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Digital Terrestrial Television:
the most popular television delivery in Europe
According to the latest Eurobarometer report  on communications, the DTT platform is the most popular way for households to access their television services in Europe. A total of 40% of European households use the DTT platform followed by satellite, used in 23% of homes, and cable, used in 19% of homes. When including analogue households, the Eurobarometer figures show that terrestrial television is used by 46% of all households. And while viewers continue to affirm their commitment to the terrestrial television platform, policy makers are debating measures that would reduce the amount of frequency capacity available to the DTT platform.
The growth of the DTT platform has been remarkable. The number of viewers using this platform has increased by 6 percentage points since December 2011 and 35 percentage points since 2006. Of course, this growth can be attributed to increased availability of the DTT platform as it has been launched and rolled out in many countries as a replacement for the analogue terrestrial platform which has simultaneously been shut off. Yet analogue switch-off in many countries has also been an opportunity for operators of other television platforms, such as cable and satellite, to increase their market share. In some countries, this has been the case with up to 20% of analogue terrestrial households opting to access television through either the satellite, cable or IPTV platforms.
INSERT GRAPH : Means of receiving television
Yet, overall, the use of the cable, satellite and IPTV platforms has not changed significantly in the past 7 years. The Eurobarometer graph clearly demonstrates the decline of the analogue terrestrial platform between 2005 and 2013 as nearly all European countries completed analogue switch-off. The decline was sharpest between 2009 – 2011 when Spain, France, and the United Kingdom switched off their analogue terrestrial platforms. Meanwhile the DTT platform has increased its penetration of television households while the satellite and cable platforms have remained stable. Satellite accounted for 22% of households in December 2005 and has only increased its penetration by 1 percentage point since then. Cable (digital and analogue) has also remained stable accounting for 33% of households in 2005 which is a 2 percentage point drop with its current penetration. IPTV continues to slowly increase its market share having increased its usage by 4 percentage points since 2005.
The strong growth of the DTT platform cannot soley be attributed to its offering of free-to-air content. In recent years, and integral to national switchover policies, free-to-view satellite platforms have been made available to viewers. Yet this has not had an overall impact in increasing the share of satellite viewers in Europe.
The DTT platform is the most widely used in Spain where it is accessed by 89% of households. Ironically, it is in Spain that the broadcasters on the DTT platform face the most uncertainty. In March 2013, the Supreme Court declared invalid the allocation of 9 broadcast licenses on the DTT platform since the tender process had not been made available to all broadcasters. The current government has yet to clarify the situation and has neither revoked the licenses nor made provisions for a new tender process.
Other countries with a high number of households using the DTT platform include Italy (88%), France (60%), Croatia (65%), and Greece (52%). It has the lowest level of penetration in Hungary and Bulgaria (5%), Belgium (6%), and Germany (9%). In Bulgaria, the DTT platform is mired in controversy following the decision by the European Commission to refer the government to the European Court of Justice over its DTT licensing procedure.
Breaking down television usage by country, no other television platform has a penetration rate as high as DTT. While the DTT platform is used by over 50% of households in several countries, the digital satellite does not have a 50% penetration rate in any country. Of all countries in the survey, Austria has the highest number of viewers using the satellite platform with 48% of households. It is followed by Ireland (47%), Germany (43%), and Slovakia (40%).Digital cable has a higher penetration in several countries, used by 53% of households in Belgium while analogue cable is used by 59% of households in Romania. France has the largest number of subscribers to an IPTV service, accounting for 34% of the market.
DTT platform in the future
Despite the importance of the DTT platform in Europe, discussions have commenced in many countries regarding the attribution of the 700 MHz band which is currently used for the provision of the DTT platform. This follows the agreement made at the last World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-12) in February 2012 to make this band available for mobile telecom services alongside broadcast services as of 2017. And while it is for national administrations to determine the 700 band allocation, discussions have taken place at the European level through the activities of the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) and the CEPT. The CEPT has been asked by the European Commission to prepare a report on the technical conditions for the use of the 700 MHz band by mobile telecom operators while the RSPG has issued a draft opinion in which it references the 700 MHz band as one of the key bands for mobile telecom services in the medium term.
Surprisingly, it is in countries with a high number of viewers using the DTT platform, such as Finland, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy, where governments have indicated a willingness to allocate the 700 MHz band to mobile telecom services. In Poland, the communications regulator UKE has opened a consultation on the use of the 700 MHz band.
Yet doing so will impact viewers who will need to make changes to their DTT reception equipment such as re-scanning for the DTT services, installing filters to block interference from mobile operators, or purchasing new receivers should governments decide to transition to the more efficient DTT standard, DVB-T2.
While the previous transition from analogue to digital television allowed the terrestrial platform, in many countries, to improve its service offering, it is questionable if another transition will have similar results. Rather, viewers may tire of the endless updates necessary. And yet, for now, they continue to affirm their commitment to the terrestrial platform.
Source: Natalie Mouyal, on behalf of the DigiTAG Project Office
 Special Eurobarometer 396 – e-Communications Household Survey, published on 13 August 2013
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
Portugal - RTP seeks to provide two new services on DTT platform
The public service broadcaster RTP is seeking capacity on the DTT platform for two new television programme services.
RTP would like to make its television services RTP Informação and RTP Memória available on the free-to-air platform. These services are currently only available on the pay television platforms. However, in order to do so, RTP must receive approval from the media regulator ERC as well as the communications regulator Anacom.
Ireland - BAI commissions report on launching a commercial DTT platform
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is exploring the possibility to launch commercial television services on the DTT platform.
Currently the DTT platform offers services from the public service broadcaster RTE. The transmission network is operated by a subsidiary of RTE.
Brazil - SET warns about LTE interference to DTT platform
The head of the Society of Television Engineering (SET), Olímpio Franco, has warned of the serious consequences that LTE services can cause to the DTT platform.
He believes that the introduction of LTE services will affect all television services and that viewers will need to install filters to protect their television reception.
United Kingdom - Ofcom opens consultation on spectrum sharing
The communications regulator Ofcom has opened a consultation on the future role of spectrum sharing in the United Kingdom.
The consultation seeks to provide Ofcom with a better understanding of the demand for shared access to spectrum and the techniques that could be used to enable its most effective use. According to Ofcom, spectrum sharing is a potential solution that can be used to meet the demand for more spectrum for wireless data services.
Venezuela - Government to distribute 400,000 DTT set-top boxes
The government has announced that it will distribute 400,000 DTT set-top boxes to households by the end of the year.
Already, 220,000 DTT set-top boxes have been distributed. Low-income households without access to pay television services are given set-top boxes as a priority.
Italy - Mediaset given approval to use DVB-T standard on MUX 3
The Ministry for Economic Development has approved the request by the commercial broadcaster Mediaset to change the standard used for Multiplex 3.
This multiplex, operated by Mediaset, had been allocated for the provision of mobile television services using the DVB-H standard. However, it will now be possible for Mediaset to use this multiplex to provide television services using the DVB-T standard
Spain - HbbTV services to launch on DTT platfrom
The broadcast network operator Abertis has announced the upcoming launch of HbbTV services on the DTT platform.
Viewers will be able to access content from broadcasters via the Internet using their television screens. Already, Abertis has undertaken a showcase of their HbbTV services in Madrid last July.
Kenya - Government announces ASO in Nairobi on 13 December
The government has announced the calendar for analogue switch-off with the process set to begin in Nairobi on 13 December.
It will be followed by switch-off in major urban centres, including Mombasa, Kisumu,Malindi, Nyeri, Meru, Webuye, Nakuru and Eldoret, on 30 March 2014. The process will be completed on 30 June 2014.
Switzerland - DVB IBC 2013 demonstrations
Join DVB and DigiTAG for the latest demos at IBC on stand 1.D81