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Experimental characterisation of the impact of

IP-based distribution network QoS on the QoE


of DVB-H mobile broadcast video services.
Philip Leroux, Steven Latre, Filip De Turck and Piet Demeester
Ghent University - IBBT - IBCN - Department of Information Technology
Gaston Crommenlaan 8/201, B-9050 Gent, Belgium
Tel: +3293314981 , Fax: +3293314899
e-mail: philip.leroux@intec.ugent.be

AbstractDVB-H is an international broadcasting standard,


which offers reliable high data reception to mobile handheld
devices. Its main enhancements to conventional DVB-T systems
include the addition of time-slicing and an extra stage of error
correction called MPE-FEC at the link layer. Time-slicing means
that each service will be sent in bursts while MPE-FEC increases
the robustness of reception for mobile terminals. DVB-H is mostly
used to offer real-time mobile video services, which have very
stringent demands in terms of QoS. When deploying such a DVBH mobile television service, the broadcast operator has to feed all
the DVB-H antennas through its primary distribution network.
This is typically done by using a satellite uplink but in more dense
arias existing xed network infrastructure may be used. In this
paper we present the effects of packet loss, introduced in an IP
based distribution network, on the Quality of Experience (QoE),
the quality of the mobile video service as perceived by the end
user measured through PSNR, the most commonly used objective
video quality metric. It is shown that, although MPE-FEC is
introduced for better reception between antenna and receiver,
that its use also has a major impact on the effects of packet loss
that occurs in the distribution network. In order to reduce the
impact of packet loss in the distribution link, additional error
correction may be introduced in the distribution link. This paper
also evaluates the benet of such an additional error correction
technique with respect to the QoE of the DVB-H service, with a
given MPE-FEC rate.

I. INTRODUCTION
DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting for Handheld devices)
is a relatively new data broadcasting standard [1] that provides
an efcient way of carrying multimedia services over digital
terrestrial broadcasting networks to handheld terminals. It
adapts the successful DVB-T (Terrestrial) system for digital
terrestrial television to the specic requirements of handheld,
battery-powered receivers. The most remarkable enhancements
are time slicing, a 4K transmission mode and an additional
level of advanced error correction at the link layer. This error
correction mechanism is called MPE-FEC (Multi-Protocol
Encapsulation - Forward Error Correction) and is detailed in
section II-C of this paper. The mandatory time-slicing allows
the receiver to be switched off in inactive periods by transmitting chunks of data in bursts (using a high instantaneous bit
rate). This results in power savings of up to 90% while the
9781424439249/09/$25.00c2009IEEE

same inactive receiver can be used to monitor neighbouring


cells for seamless handovers. The additional 4K transmission
mode is an intermediate mode between DVB-Ts 2K and
8K modes. It aims to offer an additional trade-off between
single frequency network (SFN) cell size and mobile reception
performance, providing an additional degree of exibility for
network planning.
DVB-H is used to offer video based services such as a
real-time broadcasting television service to handheld devices.
When compared to the more traditional data services such as
web browsing, these services have more stringent demands
in terms of tolerable packet loss, delay and jitter. Even small
amounts of loss (i.e. a packet loss ratio lower than 1%) can
lead to visual artefacts in the video and a deterioration of the
quality of delivery. While objective QoS parameters are an
indication for this delivery quality, the main focus is on the
quality as perceived by the end user, also denoted as Quality of
Experience. For video based services, this QoE can be dened
through both subjective (e.g. user tests) or objective metrics
(e.g. the Peak Signal to Noise Ratio, PSNR).
Figure 1 shows a typical commercial DVB-H network
architecture. In this setup, several main parts or actors can
be distinguished. The Content Provider streams its video data
to the headend of the Service Provider. At the headend, the
content is transformed and multiplexed into a DVB-IPDC (IP
Datacast) compliant MPEG-2 TS (Transport Stream). DVBIPDC is shortly explained in section II-A. This MPEG-2
TS is then sent over the primary distribution network to the
antennas. Most broadcasters use a satellite link in order to feed
the antennas but in more dense areas existing xed network
infrastructure are also used. At the antenna site, the stream is
nally modulated and sent over the air to the users terminal.
Note that for SFNs an additional component, a so-called SFN
adapter, should be placed after the IP encapsulators.
In this paper we focus on the requirements that are imposed
to an IP-based primary distribution network when transporting
a DVB-IPDC compliant MPEG-2 Transport Stream (MPEG2 TS). More specically, this paper presents the effects of
packet loss, introduced in an IP-based distribution network, on
263

MPEG 2
TS

IP

Multicast
IP Network

Encoders

ESG Server
CONTENT
PROVIDER

Modulator

MPEG 2
TS

IP

IP
Encapsulator
IP

Modulator
HEADEND

Flute Server

Fig. 1.

DISTRIBUTION

ANTENNA SITE

USER

NETWORK

Network architecture of a DVB-H mobile service.

the QoE of the mobile video service. In the domain of DVBH, this paper distinguishes from former research as focus is
on the effects of errors that occur in the distribution network
instead of errors that occur between the antenna and the mobile
terminal [2]. This paper also differs from other distribution
networks centric papers as in this research the effects of using
a DVB-IPDC compliant MPEG-2 TS is used. The use of QoE
as a quality reference instead of packet-level metrics, is also
an additional value and good reference indication for DVB-H
broadcast operators.
This paper is structured as follows: section 2 explains the
specications and techniques that are of main importance for
the experiments and their results . The test setup and QoE
related concepts that are used for the experiments are described
in section 3. Section 4 explains the main results of these tests
which are discussed in section 5, together with future work.
Finally section 6 states our conclusions.
II. DVB-H RELATED SPECIFICATIONS
In this section, some technologies that are of main importance for this paper are introduced. First DVB-IPDC will be
explained as this set of specications denes the protocols
that are used on top of DVB-H. Second, we detail how the
DVB-IPDC compliant MPEG-2 TS is sent over an IP based
distribution network. This section ends with an introduction
to two error correction techniques: MPE-FEC and Pro-MPEG
COP#3. The former is used at the data link layer of DVB-H
while the latter is specically used to optimise the transport
of MPEG-2 TS over IP networks.

Fig. 2.

Fig. 3.

IP Datacast over DVB-H protocol stack.

RTP over IP encapsulation of MPEG-2 TS packets.

Stream (TS) using MPE (Multi Protocol Encapsulation). For


the delivery of streaming media, IP Datacast species the use
of the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) and le delivery is
performed by using File Delivery over unidirectional Transport
(FLUTE) [3], a protocol for unidirectional delivery of les
over the Internet. The use of these protocols is also clearly
visible in the head-end of Figure 1. At the encoders, the
video data is encoded (typically using the H.264 codec) and
then encapsulated into RTP packets. These RTP-streams are
multicasted into the Multicast IP Network where nally, the
IP Encapsulator will encapsulate all these IP packets into an
MPEG2 TS.

A. IP Datacast
Many commercial mobile TV networks are likely to be hybrid networks combining a uni-directional broadcast network
with a bi-directional mobile telecommunications network. The
set of DVB specications for IP Datacasting (DVB-IPDC) [2]
are the glue that bind these two networks together so that they
can co-operate effectively in offering a seamless service to the
consumer. DVB-IPDC is originally designed for use with the
DVB-H physical layer, but can ultimately be used as a higher
layer for all DVB mobile TV systems.
The protocol stack of an IP Datacast over DVB-H system is
shown in Figure 2. The integration of an IP layer in the broadcast stack is one of the key concepts of an IPDC system. These
IP datagrams are encapsulated inside the MPEG Transport
264

B. Transport of MPEG-2 TS over IP


MPEG-2 Transport Streams are composed of 188 byte TS
Packets, each with a 4 byte header. There are two methods
currently utilised for the carriage of MPEG-2 TS over IP of
which one is mandatory. This method, specied by the IETF
in [4] and by the DVB-IPI group in [5], uses RTP to carry
MPEG-2 TS packets. In this case, the RTP payload carries an
integral number of TS packets, which is 7 for Ethernet based
networks (as they have a Maximum Transmission Unit of 1500
bytes). This encapsulation method is shown in Figure 3. In our
test set-up we used RTP encapsulation over an Ethernet based
network with 7 MPEG-2 TS packets per IP datagram.

2009 IFIP/IEEE Intl. Symposium on Integrated Network Management Workshops


C. MPE-FEC
The objective of MPE-FEC is to improve the C/N and

Doppler performance in mobile channels and to improve


the tolerance to impulse interference. With MPE-FEC, the
IP datagrams of each time sliced burst are protected by
Reed-Solomon parity data (RS data), calculated from the IP
datagrams of the burst. The RS data are encapsulated into
MPE-FEC sections, which are also part of the burst and are
sent immediately after the last MPE section of the burst. For
the calculation of the RS data an MPE-FEC frame is used.
The MPE-FEC frame consists of an Application Data Table
(ADT), which hosts the IP datagrams (and possible padding),
and an RS data table, which hosts the RS data.
The number of rows in the MPE-FEC frame may take
any of the values 256, 512, 768, or 1024. The number of
columns is 191 for the ADT and 64 for the RS data table.
The IP datagrams of a particular burst are introduced vertically
column-by-column in the ADT, starting in the upper left
corner. If an IP datagram does not end exactly at the bottom
of a column, the remaining bytes continue from the top of
the next column. If the IP datagrams do not exactly ll the
ADT, the remaining bytes positions are padded with zeros.
On each row the 64 parity bytes of the RS data table are then
calculated from the 191 IP datagram bytes (and padding bytes,
if applicable) of the same row, using the Reed-Solomon code
RS(255, 191). This provides a large virtual time interleaving,
since all RS data bytes are calculated from IP datagrams
distributed all over the burst. Each IP datagram is transmitted
in an MPE section and each column of the RS data table is
transmitted in an MPE-FEC section. The receiver reconstructs
the MPE and MPE-FEC sections from the received TS packets.
Decapsulation is performed by inserting IP datagrams and
redundancy columns to correct locations in the MPE-FEC
frame. The RS decoding is then performed row-wise.
Although, in a DVB-H architecture, MPE-FEC is used
to improve the delivery performance between the antenna
site and the user, the redundancy is inserted at the headend for performance reasons. In this case, the CPU intensive
FEC encoding can be done centralised instead of distributed
amongst the different antennas. Therefore, MPE-FEC can also
be used to cope with data loss between the head-end and the
antenna site.
D. Pro-MPEG COP#3
Pro-MPEG Code of Practice #3 describes a Forward Error
Correction (FEC) method for protection against errors in delivering professional MPEG-2 TS data over IP networks. With
that method implemented in IP adapters, packet errors, out of
order packets, network jitter and delay can be compensated.
FEC data insertion is done in real-time along with TS over IP
encapsulation. Protection data is calculated and embedded in
regular RTP packets with a specic payload type.
The mechanism is based on the insertion of additional data
containing the result of an XOR (exclusive OR)-operation of
packets over a time window. The generation of FEC packets is
based on the use of a matrix. The FEC packets are calculated

as a XOR operation over the packets in a column and the


packets in a row. One missing packet per row or column can be
calculated by XORing the FEC packet with the other packets
in that row or column. By iterative operations it is possible
to correct more than one missing packet per column or row.
The size of the matrix is a trade between latency, transmission
overhead and error protection.
Both error techniques introduce a level of redundancy into
the network, which also corresponds with their error correction
power. A redundancy of X% will be able to correct X errors
out of 100. Hence, the more redundancy, the more errors can
be corrected. However, an increasing redundancy also has
some impacts on the network performance. First, a higher
redundancy also leads to a higher load in the network as
more data needs to be transmitted. This affects the maximum
number of channels that can be transmitted into the network.
Second, applying error techniques introduces delay in the
network as data needs to be buffered. When the FEC is applied
on large data parts, the introduced delay can become high.
Thus, while a large redundancy can correct more errors it
is also important to avoid a too large redundancy as this
introduces a larger stress on the network.
III. QOE DETERMINATION
In this section, we describe the methodology that was used
in our experiments to assess the impact of network-level
quality parameter variation on the QoE.
A. PSNR for QoE metrics
In the optimisation of video quality, the focus is on the
quality as perceived by the end user. Since no QoS parameter
can accurately dene the QoE of multimedia services, specic
objective video quality metrics have been proposed in the past.
These objective video quality metrics are mostly full-reference
metrics, meaning that they compare the original video with the
transmitted one and calculate a certain QoE value.
In our tests, we calculated the QoE using the Peak Signal to
Noise Ratio (PSNR). The PSNR is an objective video quality
metric which is most commonly used because of its ease of
calculation. Furthermore, the PSNR is considered as having a
good correlation with the results obtained through subjective
video tests (e.g. through Mean Opinions Scores, which denes
the video quality as a value between 0 and 5, ranging from
bad to perfect) [6]. Therefore, PSNR is a popular tool to
assess video quality and also used during our experiments.
In literature [7], a PSNR above 30dB is considered as good
while a PSNR below 25dB is considered as poor and a PSNR
below 20dB as bad.
B. Test Bed Description
In order to dene the technical requirements that are imposed to the transport network, we constructed a practical test
bed that resembles as much as possible to a typical commercial
DVB-H mobile service as presented in section I. This test bed
is shown in Figure 4.

2009 IFIP/IEEE Intl. Symposium on Integrated Network Management Workshops

265

Fig. 4.

Our practical test bed.

In order to iterate over the same tests and calculate the


PSNR, each media stream was encoded in advance as opposed
to a real-time broadcast. The video encoding parameters are:
Video Codec: H.264
Frame Rate: 25 fps
Resolution: QVGA 320x240
Target Video Bit Rate: 250 kbps
Maximum Video Bit Rate: 500 kbps
Different videos were encoded, representing different content
types (quiz show, sports, music video, news, etc.) resulting in
a realistic bouquet of content streamed. We focused on the
QoE of one specic video channel but also streamed other
videos in accompanying channels. The VLC media player
was used in order to stream the channels that were used
as accompanying channel. We used 2 laptops simultaneously
as client devices and on each laptop a different channel
was recorded. One channel contained an action scene while
the second measurement channel contained a quiz show. On
both the encoding side and the client side we used the inhouse xstreamer for streaming and decoding of the measured
channels. VLC was not appropriate for this task as some issues
occurred when using VLC for capturing H.264 over RTP data.
For the IP encapsulator we used the DIP010 from Rohde &
Schwarz. The modulator at the antenna site was the DVM 5000
DVB-T/H modulator from UBS [2] and on the two laptops an
engineering sample of Options DVB-H/HSDPA [2] combocard was used for capturing the broadcasted DVB-H stream.
The laptops were positioned close to the antenna, resulting in
a perfect wireless channel quality.
In order to provide a bridge between the output of the
IP encapsulator and the IP based distribution network we
used two commercially available ASI to IP and IP to ASI
gateways. These units provide an interface between MPEG-2
transport streams, via a DVB-ASI interface, to the IP based
network. At the reception site, a second unit de-concentrates
the MPEG-2 transport streams from the IP network, back
to individual MPEG-2 transport streams and out through the
DVB-ASI connections. The MPEG-2 transport stream packets
are encapsulated as described in section II-B with 7 MPEG-2
packers per IP packet. In order to cope with packet losses, the
units have implemented Pro-MPEG FEC according to ProMPEG Code of Practice #3 rev. 2 as described in section
II-D. During our experiments, we extensively experimented
with different congurations of this type of FEC.
Finally, we used a Click Impairment Node in order to induce
266

Fig. 5.

QoE impact of MPE-FEC with 10% column COP#3 FEC.

random packet loss in the distribution network (i.e. between


the two ASI to IP gateways). A Click Impairment Node is a
regular Linux based PC, where an implementation of the Click
Modular Router project [8] is running in kernel mode. The
Click implementation allows capturing each packet passing
through the router and manipulating it when necessary. Typical
packet manipulations include discarding a packet, rescheduling
the delivery, etc.
IV. DESCRIPTION OF RESULTS
To investigate the impact on the QoE, measured through the
PSNR video quality metric, we introduced random packet loss
between the IP encapsulator and IP decapsulator. By using the
Click impairment node, we introduced a random packet loss
value from 0% to 10% with steps of 0.25%. The algorithm is
stateless which means that each packet has the same chance of
getting lost. While, a packet loss ratio of 10% is very high, and
possibly extremely rare, we investigated these high values in
order to show a trend between congurations and their PSNR
value.
As discussed in Section II, a DVB-H architecture using an
IP-based distribution network has two forms of redundancy
incorporated: the MPE-FEC, encoded at the video head-end,
and the MPEG COP# 3 error correction technique, encoded
at the IP encapsulator. We investigated the impact of both
techniques by varying the amount of redundancy introduced
in the network. Each test was repeated 20 times: we present
average values together with their statistical variance.
Figure 5 illustrates the impact of different MPE-FEC values
for a xed COP#3 redundancy of 10% and an increasing
packet loss ratio. Here, we clearly see how an MPE-FEC
technique is needed to cope with packet loss. At an MPE-FEC
of 1.5%, which is a negligible redundancy, the xed COP#3
FEC redundancy cannot tolerate any packet loss. A packet
loss ratio of 0.5% already results in a drop in PSNR of 17dB,
which results to a bad video quality. Although, MPE-FEC is
used to cope with wireless errors between the antenna site and
the receivers, it also has a benecial effect on errors in the

2009 IFIP/IEEE Intl. Symposium on Integrated Network Management Workshops

TABLE I
STANDARD DEVIATION VALUES (IN DB) FOR DIFFERENT MPE-FEC
CONFIGURATIONS AND A FIXED COP# FEC OF 10% AND A VARYING
PACKET LOSS RATIO.

2%
MPE-FEC 10%
MPE-FEC 20%
MPE-FEC 33.3%

6.86
0.006
0

Packet Loss Ratio


4%
6%
9.07
0.002
0.007

6
6.19
0.018

(%)
8%

10%

0
4.0
0

0
3.9
6.90

Fig. 7.

Fig. 6. Spread of MOS Score for 10% column COP#3 FEC and variable
MPE-FEC.

distribution network. As can be seen in Figure 5, introducing


a larger redundancy in the MPE-FEC results in a higher video
quality. By increasing the MPE-FEC redundancy up to 33.3%,
a packet loss ratio of 9% can still be tolerated. In this case,
the video quality averages around 37dB, which corresponds
with a perfect video quality.
While an MPE-FEC of 33.3% results in stable and perfect
PSNR values, lower redundancy values show variable results
when the redundancy is too low to maintain a perfect video
quality. This is also illustrated in Table I which illustrates the
standard deviation values for different MPE-FEC congurations. Generally, the standard deviation values are low when
the video quality corresponds to a very high or very low PSNR
value but they are high in the middle. These high standard
deviation values indicate that, for PSNR values corresponding
to a poor and moderate video quality, the measurements are
widely spread around the average. Hence, the average values
should be cautiously interpreted. Values indicating a good or
moderate PSNR value can easily be 5dB lower or higher
resulting in videos which are bad in video quality. As an
operator is typically interested in the worst case scenario it is
important to only take those videos into account which denote
the lowest video quality.
As, in some cases, the variance is considerably large we
also provide an overview of the spread of the obtained Mean

QoE impact of MPE-FEC with 30% row-column COP#3 FEC .

Opinion Scores (MOS), as obtained through the PSNR values.


This is shown in Figure 6, which illustrates the spread of the
Mean Opinion Score for different types of packet loss and
MPE-FEC congurations. Here, we see that only an MPEFEC of 33.3% redundancy is able to cope with a packet loss
ratio of 5%. While, for a packet loss ratio of 5%, an MPE-FEC
conguration with 20% redundancy provides an average PSNR
value of 34dB, which corresponds to a good PSNR value, 20%
of all measurements also resulted in a poor video quality. Only
the MPE-FEC conguration of 33.3% redundancy results in a
perfect video quality for all measurements.
Figure 7 illustrates the measured video quality for a xed
COP#3 redundancy of 30% and a varying MPE-FEC redundancy. Overall, a better video quality is obtained when
compared to an COP#3 of 10% (Figure 5). In this case, the
COP#3 FEC mechanism also successfully tackles loss in the
IP based distribution network. In Figure 5, the video quality
quickly decreased for MPE-FEC levels of 10% and lower.
Here, an MPE-FEC of 10% is able to tackle 5% of packet
loss, when combined with a COP#3 FEC of 30% redundancy.
We also investigated the inuence of different COP#3 congurations. In this case, the MPE-FEC redundancy was set to a
negligible value of 1.5%. Similar to Figure 5, a low MPE-FEC
redundancy deteriorates the video quality. Although there were
no errors in the wireless channel, the MPE-FEC is also needed
to cope with loss in the IP based distribution network. While
increasing the COP#3 redundancy has a benecial effect on the
video quality, its performance is poor: even a 30% redundancy
is not able to cope with a packet loss ratio of 2%. This is due to
the nature of the different protocol encapsulations as discussed
in Section II-B and illustrated in Figure 3. This process divides
a large IP packet into several MPEG-TS packets. In the ASI to
IP gateway, several MPEG-TS packets are in turn grouped into
one IP packet. This causes the original parts of the IP packet
to be scattered amongst several IP packets. If one packet goes
lost in the IP based distribution network several IP packets in
the higher IP layer are affected. Therefore, the COP#3 FEC
only has a limited performance when no other error correction

2009 IFIP/IEEE Intl. Symposium on Integrated Network Management Workshops

267

In this paper, we focused on a random loss model and


assumed that no packet loss was introduced between antenna
and device. In future work, we plan to investigate other QoS
deterioration aspects such as a bursty loss model and jitter.
Furthermore, we also plan to investigate the combined effect
of QoS deterioration in the distribution network and errors
between antenna and device.
VI. CONCLUSION

Fig. 8. Spread of MOS Score for 1.5% MPE-FEC column COP#3 FEC and
variable MPE-FEC.

techniques exist.
The latter is also illustrated in Figure 8, which shows the
spread of the MOS for a packet loss ratio of 0.5, 1, 1.5 and 2%
a xed MPE-FEC of 1.5% and a variable COP#3 redundancy.
Here, we see that an COP#3 FEC of 10% and 20% is not
able to support any packet loss in the IP based distribution
network. In the 10% case, all videos had a bad video quality,
while for a redundancy of 20%, 1 out of 3 videos had a poor
or moderate video quality. A COP#3 redundancy of 30% is
able to support a packet loss ratio of 0.5% but not more. For
a packet loss ratio of 1% already 1 out of 5 videos results in
a moderate or bad video quality. Hence, for a low MPE-FEC
redundancy, the COP#3 mechanism has a low performance:
adding redundancy only leads to a marginal improvement in
video quality.
V. DISCUSSION & FUTURE WORK
The results that are presented in this paper only show a small
part of all the tests that were conducted for this research. After
analysing all the results, some relationships or effects have
been proved but contrary to earlier research [9], no formula
can be formed for calculating the ideal FEC redundancy. This
is mainly due to the bursty behaviour of a DVB-H service
as the probability that a fault occurs in a specic channel
is dependent on the number of channels the DVB-H service
consists of. Although QoE is a very good indicator for the
perceived video quality by the user, it is also very dependent
on which data is corrupt. More precisely the loss of an I frame
in a DVB-H service, will have more impact than the loss of a B
frame. Also, the encapsulation of several MPEG2-TS packets
into one IP packet, introduces an additional random factor as
the loss of such an IP packet may affect more than one H.264
frame or video stream. These introduced random factors are
responsible for the high statistical variance that was measured
during our experiments.
268

In this paper, we investigated the mutual inuence of two


FEC mechanisms (MPE-FEC and MPEG COP#3) that are
present in a DVB-H service that is distributed over an IP
based primary distribution network. Based on the quality of
the video, as perceived by the user, it is shown that the
conguration of MPE-FEC will have a major impact on the
tolerance of the system with respect to random packet loss
that is introduced in the primary distribution link. The results
also indicated that due to the nature of the system, a certain
unpredictability should be taken account, resulting in a high
statistical variance. With respect to recommendations for the
addition of MPEG COP#3 FEC in the transmission network,
this high variance incorporates that not the average values
but the PSNR results of the most affected videos are of
main importance. Therefore, the MOS scores provide a good
indication of possible good congurations. In general, the
results indicate that the addition of COP#3 FEC has only an
added value (with respect to the band width cost) when a very
low MPE-FEC redundancy (e.g. 1.5%) is used. For the most
common MPE-FEC congurations (varying between 20% to
33% redundancy), we can conclude that COP#3 FEC is not
required for most packet losses that occur in the distribution
link (typically not going above 2%).
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The authors would like to thank Frank Meert and Koen De
Troyer from Belgacom for providing us with some equipment
and useful information. Steven Latre is funded by Ph.D grant
of the Fund for Scientic Research, Flanders (FWO-V).
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2009 IFIP/IEEE Intl. Symposium on Integrated Network Management Workshops