August 2005 | # 42
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. This month, we examine DTT activities in Norway.
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DTT services in Norway
Candidates have until 30 September to submit their application for the Norwegian digital terrestrial television licences. The government is expected to allocate a single concession for two separate licences - a frequency usage licence and a broadcast facilities licence - by the end of the year. DTT services are expected to be ready for launch in late 2006.
This is not, however, the first time that candidates have been invited to tender for the DTT licences. Already in 2002, the government issued its first tender invitation. At the time, only NTV, a joint venture between the public broadcaster NRK and the commercial broadcast channel TV 2, applied for the licences.
However, in order to formally receive the DTT licences, NTV needed to present its proposed business model and technical plans to the government for its approval. While the technical plans, including the network coverage, received approval, some questions arose on the proposed business model.
Alongside these developments, the Stortinget (Norwegian Parliament) altered the original criteria for digital switch-over. In approving the Recommendation to the Stortinget (no. 128) on 19 February 2004, the Stortinget required that the coverage of DTT services increase from 92% to 95% of the population and include satellite shadow areas. It also required service providers to offer "additional digital value" which will likely consist of interactive services.
Given that the increased population coverage will lead to a significant increase in the cost of the DTT service roll-out, NTV requested an extension to the duration of the DTT licences from 12 to 15 years.
The government agreed to extend the licence duration. However, it requested that other companies make known any interest in obtaining the DTT licence under the revised conditions. As Telenor Broadcast Holding AS declared its interest, the government re-issued the invitation to tender for the DTT licence on 30 June 2005.
Understanding the DTT licence
The government has decided to allocate one concession, comprised of two DTT licences, that provide two distinct privileges.
One licence provides frequency usage rights in the 470-790 MHz frequency band for a period of 15 years. Although some minor limitations, the frequencies "shall be used for the establishment of an electronic communications network based on DTT technology for the distribution of electronic communications services (e.g. transmission services for broadcasting, telecommunications services, etc.)(1)" This means that the holder of the licence will be obliged to use the frequencies for electronic communications but is not limited to such communications as broadcasting.
It is noted that the outcome of the Regional Radio Conference (RRC), expected in June 2006, may affect the frequency bands available. The holder of this licence will not need to pay a fee for the usage of the spectrum.
The other licence provides the right to establish and operate the facilities necessary for an electronic communications network within the frequencies allocated under the above-mentioned licence. This means that the licence holder will become the multiplex administrator and, in principle, decides on the content to be transmitted within the legal parameters established by the government.
Thus, in an all-digital environment, the concession for the two DTT licences enables the concession holder to potentially serve as the network operator, content provider as well as the broadcaster.
Some concern has been raised regarding the government's decision to combine these two licences into a single concession awarded to one organisation. In countries, such as the United Kingdom and Italy, the introduction of digital terrestrial services has shown the opposite trend with broadcasters increasingly separated from the transmission network.
In the current analogue environment in Norway, such a separation exists. The frequency licences have thus far been held by a network operator while traditional broadcasters, such as TV 2, have held the broadcast licences. However, this will soon change.
Norkring, the current network operator for analogue television and owner of most of the infrastructure, will lose its frequency licences when they expire on 1 November 2006. New analogue frequency licences will be awarded, effective from 2 November 2006, to the broadcasters on the terrestrial platform, NRK and TV 2, and will be valid until analogue switch-off.
Yet, with the allocation of these licences to broadcasters, one can ask how broadcasters will be able to transmit their content given that they do not manage or own a terrestrial network. Unless a new analogue transmission network is built, broadcasters will need to turn to Norkring for these services.
The situation will be similar under the terms of the DTT licences. Because the organisation awarded the DTT licences will need to provide both broadcasting and network operation services, it will be difficult for broadcasters to provide all of these services. Unless they decide to build a new network infrastructure, broadcasters will likely depend on the infrastructure belonging to the current analogue network operator.
Alternatively, the need to either build a new transmission network or find the appropriate service providers may provide commercial broadcasters with an excuse to delay the launch of DTT services.
As per the requirements set by the Stortinget in February 2004, the first DTT multiplex must cover at least 95% of the population as well as the population found in the satellite shadow areas. The second multiplex must cover 95% of the population but does not need to include the satellite shadow areas. The roll-out of a third multiplex, with possibly more limited coverage, will not be possible until analogue switch-off commences.
Given its topography, northern position and fjords along the western coast situated in a west-east orientation, not all areas in Norway can be covered by satellite. The government has therefore defined areas without access to a satellite signal providing NRK and TV 2 programme services to be in a "satellite shadow area." A satellite shadow area will meet the following conditions:
A second geographical condition must be considered. Norway is extremely long with a distance from the south to the north covering 2,650 km, yet the distance along the coastline is over 83,200 km. With only 4.6 million inhabitants, Norway has a relatively low population density considering the size of the country. This means that much of the population, apart from in the cities, is spread throughout the countryside.
Given the need to cover the satellite shadow areas as well as 95% of population, the roll-out of the DTT transmitter network will likely be quite costly. Already, the government has clearly indicated that public funds will not be used to support the launch of DTT services.
The original timetable for digital switch-over set early 2006 as the beginning of analogue switch-off. Complete analogue switch-off was planned in 2008. However, given the delays in the allocation of the DTT licences, it is not likely that analogue switch-off can commence in 2006.
It is likely that DTT services will be launched region by region, where for a short period of time, viewers will be able to access the simultaneous transmission of digital and analogue terrestrial services followed by the switch-off of the analogue signal. Currently three pilots, situated in the cities of Bergen, Oslo and Trondheim, provide DTT services to 25% of the population.
1). Invitation to tender for a frequency licence and a licence for electronic communications network based on DTT technology.
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DTT NEWS ROUND-UP
For all articles, please go to DigiTAG News
Finland - DTT services available countrywide
Digital terrestrial television is now available across Finland’s transmitter network.
The Finnish public broadcaster YLE reported that there are currently 12 free-to-air channels and a further four pay-TV broadcasters on the air. Further channels are planned to be added in the future.
Approximately one-third of Finnish households currently have a digital TV set. Analogue transmissions are scheduled to complete on August 31, 2007.
Source: Broadband TV News
United Kingdom - ITV purchase of SDN approved
The Office of Fair Trading has approved ITV's £134 million acquisition of Freeview multiplex operator SDN.
In April, ITV had announced its purchase of SDN, which operates 10 digital terrestrial television programme services, including Five, QVC, UKTV Gold, ABC1, Discovery and Cartoon Network, on its multiplex.
With its acquisition of SDN, ITV will receive revenues from the services on its multiplex, as well as have the opportunity to launch more digital services in the future.
Sweden - Digital penetration reaches 38%
According to research by Mediavision, 38% of Swedes between the ages of 15-74 have access to digital television. Compared with 2004, digital television penetration has increased by 6%.
Of the digital viewers, 35% use the DTT services provided by Boxer. With analogue switch-off set to commence in September, 85% of those interviewed were aware of digital switch-over.
Source: Boxer website
Finland - DVB-H services during Athletic World Championships
Last week, select viewers could access the Athletic World Championships from a mobile device. The Finnish Mobile TV project provided DVB-H services of the Championship held last week in Helsinki.
Nokia, together with network company Digita, mobile operators Elisa and TeliaSonera, and broadcasters YLE, MTV3 and Channel 4, provided the services to 300 viewers. Services allowed viewers to access domestic and international broadcasts of the championship including five special Championships broadcasts of individual events.
Viewers reported a sharp image and good sound quality but some users felt the receivers overly bulky and colours not true to nature.
Australia - New service launch in Sydney
Viewers in Sydney will hav access to a new free-to-air television programme service in November. Named TVS, the new service will feature programmes "for and about Sydney" made by locally based producers.
According to Laurie Patton, acting chief executive at TVS, "our aim is to provide a platform for new program formats and for program providers with fresh and exciting ideas. We see TVS as an 'incubator' where creative producers can afford to experiment with new concepts and develop new talent."
A not-for-profit venture, TVS will broadcast seven days a week and 24 hours per day.
Source: Digital Spy
United Kingdom - New children's programme from ITV
ITV is set to launch a free-to-air children's television programme service on Freeview within the next six months. It will share the slot recently allocated to ITV4.
The new ITV service compete with the BBC's two children's offering - CBeebies and CBBC. The name of the new service has not yet been determined.
According to Nigel Pickard, ITV director of programmes, it "is a great opportunity for ITV to reinforce its position as a valued and trusted provider of children's programming in an increasingly competitive market and to bring ITV to a new generation of viewers."
ITV seeks to distribute the new service on the digital cable and satellite platforms.
Spain - Allocation of regional DTT licences
Local and regional governments have commenced the allocation of DTT licenses. Spanish law holds that all local licenses should be awarded by the end of the year so that DTT broadcasts can begin as of January 2006. Local switch-off is expected in 2008.
In Madrid, 40 local DTT programme service slots have been allocated. Of these programme service slots, 30 have been attributed to private groups while the remaining 10 are to be operated by town Councils. Private broadcasters will include Canal 7, Unedisa, Libertad Digital, Cope, and Intereconomia.
In Galicia, two regional DTT licences have been awarded to La Voz de Galicia and Cadena Cope. DTT licenses have also been allocated in the Baleares.