Web Letter

September 2013

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.

Status of DTT in Germany


In mid-September, the public service broadcasters ARD and ZDF created a stir when they announced plans to transition their DTT platform to the second generation DVB-T2 standard. Services using the DVB-T2 standard will launch in 2017 with the transition to be completed by 2020.

By transitioning to DVB-T2, the public service broadcasters havere- affirmed their commitment to the DTT platform. They consider it to be the only option for viewers who wish to view free content from a portable or mobile device. By transitioning to DVB-T2, ZDF and ARD would be able to offer their content in high-definition which is not possible using the current standard given the limited frequency capacity available. According to the head of ZDF, Thomas Bellut, a transition to DVB-T2 will not only allow the DTT platform to maintain its relevance but also to strengthen its position.

However, such plans seem contrary to the recent fears evoked regarding the future viability of the DTT platform.

Threats to the DTT platform

Most recently, the commercial broadcaster RTL announced plans to no longer make its television services available on the DTT platform. In a first step, RTL exited from the DTT platform in Munich on 1 August and plans to exit from the platform nationwide by the end of 2014. In explaining its reasons for doing so, RTL has criticised both regional media authorities and the government. According to RTL, regional media authorities have failed to allow for the introduction of pay-DTT services while the government has failed to provide sufficient guarantees that sufficient spectrum capacity will be available for the DTT platform beyond 2020.

The allocation of frequencies for the DTT platform is increasingly a topic for discussion. This follows the decision made at the last World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-12) to update the Radio Regulations at the next WRC so that mobile telecom services can be introduced in the 700 MHz band (from 694 – 790 MHz) on a co-primary basis alongside broadcasting after 2015. In July, the federal communications regulator, BNetzA opened a consultation on its strategy for mobile broadband services after 2016. The draft strategy document calls for the universal coverage of mobile broadband services and suggests that frequencies in the 700 MHz band should be used to achieve this goal. The consultation is open until 4 October.

In its response to this consultation, the Medienanstalten, which represents the 14 regional media authorities in Germany, called for the continued use of the 700 MHz band by broadcast services. Not only would the allocation of this band be insufficient to meet the goals of the national Broadband Strategy, but these frequencies are necessary for a transition from the DVB-T to the DVB-T2 standard. Instead, such frequencies should only be released by broadcasters once they are no longer needed although this is unlikely to occur before 2019/2020. The Medienanstalten is prepared to provide its support in the DTT transition towards the DVB-T2 standard.

Opportunities on the DTT platform

Despite the decision of the commercial broadcaster RTL to exit the DTT platform, other broadcasters are prepared to fill its void. The commercial broadcaster ProSieben.1 has confirmed its commitment to the DTT platform by renewing its carriage agreement with the broadcast network operator Media Broadcast until 2018. Already, it has launched three new television programme services, sixx, ProSieben Maxx and Sat.1 Gold on the DTT platform in Munich.  In addition, the media group Discovery has been granted a temporary license to make its television service DMAX available on the DTT platform in Munich.

According to the Digitalization Report 2013 published by the Medienanstalten in September, the number of households that rely on the DTT platform for their primary television services remains constant at approximately 11% of households although it is believed that the number of households that use the DTT platform to access services on their secondary teleivision sets is significantly higher. DTT penetration varies considerably between regions.

In urban areas, where content from both public service and commercial broadcasters is available, penetration is over 20% of households. For example, the DTT platform is used by 24.5% of households in Bremen and 26.6% of households in Hannover-Brunswick. However, DTT penetration is much lower in rural areas where only public service content is available. In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the DTT platform is used by only 2.2% of the population.

Dynamic Broadcasting

Recently, a concept has emerged which seeks to make use of the most appropriate delivery platform depending on the content requested by viewers. Dynamic Broadcasting makes use of existing technologies within a framework that can change depending on the anticipated demands of viewers. With Dynamic Broadcasting, content is delivered to viewers  using the most suitable delivery technology including a traditional broadcast (DVB-T/DVB-T2) or broadband network.  Use is also made of local hard-disc storage capacity.

Increasingly, solutions that can bridge between cellular and broadcast technologies are sought. In one proposal, a Tower Overlay network would allow for users to access both an LTE as well as a broadcast network from a single device. Similarly, the Medienanstalten has called for the development of hybrid receivers that can access services from both LTE and DVB-T2 networks.

Next Steps

Public service broadcasters have made clear their intention to transition from the DVB-T to the DVB-T2 standard on the DTT platform. Such a transition will enable the DTT platform to continue offering new services such as HDTV and maintain its competitivity with other television delivery platforms. However, for such a transition to succeed, it will require support from both commercial broadcasters as well as the government.

The DTT platform has proven most popular in areas where content from both public service and commercial broadcasters are available. For the DTT platform to maintain its relevance, both commercial and public service broadcasters must work together to ensure the appeal of the platform by offering compelling content and services. Yet for commercial broadcasters to further invest in the DTT platform, they will require guarantees from the government that frequencies will continue to be available in the long-term.




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

About DigiTAG

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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New Zealand - ASO completed in Lower North Island

In the morning of 29 September, the second phase of analogue switch-off was completed.

This phase included the areas from Wellington to Gisborne and Taranaki in Lower North Island. Last August, it was estimated that 18,110 homes were not prepared for the switch-off, representing approximately 5% of households in the region.

Source: New Zealand Herald

Italy - FUB partners with consumer organisation to help DTT viewers with LTE interference

The consumer organisation Adiconsum is oartnering with the Fondazione Ugo Bordoni (FUB) to help viewers having DTT reception problems caused by LTE interference.

FUB manages the programme to help viewers with DTT reception problems. Viewers are asked to report problems on the Help Interference (www.helpinterferenze.it) website run by FUB to see if they qualify for free filters. The filters help to block LTE signals operating in the 800 MHz band that impede DTT reception.

Source: Corriere delle Comunicazioni

Serbia - DTT roll-out to be completed by mid-2014

At a Parliamentary hearing, the head of the Regulatory Telecommunications Agency (Ratel), announced that the roll out of the DTT platform will be completed by June 2014.

The launch of the platform began in March 2012 and is currently available to 40% of the population. The platform uses the DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 AVC standards.

Source: Telecom Paper

ECOWAS approves DTT specification with access services

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has announced that it has approved a specification for access services.

All approved DTT set-top boxes will now be required to include audio and subtitle descriptions.

Source: CAJ News Agency

United Kingdom - Al Jazeera to join Freeview HD platform

The continuous news service Al Jazeera is set to join the free-to-air DTT platform in high-definition (HD).

It will be one of the services offered on the two new HD multiplexes to be operated by the broadcast network operator Arqiva in the 600 MHz band. These two multiplexes have been allocated to Arqivq on an interim basis, most likely until 2018.

Source: Digital TV Europe

Uruguay - VTV and Pop TV awarded DTT licenses

Two licenses for the provision of free-to- air television programme services on the DTT platform have been awarded to VTV and Pop TV.

This decision has been taken by President José Mujica. It follows the recommendation of the communications regulator Ursec and the independent commission CHAI which had proposed giving the licenses to the broadcasters VTV, Giro and Pop TV.

Source: El Observador

Zambia - Government cancels DTT tender

The government has cancelled the tender for the building and operation of the DTT platform. This tender had been estimated to be worth approximately US$220 million.

According to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, the tender cancellation follows the advice received from the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA).

Source: Lusaka Times