Web Letter

July 2012

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.

To subscribe to the DigiTAG Web Letter, send an email to the DigiTAG Project Office.

Italy completes analogue


Italy has become the most recent country to complete the switch-off of its analogue terrestrial television services. On 4 July, the last analogue services were switched off in Palermo and Messina in Sicily. This ends a process which began in 2008 on the island of Sardinia and has resulted in the switch-off of 10 national analogue channels and 550 local channels at 24,200 transmission sites.

Digital terrestrial television services launched officially in February 2004. Currently, the platform offers services from 16 national multiplexes including free-to-air and pay television programme services in high- and standard-definition as well as interactive and on-demand content using the MHP standard.  Of these 16 multiplexes, 15 use the DVB-T standard while 1 uses the DVB-T2 standard.  The coverage of these multiplexes varies between 80% to 99.9% of the population.

Two additional multiplexes are available offering mobile TV services using the DVB-H standard while one further multiplex is used by the public service broadcaster RAI for trial DTT services.  Regional and local television services are also available from over 500 regional and local broadcasters.

According to the most recent information published by the Association of Italian DTT, the DGTVi, 91.5% of households make use the DTT platform, and of these 83% use the DTT platform for their primary television reception.  In addition, the DGTVi estimates that the number of DTT receivers in people’s homes is around 40.6 million. Since the launch of the DTT platform, a total of 60 million receivers have been sold.

Analogue switch-off process

Analogue switch-off took place across 16 so-called ‘technical regions’ based on a national timetable approved by the government.  Within each technical region, further clusters were defined with switch-off dates coordinated to ensure minimum interference between transmission stations.


Italy ASO dates

In 2009, following the switch-off in the cities of Rome, Turin and Naples, analogue switch-off had been completed for 30% of the national population. By the end of 2010, analogue switch-off had been completed for over 38 million residents. Across two particular days, the 25 and 26 November 2010, nearly 12 million residents in the northern part of the country completed the process. Between 2011 and 2012, a further 22 million residents completed analogue switch-off.

Analogue switch-off has been managed by the Comitato Nazionale Italia Digitale (CNID) which included representatives from the government, the regulator AgCom, the DGTVi, regional and local governments, broadcasters, manufacturers and consumer groups.  However, in each region, a regional taskforce managed the switch-off process alongside national and local broadcasters and the local government.

This regional taskforce was responsible for managing the timeline for the switch-off process in the region, overseeing the communications campaign and undertaking other initiatives such as the training of volunteers to help those households most in need of help.  Regions could determine the roll-out of the process, with some regions such as Rome (the region of Lazio), opting to switch-off two analogue channels, RAI 2 and RETE 2, in a first phase before completing the full analogue platform switch-off several months later.  Some regions organized an information bus tour to help publicise the detailed information on analogue switch-off.

At a national level, a call centre was set up to help answer queries about analogue switch-off. A total of 2 million calls were received with most questions related to the need for re-tuning DTT receivers.  The government also put in place a national help scheme that provided aid to 2 million qualifying households. These eligible households, defined as households with a member aged 65 and over, and earning less than €10,000 per year, could received a €50 subsidy to use towards the purchase of a DTT receiver. The national government also provided funding to regional governments in support of their local information campaigns.

To encourage the sale of DTT receivers, in 2007 the government allowed households to apply for a tax credit with an upper limit of €200 for up to 20% of the total cost of a new integrated television set. Since April 2009, the government has prohibited the sale of televisions sets that do not include a DTT tuner.

The ‘free-to-view’ satellite service, TivùSat, has benefited from analogue switch-off.  A total of 1.52 million smart cards have been activated since the launch of the platform by the broadcasters RAI, Mediaset, and Telecom Italia Media in July 2009. In recent weeks, smart cards have been selling at up to 3000 per day.

Next steps

According to the Italian DTT plan, as defined by the communications regulator AgCom in 2010, 25 national multiplexes will be available on the DTT platform offering services to at least 80% of the population.  Currently, preparations are underway to auction licenses to operate 6 DTT multiplexes with the government expected to announce the auction rules by the end of August.

However, finding capacity in the UHF frequency band to include both broadcast and mobile telecom services remains a challenge for the future.  Currently, the process of clearing broadcast services out of the 800 MHz band is underway.  In regions that completed analogue switch-off in 2011 and 2012, the 800 MHz band had not been assigned to broadcast networks and is therefore available for mobile telecom networks. However, in those regions where analogue switch-off took place prior to 2011, work must be undertaken to remove broadcast networks from the 800 MHz band by 1 January 2013. Most of these TV services are operated by local commercial broadcasters.

Currently, the so-called ‘700 MHz band’ is used by the DTT platform and plans to introduce mobile telecom services in this part of the broadcasting bands will require extensive frequency re-planning of the DTT platform. Of the 25 national DTT multiplexes defined by AgCom in its DTT plan, 10 multiplexes make use of the frequencies between 694 - 790 MHz.

The introduction of the DVB-T2 standard could help increase the efficiency of the DTT platform. Already, the broadcaster Europa 7 uses the DVB-T2 standard for its payTV platform while the public service broadcaster RAI has been trialling the DVB-T2 standard in Aosta since July 2011. In April, the government passed legislation requiring all DTT receivers that are sold from 2015 to include both DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 AVC technology.  In January 2011, the DGTVi and HD Forum Italia published the specification for HD receivers known as the HD-Book 2.0. This receiver specification requires that all compliant HD receivers include the DVB-T2 standard as of January 2013.

However, the extra capacity made available from the use of the DVB-T2 standard may be used to facilitate the launch of 3DTV on the DTT platform. The broadcaster High TV has announced plans to launch a 3D service while RAI has tested the service compatibility of 2D receivers when a 3DTV plano-stereoscopic service is transmitted from an HD channel.

The terrestrial platform remains the most importance television delivery platform in Italy following the completion of analogue switch-off. Its success is due, in large part, to the introduction of new television services by broadcasters who remain committed to ensuring continuing innovation on the terrestrial television platform.




Source: Natalie Mouyal, on behalf of the DigiTAG Project Office

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DigiTAG aims to encourage and facilitate the implementation and introduction of digital terrestrial television services using the Digital Video Broadcasting Project's Standard (DVB-T). It has members from broadcasting, network operators, regulatory, and manufacturing organisations throughout Europe and beyond.
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United Kingdom - Ofcom issues plans for 4G auction

The communications regulator Ofcom has opened a statutory consultation on its plan to auction spectrum in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz frequency bands for the provision of mobile broadband services. This statutory consultation is open until 11 September.

According to the draft decision, Ofcom would like to begin the auction process by the end of the year so that services could launch by the end of 2013. According to Ofcom, prospective bidders will need to submit their application to participate in the auction by the end of the year and the bidding will take place in early 2013. License holders will be able to roll-out their networks in mid-2013.

Source: Ofcom website

Ireland - ComReg opens consultation on broadcast network market

The communications regulator ComReg has opened a consultation on broadcast transmission services in Ireland. The consultation seeks to determine whether ex-ante regulation remains relevant given the launch of the DTT platform.

The consultation also seeks to identify and propose any remedies that should be applied.

Source: ComReg website

Bulgaria - ASO confirmed for September 2013

The deputy transport minister, Valeri Borisov, has confirmed that analogue switch-off will be completed in September 2013.

In addition, he noted that the free-to-air DTT platform will allow viewers to access 12 free-to-air television programme services.

Source: Broadband TV News

Czech Republic - CRa begins DVB-T2 trial

The broadcast network operator České Radiokomunikace (CRa) has announced the launch of its DVB-T2 trial which started on 17 July.

The trial is taking place at the Zizkov transmitter in Prague and the Krkavec transmitter in Pilsen. The trial will be available for one full year in Prague and until the end of the year in Pilsen.

Source: České Radiokomunikace website

Poland - TVP broadcasts UEFA final in 3D/DTT

The public service broadcaster TVP broadcast the final of the UEFA European Football Championship in 3D on the DTT platform from TVP HD.

At its peak, the final attracted 369,000 viewers who were able to access the content in 3D.

Source: TVP website

France - In-depth investigation of proposed Canal+ entry into free-to-air DTT market

The Competition Authority has announced that it will open an in-depth investigation of the planned acquisition of Direct Star and Direct 8 by the media group Canal+.

In December 2011, the media group Canal+ announced plans to acquire a majority stake in two television programme services on the free-to-air DTT platform, Direct Star and Direct 8. As the leading provider of pay television services, including on the DTT platform, the planned acquisition could lead to competition issues in the free-to-air broadcast market. As a result, the Competition Authority has opening of an in-depth investigation (phase 2) of the proposed acquisition.

Source: L'Autorité de la concurrence website

Finland - DNA hopes for strong DTT growth in 2012

The DTT platform operator DNA has issued its financial results for 2011.

Following the launch of its DTT service offering in August 2011, it has had limited growth. However, it is hopeful for strong growth in 2012 following the addition of new television programme services, including sports content.

Source: DNA website

United States - Unlicensed mobile devices unlikely for next few years

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), unlicensed mobile devices will not be able to make use of the white spaces between television channels for the next several years due to technical challenges that have yet to be resolved.

In addition, the makers of the unlicensed mobile devices will need to know what frequencies broadcasters will use following the completion of the so-called incentive auctions for inclusion in their chips. These incentive auctions will use frequencies voluntarily relinquished by broadcasters who, in turn, may need to re-locate to alternative frequencies. The FCC has called for these auctions to take place by 30 June 2014.

Source: Broadcasting & Cable

Lithuania - 21% of households continue to use analogue terrestrial platform

The pay-DTT service provider, TEO, has given its assessment of digital switchover 100 days prior to the completion of analogue switch-off.

Switch-off is set to take place nationwide on 29 October.

Source: TEO website