1.00.12
      - Loader Version: b 1.20
      - Update Date: 20 DEC 2010

      It does not hang, but quite often (every few weeks) some channels get messed (the names are mangled and the frequencies are corrupted), requiring a new frequency scan.

  21. Iar au mutat frecvenya antena 2. Acum e transilvania look.
    Aveti idee ce frecventa are antena 2 acum la rds?

  22. ilegeul says:

    On June 4 I noticed a new multiplex, 20, on 458000, whith
    - Digi Sport 2 HD
    - Transilvania LOOK
    - Transilvania LIVE
    - Antena 2
    - Test 7
    - Test 8
    - TVR3

    In multiplex 7, on 354000, instead of Antena 2, now it is Acasa TV Gold.

    Liviu

  23. I made a mistake when I wrote “Silicondust HD-PVR”. Silicondust does not make the HD-PVR. Hauppauge makes the HD-PVR.

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