DigiTAG seeks to inform members and non-members
about important developments in the digital terrestrial television market.
Each month, DigiTAG distributes its web letter with news updates and
further exploration of one topic.
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Renewing support for DTT challenges ahead -
DigiTAG re-launches as worldwide organization
The digital terrestrial TV (DTT) platform has been an overwhelming success. Today, over 50% of European households rely on the terrestrial platform for their primary television services. And many more households use the DTT platform for secondary television reception.
Countries such as the United States and Germany have seen an increase in the number of terrestrial households following the digital switchover while others countries with a traditionally high reliance on terrestrial television, such as France, Spain and Italy, have maintained a DTT penetration of over 75%. It is estimated that 275 million people rely on the DTT platform and over 200 million DTT receivers have been sold across Europe.
Content is varied with more than 750 television channels distributed on the DTT platform in Europe. DTT is the leading provider for local and regional services. In many countries, viewers have access to continuous news services, children’s programmes and sports content. New opportunities for generating revenue have emerged on the terrestrial television platform, including pay television, video-on-demand and pay-per-view.
It has also made portable and mobile television reception possible. In some countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, viewers can access television services using a portable device. Other countries, such as the United States, have launched television services that can be accessed from a mobile device.
Yet, despite or perhaps because of these successes, the DTT platform is increasingly under threat in its ability to innovate and offer quality television services. Arguments have been increasingly made that some of the efficiency gain provided by digital technology should permit the release of spectrum for uses other than TV (and sound radio) programming. While the terrestrial platform has traditionally used frequencies in the UHF band from 470 MHz to 862 MHz, these same frequencies, argued to be ‘prime spectrum real estate’, are increasingly in demand by other service providers. And, as these new service providers are given access to these frequencies, the DTT platform risks a future suffering from interferences, loss of coverage, and the inability to offer innovative new services.
Decreased frequency capacity available
The DTT platform is increasingly threatened by mobile telecom operators seeking access to frequencies in those parts of the UHF band traditionally reserved for broadcast services.
At the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-12) held last February, national administrations agreed to update the Radio Regulations to allow for the introduction of mobile services in the frequencies from 694-790 MHz in Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia as of 2015. While the allocation of the 700 MHz band will remain unchanged until 2015, this decision highlights the desire by national administrations to allocate further frequencies below 1 GHz to mobile services. While national administrations will ultimately decide how much, if any, of these frequencies will be allocated to mobile broadband operators, the possibility for doing so remains.
In Europe, some national administrations are preparing for an eventual allocation of the 700 MHz band to mobile telecom operators. For example, the communications regulator Ofcom in the United Kingdom has raised the possibility of moving those DTT services currently using the 700 MHz band to the 600 MHz band. In Finland, most DTT licenses will expire at the end of 2016 and the 700 MHz band will be allocated to mobile telecom services. In Italy, an auction for DTT frequency licenses, that will take place in 2013, sets the expiration date of the licenses using frequencies in the 700 MHz band as 2015.
Already, the 800 MHz band has been allocated to mobile telecom services in Europe and most countries are in the process of auctioning these frequency licenses, if they have not yet done so. Questions now arise in some countries about the process for migrating DTT services currently using the 800 MHz band to other frequency channels.
In Spain, four nationwide single-frequency DTT networks make use of the 800 MHz band. Not only will these services need to be moved to other frequency locations but viewers will need to informed about the planned changes so that they can perform a scan on their DTT receivers, perhaps several times, and, if necessary, adapt their antennas. It is estimated that 1.4 million collective antennas will need to be adapted. While the previous government had estimated the migration cost at €800 million, the current government hopes to reduce costs to €300 million. However, much of these costs are expected to be borne by local administrations, the broadcast industry and viewers.
The provision of mobile telecom services in bands adjacent to the DTT platform can result in interference to the reception of services on the DTT platform. In some cases, viewers may completely lose access to the DTT platform while, in other cases, they may need to install filters to protect the quality of their DTT services.
It is not yet clear how the issue of interference to the DTT platform will be resolved. Questions remain unanswered regarding who will be responsible for taking action and paying for the associated costs. In the United Kingdom, the government has set up a £180 million fund to help viewers handle possible interference issues. However, this fund does not provide support to fund solutions for those households that do not use the DTT platform for their primary television services. Upon the request of the regulator Ofcom, mobile telecom operators have set up an organization, MitCo, to help protect the DTT platform from 4G (LTE) interference.
Finland has recently experienced interference to its DTT platform following changes made to a broadband network operating in the 450 MHz band. Currently, the broadband network operator Datame and the broadcast network operator Digita are working together to help consumers and local antenna installers eliminate the interference. And while the communications regulator Ficora has required Datame to take the necessary measures to resolve the interference, it is not clear how these costs will be shared, if at all.
The introduction of unlicensed services in the unused frequencies between active broadcast services at a given location, the so-called white spaces, will result in some interference to the DTT platform. While opportunities are available to broadcasters who can make use of new technologies designed to operate in white spaces, broadcasters will want to ensure that any such device does not cause interference to their DTT services. Some interference in some circumstances may be inevitable, but broadcasters must help determine how much is acceptable in terms of coverage loss at a given location.
Expanding the role of DigiTAG
Given the challenges facing the DTT platform, DigiTAG, at its recent General Assembly meeting (Geneva, 12 December 2012), has re-launched with the mission of defending and promoting terrestrial television on a worldwide basis. DigiTAG will work to protect broadcast spectrum regardless of the technical standard used on the DTT platform thereby representing all members of the terrestrial broadcast industry. Previously, DigiTAG had exclusively focused on DVB standards.
DigiTAG will continue to promote the DTT platform and work towards the harmonization of DTT products and services. It will also continue to serve as an information source on DTT developments worldwide. Such information will be useful in allowing decision-makers to understand fully the benefits of the DTT platform while also equipping them with the necessary facts to debunk certain claims made by other industry groups.
DigiTAG will ensure cooperation between all stakeholders in the global terrestrial broadcast industry, bringing them together into a united front.
Source: Natalie Mouyal, on behalf of the DigiTAG Project Office
DigiTAG is an association of stakeholders in the digital terrestrial TV industry and has members from broadcasting, network operators, regulatory, and professional equipment and consumer electronics manufacturing organisations throughout the world. DigiTAG has recently re-launched with new Statutes and the mission of defending and promoting digital terrestrial television on a worldwide basis, and, notably, will work tirelessly to protect spectrum for broadcasting, regardless of the technical standard used on the DTT platform.
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DTT NEWS ROUND-UP
For access to the full articles archive, please go to DigiTAG
Turkey - RTUK issues DTT licensing guidelines
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) has published its guidelines for the licensing of broadcast services on the DTT platform.
RTUK expects to open the tender for DTT licenses in 2013. Broadcasters interested in participating in the tender should submit an application to RTUK by 16 January 2013.
Russia - Government announces broadcast services in second DTT multiplex
The Rozkomnadzor (Competition Commission) has announced the license allocation for television programme services in the second DTT multiplex (MUX 2).
These television programme services are Ren TV, TV Center - Moscow, CTC, NTV Sport, TNT, Muz, Mir, New Channel, RTR Sport, and STS. These service cover a wide-range of themes, from entertainment to politics and sport.
Kyrgyzstan - DTT platform launched
The broadcast network operator Kyrgyztelecom has launched its first DTT transmissions on 23 November.
This DTT platform is available in the capital city Bishkek as well as the surrounding areas including the towns of Kant and Shopokov.
Finland - Broadband network operating in 450 MHz band causes interference to DTT platform
The communications regulator Ficora has ordered the broadband operator Datame to resolve the interference problems it is causing to the DTT platform.
The interference to the DTT platform has occurred following changes that Datame made to its broadband network operating in the 450 MHz band on 20 November and 4 December.
France - Launch of 6 HD services on free-to-air DTT platform
Six new television programme services have been launched on the free-to-air DTT platform in France.
These new television services, D1, L’Equipe 21, 6ter, Numéro 23, RMC Découverte, and Chérie 25, are offered by some incumbent broadcasters as well as broadcasters new to the DTT platform. All services are available in high-definition.
United Kingdom - EC approves aid for local DTT platform
The European Commission (EC) has approved the planned government aid for the local DTT platform.
As part of the roll-out of local DTT services in the United Kingdom, the government plans to make financial support, via the BBC license fee, available to build local DTT multiplexes. This financial support has been approved by the EC under its state aid rules.
South Africa - ICASA opens consulation on proposal for third DTT multiplex
The communications regulator ICASA has opened a consultation on its proposals for changes to current DTT regulations.
These proposals aim to promote diversity and competition on the DTT platform.
Poland - UKE issues report on DTT set-top box specification conformity
The Office of Electronic Communications (UKE) has issued its report on its study of set-top boxes on the DTT platform.
Between 1 October and 15 November, UKE randomly selected 45 DTT set-top boxes to ensure compliance with the Polish DTT specification. According to the results, 6 set-top boxes failed to comply with EMC standards while 4 set-top boxes had minor administrative issues. Nearly all of the 6 set-top boxes that did not comply with EMC standards did not meet the requirements for voltage disturbances.
Portugal - Anacom calls for extension to ASO help programme
The communications regulator Anacom is calling for an extension to the government's programme to help eligible viewers migrate to digital television.
The help programme is set to end on 31 December 2012. However, Anacom would like to extend the programme until 26 April 2013. This corresponds to one full year following the completion of analogue switch-off.