Terrestrial TV (ISDB-T) & BML/HybridCast: Japan’s route to in-car TV & Video

Japan TV Broadcast BML Markup Language

Next to the German car market, Japan is comparable in being home to a wide range of car brands. Looking at the sales figures for 2019, a total of close to 5.2 million cars were sold, European premium brands being particularly successful. Each market has its own challenges, and in Japan there are unique technological methods of distributing TV services.

The Japanese buyer of a premium car and technical aficionado requires not only a sophisticated in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system, but also a wide bouquet of TV channels fed into the vehicle. In Japan TV services for automotive are still provided by terrestrial or antenna TV-based ISDB-T (short for Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting). This standard was also introduced to South American countries and the Philippines.

A feature of ISDB-T is that it not only transmits TV and audio signals, but also broadcasts data. The data broadcasting specification follows an XML-based standard called Broadcast Markup Language or, in short, BML. By this method additional data transmission text messages can be pushed onto the screen, containing news, sports, weather forecasts or emergency warnings such as early warning for earthquakes.

In order to visualize these texts on displays, the receiving device has to have a compliant browser embedded to render the texts. So, whenever a car manufacturer equips the vehicle with an ISDB-T tuner, it also needs to implement a corresponding BML browser.

The XML-based standard is more complex than HTML as each device requires its own binary. In addition, for the BML-enabled device, the manufacturer needs to follow a Japanese test suite that must be executed and passed to show compliance. This test suite is available from The Association for Promotion of Advanced Broadcasting Services (A-PAB) and is entirely in Japanese. It consists of almost 6000 test cases, many of which need to be completed manually.

Having a knowledgeable partner in Japan, experienced in the automotive industry and the Japanese broadcast world, removes a big headache for car manufacturers implementing the BML browser for cars destined to be exported to Japan.

ACCESS NetFront BML browser has already been implemented successfully in many European cars imported into Japan, and will provide OEMs with a significant advantage as they sell into one of the most active car markets in the world today.

If you’d like to find out more then please drop me a note. I look forward to hearing from you.

About the author:

Neale Foster

Neale brings a wealth of broadcast, connected TV and consumer electronics industry experience to his role of spearheading ACCESS in Internet Connected Devices. ACCESS is one of the world’s leading software providers for connected mobile, Digital TV, set-top boxes and other electronic consumer devices. Neale ensures that ACCESS develops software solutions that enable broadcasters, operators and consumer electronics manufacturers to connect the broadcast world with the consumer electronic world to successfully launch new business models and consumer services. Follow him on Twitter / Linkedin