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Launching DVB-T2 in Europe
Last week, the broadcast network operator in Austria, ORS, announced plans to launch a pay television platform using the DVB-T2 standard. By doing so, it hopes to make the DTT platform more competitive by significantly increasing the content offer. Known as SimpliTV, the new platform will offer viewers up to 40 television programme services, some of which will be available in high-definition. The launch is set for 15 April.
Currently, the DTT platform in Austria offers up to 12 television programme services depending on the region and has a 6% market share. However, without the introduction of new content and high-definition services, the broadcast industry realised that the DTT platform had a limited appeal to viewers. As a result, the introduction of DVB-T2 is viewed as a means to revive the platform and enable it to more effectively compete with other television delivery platforms such as cable and IPTV. Expectations are high, and ORS hopes to increase the DTT market share to 15%.
In contrast, enthusiasm for introduction and migration to DVB-T2 in Germany has waned following the announcement by the commercial broadcaster RTL to exit the present DTT platform. While the percentage of viewers using the DTT platform is at 11% on average, the percentage significantly varies between regions with 3% usage in some regions and up to 25% in other regions.
Initial discussions for the introduction of DVB-T2 had been promising, with media authorities, public service broadcasters and some commercial broadcasters expressing support. However, with RTL set to exit the DTT platform by the end of 2014, the future prospects of the whole DTT platform have been hampered. According to RTL, the government has not provided sufficient guarantees that spectrum capacity will be available to the DTT platform beyond 2020 which has, in turn, limited RTL's ability to provide significant investment in new technologies such as DVB-T2. In addition, RTL wanted to introduce encryption on the DTT platform but has met with resistance from media authorities.
Interestingly, RTL remains committed to the DTT platform in Austria where it believes that the long-term frequency planning and economic model are more secure. Its services will be available on the SimpliTV DVB-T2 platform.
In both Austria and Germany, the market share of the DTT platform is relatively small. Yet, the response in the two countries has been very different. While Austria is seeking to increase the appeal of the platform by introducing new technologies to allow for the new services, Germany has instead opted to limit the platform's appeal which could eventual lead to its stagnation.
The Nordic approach
The Nordic countries have demonstrated that pay operators can help to successfully transition the DTT platform from the DVB-T standard to DVB-T2. In Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, the DTT platform makes a significant pay-DTT platform offering, with between 40-60 television programme services using both the DVB-T and DVB-T2 standards.
Because analogue switch-off has been completed, frequencies are available for the DTT platform with both Finland and Sweden using frequencies in the VHF band for the DVB-T2 platform. In Finland, 50 television programme services are available across 11 multiplexes, while in Sweden 60 television services are available across 7 multiplexes. Both standard-definition and high-definition services are available.
The DTT platform has also been successful for the provision of regional services in Sweden. The platform has offered the breakdown of the country into 20 to 30 regions which has been appealing for broadcasters wishing to localise their content. In 2012, the DTT platform carried about 250 versions of the most popular television programme services. The public service broadcaster provides 78 versions of its 4 television programme services. Such tailored, local, services have been easy to implement in the regional/local network topologies of the DTT platform, but would not be feasible for satellite operators.
Because most services on the DTT platform are offered by pay operators, it has been possible to transition gracefully from the DVB-T standard to the DVB-T2 standard. The pay operator has had greater control over consumer equipment which, in turn, allows for an easier transition to new equipment versions compared with a market with a large number of free-to-air viewers. Hundreds of type-approved DVB-T and DVB-T2 receivers are available throughout the Nordic countries.
Because the regulatory regime provides the broadcast network operator with full control of the DTT network, it has been able to reshuffle services on each multiplex so as to benefit from coding improvements, statistical multiplexing, and accommodate the simulcast of standard- and high-definition services.
Similar to the Nordic countries, Croatia has also launched a DVB-T2 platform for the provision of pay-DTT services. However, unlike the Nordic countries, Croatia offers a larger number of television programme services on its free-to-air DTT platform which could impact the appeal of the pay-DTT platform. The platform, known as ‘evotv’, officially launched in February 2013 following a soft launch in November. The service is currently available to 80% of the population but will reach potentially 95% of the population in the next few months.
The United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, the DVB-T2 platform is used to provide high-definition television services on the DTT platform. First launched in 2010 to less than 50% of the population, it was simultaneously rolled out as analogue switch-off took place. Full population coverage (98.5%) was reached in October 2012.
The DVB-T2 platform is accessed by 3.53 million households for their primary television services making it the second largest HD platform in the United Kingdom. It is also the fastest growing HD platform as of November 2012 and will continue to grow as new content is made available. Since 26 March 2013, the whole of BBC Two programme schedule is available in HD the DTT platform and a further 10 services could be launched depending on regulatory approval. Currently, DVB-T2 receivers make up 90% of all DTT receivers being sold with 7.6 million DVB-T2 receivers having been sold since 2010.
The DVB-T platform, used to provide up to 50 television programme services in standard-definition, continues to appeal to viewers. Twenty million (76%) households access the DTT platform for their primary or secondary television services of which 11 million households access the platform for their primary television services.
Prospects for DVB-T2 are strong. In countries where the terrestrial platform has a large market share, the DVB-T2 standard will inevitably be introduced.
In Italy, the public service broadcaster RAI has unofficially launched a multiplex using the DVB-T2 standard. This multiplex, which uses the VHF channel 11, offers HD content in all regional capitals. In addition, the pay operator Europa 7 has launched its services using DVB-T2. Most notably, however, the government has approved legislation obliging manufacturers to include DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 AVC technology in all DTT receivers as of 2015.
In France, the broadcast regulator CSA has recommended the introduction of the DVB-T2 standard by 2020 and called for a law requiring manufacturers to include this technology in all receivers.
The popularity of the DVB-T2 standard will be aided by its adoption by large countries such as Russia and India, where the economics of scale will help to lower the cost of receivers. Currently, Russia is in the process of rolling out its DTT platform using DVB-T2 and converting remnants of its existing DVB-T network to DVB-T2. Around the world, the DVB-T2 standard has been adopted by 54 countries with more set to follow. And perhaps the United States will soon follow! The ATSC recently opened a call for proposals for the physical layer of its forthcoming ATSC 3.0 standard which could perhaps include elements of the DVB-T2 standard.
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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