January 2007 | # 58
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.
Digital switchover in Sweden
Sweden is at the forefront of digital switchover. In 1999, it became the second country in Europe to launch DTT services and is currently in the process of switching off its analogue terrestrial platform. Already, 23 main transmitters, out of a total of 54, have stopped their analogue television broadcasts.
With analogue switch-off expected to be completed by November 2007, the government has begun planning for the re-use of the released analogue frequencies. The network operator Teracom has already conducted trials for high-definition television (HDTV) and mobile television using the DVB-H standard, two services which may be made available to viewers in the next two years.
But the digital switchover process has not always been easy. At the time of launch, few viewers were interested in the DTT service offering and it was not until 2003 that viewer penetration improved dramatically. The European Commission (EC) caused further complications when it launched an inquiry into the funding of the DTT network in July 2004 following complaints from satellite operators that Teracom had effectively received illegal state subsidies. Only recently did the EC decide that Teracom did not in fact benefit from any state aid.
Digital switchover status
Initially launched in April 1999 with 3 multiplexes, the DTT platform is now available on 5 multiplexes and offers viewers 10 free-to-air and 27 pay-DTT services in additional to regional programming. DTT coverage has reached 98% of the population and is expected to increase to 99.8% by early 2008 for the multiplex operated by the public service broadcaster.
It is estimated that over a third of households rely on terrestrial delivery for their main television reception platform. In addition, it is used for secondary television sets as well as those in vacation homes. Among Sweden's 4.2 million television households, close to 1 million have converted to the DTT platform as of September 2006. Of these DTT households, 300,000 rely only on the free-to-air platform.
The process of analogue switch-off has begun using a regional approach
in five stages begun in September 2005 and ending in October 2007. A
break in the process occurred between May to November 2006 to prevent
against any adverse impacts on the national elections.
The first three stages of the process have been completed which has resulted in analogue switch-off affecting nearly 50% of the population. However, much work remains as analogue switch-off is not expected in the three largest Swedish cities, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, until later this year.
The analogue switch-off process has been managed by the Digital Switchover Commission. With a small staff and limited budget, its has focused primarily on providing the general public with information on digital switchover. Funding to help purchase DTT receivers for low-income households has been managed by local social services.
The digital dividend
With analogue switch-off expected to be completed by November 2007, the government has started to plan how to re-use the released analogue frequency channels. Already, it announced that a sixth DTT multiplex will be available in the Stockholm area to provide viewers with the Finnish language services of Sverigfinska Riksförbundet. While these services have been available on the terrestrial analogue platform, they had not previously been simulcast on the DTT platform.
The government would like to make efficient use of the spectrum while also making it possible to offer new services such as mobile television and/or HDTV. In order to better understand how to use the available terrestrial frequencies, the government mandated the communications regulator, National Post and Telecom Agency (PTS), to make a study.
In September 2006, PTS delivered its report in which it estimated that at least 189 MHz can be released by analogue switch-off in frequency bands I, III and IV/V. However, it is unlikely that band I will be used for further television services.
As a key recommendation, the PTS supports the allocation of technology- and service-neutral spectrum licenses to allow operators to adapt to continual technological developments and the changing demands of the market. This means allowing for much flexibility for current and future usage.
The PTS also recommends that frequencies be allocated in such a way that provides society with the greatest value, although it has questioned the allocation of frequencies for further standard-definition DTT services. This may serve as an impetus for the provision of HDTV services on the terrestrial platform especially since the public service broadcaster, SVT, already makes its HD services available on the satellite and cable platforms.
Sweden is in a privileged position as one of the first countries in Europe to complete analogue switch-off. It is able to allow its viewers to benefit from new services, such as mobile television and HDTV, within a period of a few years whereas a majority of European countries will need to wait until 2012 when their digital switchover is completed. Serving not only as a model to other countries for the digital switchover process, Sweden may now become a leader in the allocation of the digital dividend.
DigiTAG aims to encourage and facilitate the implementation and introduction of digital terrestrial television services using the Digital Video Broadcasting Project's Standard (DVB-T). It has some 60 members from broadcasting, network operators, regulatory, and manufacturing organisations throughout Europe and beyond.
Visit the DigiTAG website
Please contact the DigiTAG office if you have any news that you would like to include in the next DigiTAG Web Letter.
To unsubscribe from the DigiTAG Web Letter, please click here and put 'UNSUBSCRIBE' in the subject title of your email.
DTT NEWS ROUND-UP
For all articles, please go to DigiTAG News
Finland - Government expected to issue DVB-H programme licenses
The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority is expected to soon issue licenses for the provision of television and radio services on the newly-built DVB-H network.
Programme licenses will not be necessary for broadcasters, such as YLE, providing television content simultaneously on conventional television networks or interactive service providers.
The DVB-H network is managed by Digita.
Source: DM Europe
Germany - 7 million DTT receivers in homes
The DVB-T Taskforce in Germany has announced that over 7 million DTT receivers have been sold with 60% of terrestrial households now accessing DTT services. The roll-out of DTT services in several regions in December has allowed DTT coverage to now reach 75% of the population.
Further DTT launches planned in 2007 include: Lüneburger Heide, Münster, Südwestfalen, Sachsen, Sachsen -Anhalt, Thüringen, Saarland, Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz.
Source: DVB-T Taskforce press release
Switzerland - DTT coverage extended
The region of the Jura, along the border with France, now receives DTT services. Viewers can access four television programme services (TSR1, TSR2, SF1 and TSI1) from the public service broadcaster SRG SSR.
Analogue switch-off in the Jura is expected to take place in the next six months while country-wide analogue switch-off is expected to be completed by the Autumn of 2007. Following switch-off, the broadcast regulator may allow for the introduction of new television programme services on the DTT platform.
United Kingdom - New group formed to support HD/DTT
Manufacturers, retailers and broadcasters on the analogue terrestrial platform have set up the HD for All group. The group will lobby the Government to ensure that frequencies are set aside for HDTV services on the terrestrial platform.
According to the group, it is "important that all television viewers in the UK should have the opportunity to enjoy the UK's free-to-air public service television channels in HD".
Source: DTG website
United Kingdom - DTV penetration reaches 73%
The latest figures published by Ofcom show that by the end of September 2006, 73.3% of households access digital television services on their primary television sets. This is an increase of 3.1% compared with the previous quarter.
In the third quarter of 2006, 1.4 million DTT receivers have been sold of which 556,000 were iDTVs. This is the fifth consecutive quarter that the sales of DTT receivers have surpassed the one million mark. Since the launch of Freeview in October 2002, over 14 million DTT receivers have been sold.
Source: Ofcom website
United States - Only 30% analogue switch-off awareness
According to the latest research conducted by the national broadcaster CBS, just over 30% of the US population is aware of the 18 February 2009 analogue switch-off date.
Of the 30%, however, half had already purchased a digital television while a further 30% planned to do so before February 2009.
In related news, the National Association of Broadcasters, representing more than 8,300 free, local radio and TV stations and broadcast networks, has formed a four-person task force to lead its national digital switchover awareness campaign.
Source: DTG website