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Regional projects to foster digital switchover: the case of SEE Digi.TV
While national administrations are responsible for the management of digital switchover, the outcome impacts neighboring countries. The availability of frequencies, and their potential re-assignment for non-broadcast services, can provide opportunities for a full region. It is for this reason that many regional organizations such as the European Union (EU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have made recommendations regarding the process for completing digital switchover.
In 2009, a group of media regulators from Southern Europe began informal discussions on the possibility for the harmonization of some digital switchover activities as well as the development of a regional proposal for the optimal use of the so-called ‘digital dividend’. At that time, most of the countries had made some progress towards digital switchover, namely in the establishment of legal frameworks and launch of DTT services. However, the regulators believed that increased cooperation and a harmonized approach could lead to the faster deployment of new services throughout the region.
It is with this objective that the project South East Europe (SEE) Digi.TV emerged. It officially launched in January 2011 with financial support from the European Union and under the leadership of the Slovenian Post and Electronic Communications Agency (APEK). Participants included representatives from regulatory agencies in Albania, Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. The project is currently nearing completion and is set to close on 31 July 2013.
At the time of the launch of the project, digital switchover varied significantly between the SEE Digi.TV partners. Analogue switch-off had been completed in Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia and well underway in Italy while others had not yet launched their DTT platform. Some countries, such as Albania and Hungary, had launched pay-DTT services and one country, Serbia, was planning to launch its DTT platform using the DVB-T2 standard. Despite these differences, or perhaps as a result of them, an exchange of information was possible between all partners.
The work of SEE Digi.TV has been divided into four work streams: Legal, Technical, Economic, and Public Awareness. A total of 16 documents in relation to these work streams have been issued on such topics as legal frameworks for digital switchover, technical planning, public awareness plans, funding mechanisms, conformance testing and the utilization of the digital dividend. In addition, national surveys have been commissioned and made available together with presentations from SEE Digi.TV conferences. All documents can be found on the SEE Digi.TV website at http://www.see-digi.tv.
While these documents have been aimed primarily at regulators and policy makers, they are also useful for other stakeholders involved in digital switchover. Perhaps more importantly, parts of these documents have been implemented in national digital switchover frameworks and some recommendations have been put into practice. SEE Digi.TV continues to make its expertise available to national administrations and other stakeholders and expects that the cooperation between the SEE Digi.TV participants will continue.
The SEE Digi.TV project has been successful in analyzing the status of digital switchover in its 10 partner countries and providing information on best-practices. It has also shown the different approaches used by the countries regarding such issues as DTT licensing regime, funding mechanisms, technical standards selected, and public awareness campaigns.
Most recently, in April, SEE Digi.TV issued guidelines for the set-up of a conformance test lab. The document provides an overview of the benefits of implementing conformity assessment, the process for ensuring conformity with a national receiver specification as well as European directives, a functional model for a conformity assessment procedure and concrete proposals on setting up a conformity assessment procedure. It also provides best practices from those countries in the region, Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia, that have completed analogue switch-off with the implementation of a conformance regime.
SEE Digi.TV also updated its recommendation on the receiver specification for the region. This document seeks to help administrations develop their national receiver specification and enable cross border access of DTT signals between neighboring countries. As a first step, the document provides an overview of the DTT networks in each country as well as information about future DTT multiplexes and trials. The specification includes the minimum requirements for the reception and demodulation of a DVB-T signal as well as a DVB-T2 signal for more advanced receivers used in the region. Decoding of both the MPEG-4 AVC and MPEG-2 standard is also required and different profiles have been created for the decoding of standard- and high-definition transmissions. It is a basic profile.
Digi.TV in other regions?
The work of the SEE Digi.TV project has been guided by the rules and recommendations imposed by the European Commission. Because all partners in the project are either members of the European Union or are aspiring to do so, they have an interest in respecting the rules and recommendations set forth by the European Commission. This has included rules on competition, use of the digital dividend, and state aid mechanisms to help broadcasters, network operators and viewers, as well as the recommendation on the date for the completion of analogue switch-off. This has helped guide the topics in which the project provides its own recommendations for the region.
In other parts of the world, regional integration is less advanced. As a result, regional organizations such as SADC and ASEAN have not been able to impose their recommendations on such issues as a common DTT standard or analogue switch-off date among member countries. For example, while SADC has recommended the use of the DVB-T2 standard, its member country Botswana recently announced the selection of the ISDB-T standard. As a result, it may be difficult for regulators to provide much further guidance. Developing a basic receiver specification would need to include many more requirements.
Nonetheless, any mechanism that can allow regulators and other stakeholders in the digital switchover process to share their experiences and best practices can only be beneficial. The development of information on the digital switchover process can also be useful to stakeholders.
Regulators in Europe have also set up coordination groups to facilitate frequency coordination as part of introduction of wireless broadband services in the 800 MHz band. The Western European Digital Dividend Implementation Platform (WEDDIP) brings together regulators from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom to facilitate modifications to the Geneva 2006 Frequency Plan through bilateral and/or trilateral negotiations. A similar structure, the Northern European Digital Dividend Implementation Forum (NEDDIF), is used by regulators in Belarus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.
Another approach, used by the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden), seeks to specify a common technical platform for digital television in the region. While NorDig does not provide policy guidance or recommendations, its technical specifications are adopted by all members. This is an area where a regional approach is not only useful in terms of economies of scale but could be a first step towards wider integration.
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
United Kingdom - 75% of households access DTT platform
The communication regulator Ofcom has published its final report on digital television which shows that 98% of households access digital television services.
The DTT platform was accessed by 75% of households at the end of December 2012 which is an increase of half a percentage point compared with the same period in 2011. This is a total of 19.2 million households.
Slovakia - Service offering on pay-DTT platform announced
The pay-DTT platform Plustelka will launch on 1 May and be available to 80% of households.
The platform will offer 3 free-to-air television services (CT1, CT2, and Lux TV) as well as 9 pay services (Eurosport, Eurosport2, Film +, Viasat Explorer, Viasat History, Viasat Nature, Nickelodeon, MusicBox and Spice) for €5.99 per month.
Poland - UKE opens consultation on second digital dividend
The media regulator, Office of Electronic Communications (UKE), has opened a consultation on the second digital dividend.
This consultation seeks input on the use of the so-called second digital dividend in the 700 MHz (694-790 MHz) band. Following the next World Communications Conference in 2015, the Radio Regulations will be updated to allow national administrations to introduce telecom services in the 700 MHz band.
Turkey - RTUK awards 33 DTT service licenses
The Radio and Television High Council (RTUK) has recently awarded 33 licenses for the national DTT platform. Licenses were allocated via an auction which raised TRY 419 million (€178 million).
The licenses were allocated for television programme services on the national DTT platform and are valid for a ten-year period. A total of 11 license holders will offer
high-definition services while the remaining 22 license holders will offer services in standard-definition.
Namibia - On track to complete ASO by end of year
According to the Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), Joel Kaapanda, Namibia is on track to complete analogue switch-off by the end of the year.
This follows a decision by the MICT to provide the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) with N$411 million to help finance digital switchover. For the past two years, changes have been made to transmission sites to allow for the launch of the DTT platform. Last December, a national DTT trial began.
Austria - simpliTV launches on 15 April
The pay-DTT platform has officially launched on 15 April. Known as simpliTV, it offers access to up to 40 television programme services.
Content is varied and includes sports, children programming, and services from the major German commercial broadcasters. In addition, 9 HD services are available. Monthly subscription fees have been set at €10.
Montenegro - DTT to launch by end of summer
The installation of DTT transmission equipment is set to be completed by the end of the summer. This will allow for the launch of the DTT platform to commence.
The DTT platform will launch progressively by region (North, South and Central) and be followed by a six month simulcast period. Thereafter analogue services will be switched off. DTT receivers are expected to cost €50-60 although the price is expected to decrease.
Croatia - DTT most widely used television delivery platform
The Agency for Electronic Media has issued a new report showing that the DTT platform is used by 58.8% of households.
IPTV is the second most popular television delivery platform, used by 20% of households. The remaining households subscribe to cable (15%) and satellite (6%).