Web Letter

October 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.

Digital Switchover in Ireland



At 10 am on 24 October, a live news broadcast on the public broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann’s channel RTÉ 1, heralded the end of analogue terrestrial television. With a single switch, the television personality Miriam O'Callaghan, alongside the Minister for Communications Mr. Pat Rabbitte T.D., turned off the analogue signal for RTÉ, TV3 and TG4 throughout the entire country.

In early October, it was estimated that up to 100,000 households were not prepared for the switch-off as of early October. However, retailers witnessed a last-minute surge in viewers purchasing DTT set-top boxes. A previous surge occurred in the last two weeks of September when an estimated 50,000 households converted to DTT. While exact figures on the number of households left without television services following analogue switch-off is not yet officially available, it is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

According to the communications regulator ComReg, 31% of television households rely on the terrestrial television for the primary television services while a total of 50% of households make use of the platform for either primary or secondary television sets.

DTT platform offer

The free-to-air platform, known as Saorview, launched in May 2011 although it had been unofficially available since October 2010. It offers viewers access to 8 television and 10 radio services from a single multiplex using the MPEG-4 compression standard. These services are all provided by the public service broadcaster RTÉ and include a continuous news service, RTÉ News Now, an HD service, RTÉ Two HD, a children's service,  RTÉjr, as well as a catch-up service, RTÉ One + 1. An enhanced digital Teletext service, Aertel Digital, is also available.

The DTT platform is available to 98% of the population.  The remaining 2% of the population, approximately 32,000 households, outside of the Saorview coverage area can access digital television from the free-to-view satellite service Saorsat which launched in May 2012.

To ensure that viewers are able to access services, Saorview has put in place a list of DTT receivers that it has approved for use in Ireland. These receivers have been tested and confirmed in conformance with the Irish DTT receiver specification.

Capacity is available for the launch of further services on the DTT platform. Initially, the regulator, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (since replaced by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) had allocated 3 additional DTT multiplexes to the Boxer Ireland consortium (Boxer TV and the Communicorp Group) for the provision of a commercial DTT offering. However, following the failure to reach an agreement with the broadcast network operator RTÉ NL (RTÉ Transmission Network Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the broadcaster), the consortium returned the license to the regulator.  Similarly, a second consortium named OneVision (Setanta Sports, TV3 Ireland, Arqiva and Eircom) returned the license following its unsuccessful negotiations with RTÉ NL while the third candidate, Easy TV (RTÉ and UPC), refused the license.

As a result, it is not clear when a commercial DTT platform will be launched although the government had indicated that it could occur once analogue switch-off reached completion. While capacity is available, no plans for its use have yet been made. In addition, the Broadcasting Authority 's suggestion that new legislation should be adopted to allow it to intervene in negotiations between RTÉ NL and potential service providers could further delay a commercial launch.

Preparing viewers for analogue switch-off

St Patrick's Day in 2011 served as the launch of the information campaign about the free-to-air DTT platform Saorview. An advertising campaign on television, radio and online helped to familiarize viewers with the new services and a call centre was set up to answer viewer queries. However, the platform did not officially launch until the end of May. Throughout digital switchover, Saorview has been presented as a replacement service for the analogue terrestrial platform.

Information about the switch-off began in October 2011 with the announcement of the official switch-off date. In June 2012, the government sent out a "Going Digital" Booklet to all households giving information on analogue switch-off. In addition, a "bug" was visible on all television screens using the analogue terrestrial platform. Viewers were told that if they could see the "bug" they would need to find an alternative television delivery platform.

The government also organized a National Digital Switchover Week from 17 to 23 September. A wide range of events were organized with the aim of encouraging households to get informed and make the switch to digital television. Events included coffee mornings, information activities in local shopping centres, family fun days and open days in local community centres.

The government also operated a phone helpline which received 7,378 calls between its launch in October 2011 and 26 October 2012. It will continue to remain operational for the next few weeks.

To help viewers with switch-off, the Department of Communication operated an outreach programme which offered assistance and advice to those households deemed vulnerable. It funded two charity organizations, the Wheel and the Irish Rural Link, to lead community outreach programmes. Altogether, it reached out to over 54,000 viewers in need of support.

While awareness about analogue switch-off was high - reaching 99% in June - some viewers continued to doubt that it would take place. According to information published by Saorview in September, 25% of viewers were reluctant to believe that analogue switch-off would take place as planned.

Analogue switch-off in Northern Ireland

Analogue switch-off in Ireland coincided with analogue switch-off in the region of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. In Northern Ireland, the process took place in two stages, with the analogue television channel BBC Two switched off on 10 October followed by the switch-off of the remaining analogue channels at 23.30 in the night of 23 October.

Viewers in Northern Ireland will now be able to receive television services from the Irish public service broadcaster RTE. In addition to the viewers located near the Irish border who will benefit from the overspill of the Saorview transmissions, viewers now have access to a new DTT multiplex. This multiplex, unique to Northern Ireland, provides three free-to-air standard-definition television programme services, TG4 and RTÉ One and RTÉ Two using the DVB-T2 standard with MPEG-4 AVC. It will be available to over 90% of the population, using the transmission sites at Black Mountain, Brougher Mountain and Carnmoney Hill.

Unlike analogue switch-off which took place in a single day in Ireland, the United Kingdom has conducted its switch-off in several phases starting in October 2007 and ending in October 2012. The project was complex, involving the re-engineering at more than 1100 transmitter sites, multiple DTT frequency changes and affecting more than 10 million primary DTT viewers.

Digital dividend

As a next step in Ireland, the frequencies in the 800 MHz band will be auctioned for the provision of mobile broadband services. The auctions are expected to take place in early 2013 and services could launch by the end of that year. While the government expects to generate €185 million from the auction, the consultancy firm DotEcon has estimated that the auction could generate as much as €533 million.

In conjunction with the auction, the communications regulator ComReg opened a consultation on its proposed new rules on spectrum trading in the 800 MHz frequency band. The new rules would allow the holders of spectrum rights in the 800 MHz band to transfer some or all of the rights to third parties. However, ComReg has also proposed regulation to guard against the hoarding of spectrum rights.

ComReg has also held a consultation on broadcast transmission services. It proposed the implementation of rules to oblige the access and use of specific network facilities by DTT multiplex operators. According to ComReg, the broadcast network operator RTÉ NL retains significant market power (SMP) in the DTT market. Already, the broadcast regulator has suggested that the network operator fee structure proposed by RTÉ NL may not be financially sustainable.




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

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United Kingdom - Analogue switch-off completed

Analogue switch-off has been completed in the United Kingdom. This end more than 70 years of analogue terrestrial broadcasting.

The last analogue transmitter was switched off near Belfast and th DTT signals boosted across Northern Ireland.

Source: Digital UK website

Russia - Tender open for services on MUX 2

The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Communications (Roskomnadzor) has opened a tender for services on the DTT platform.

Candidates can tender for licenses to provide television programme services on the second DTT multiplex. This multiplex is to be made available to 98% of the population and offer 10 television programme services.

Source: Roskomnadzor website

Lithuania - ASO completed nationwide

Analogue switch-off has been completed in Lithuania in the night between 28-29 October.

Retailers are expected to face a surge in demand for DTT receivers as it is estimated that tens of thousands of viewers were not prepared.

Source: Vz.lt

Serbia - Government launches label for certified DTT receivers

The Ministry of Foreign and Domestic Trade and Telecommunications has announced that DTT receivers will be tested and labelled for conformance.

Receivers that conform to the Serbian DTT receiver specification will be affixed with a Digital TV label issued by the Ministry.

Source: Teve website

France - CSA publishes multiplex R7 and R8 coverage roll-out calendar

The broadcast regulator CSA has issued the timeline for the coverage roll-out of the multiplexes R7 and R8.

At launch on 12 December, multiplexes R7 and R8 will be available to 25% of the population. By June 2015, the full roll-out will be completed and the two multiplexes will be available to over 97% of the population from 1600 transmission sites.

Source: CSA website

Macedonia (fyr) - One to operate DTT platform

The Agency for Electronic Communications (AEK) has awarded the license to operate DTT services in the frequencies 470-790 MHz to One.

One will operate two DTT multiplexes with one multiplex to be available on a national level while the other will be available regionally.

Source: AEK website

EIB and EBRD prepared to fund DSO projects in eastern Europe

Two development banks, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), have announced plans to support digitalization projects in eastern Europe.

They have agreed to provide funding to help public service broadcasters with digitalization. These projects include the digitalization of infrastructure, equipment, content and archives.

Source: EBU website

Teracom announces 1.2 million pay-DTT subscribers in Finland, Sweden and Denmark

The Nordic pay-DTT operator Teracom Group has ended the third quarter of 2012 with 1.2 million subscribers.

In Sweden, subscriber losses have leveled off and the new offerings, Flex 8 and Hela Huset (Full House) have proven successful. The platform ended the quarter with 602,000 subscribers.

Source: Teracom website

New report available on benefits and limitations of SFNs

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has issued a new report on benefits and limitations of Single Frequency Networks (SFNs) on the DTT platform.

According to this report, SFNs have a number of advantages over MFNs, such as potentially higher spectrum efficiency, the possibility to improve the quality of coverage and more flexibility for network implementation.

Source: EBU Tech website

Slovenia - Tender opened to operate MUX C

The communications regulator APEK has opened a tender for a license to operate a national DTT multiplex.

The multiplex will use the DVB-T standard to provide services nationwide. The MPEG-4 AVC compression standard is also used.

Source: APEK website