Web Letter

July 2009

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.


The European Commission and the digital dividend

On 10 July, the European Commission issued a consultation document on the opportunities available from the "digital dividend" (1). According to the Commission, the digital dividend can provide social benefits and economic growth in Europe if used wisely. It calls for the allocation of the digital dividend for new wireless services, such as next-generation mobile broadband, and the implementation of a European Union Roadmap based on the actions proposed in the consultation document.

The Commission's proposals are based on its previous communications issued between 2005 and 2007, extensive consultations with stake-holders, input from the CEPT, and the results of a study on the social and economic impact of the potential uses of the digital dividend. An overview of the study, including the results of the different digital dividend allocation scenarios, can be found on the website of Analysys Mason.

Accelerating analogue switch-off by 2012

As an urgent action, the European Commission is calling on Member-States to reaffirm their commitment to completing analogue switch-off by 1 January 2012. It requests that Member-States confirm the switch-off date in national law if they have not already done so.

At this stage, all Member-States, apart from Poland, appear to have confirmed their intention to complete analogue switch-off by 2012. Already, the process have been completed by 5 Member-States (Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden) while a further 8 Member-States (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom) have begun switching off analogue services in one or more areas. It is expected that these countries will be able to complete analogue switch-off by 2012, if not earlier.

However, while all EU Member-States appear to have committed to reaching the European Commission's recommended 2012 deadline for the completion of analogue switch-off, it is unlikely that all will be able to do so in practice.

Member States that have not yet launched DTT services will have more difficulty in reaching a sufficiently high level of penetration to allow for analogue switch-off by 2012. Currently, 7 Member-States (Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia) have not yet launched official DTT services. Of these, only three (Bulgaria, Latvia, Poland) have made plans to launch services by the end of 2009.

Harmonizing the use of the 800 MHz band

As an urgent action, the European Commission is calling on all Member-States to refrain from any regulatory action regarding the use of the frequencies from 790 - 862 MHz. Instead, the Commission would like to allow for the technical harmonization of these frequencies across Europe for the purpose of electronic communication services which it believes can contribute to the European Union's economic recovery plans. It suggests that harmonization will allow for Member-States to benefit from economies of scale and prevent market fragmentation.

As a longer term action, the Commission is proposing to establish technical measures to make these frequencies available for low to medium power electronic communications networks across Europe. As a further measure, the Commission is considering to require Member-States to implement the harmonization by a certain date. It is also calling on all Member-States that have not already done so to provide mobile services with a co-primary status in the 790 – 862 MHz frequency band within the ITU Radio Regulations. By doing so, mobile services would have equal status as broadcast services and could be operated in frequencies which were planned for digital television in 2006. While the Commission calls for the allocation of these frequencies using the principles of technology and service neutrality, it notes that making the digital dividend available for wireless broadband services could create an added value of €3 - 97 billion.

Already, 7 Member-States (Finland, France, Germany, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) have announced plans to make the frequencies 790 - 862 MHz available for mobile services while a further 5 Member-States (Czech Republic, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia) are considering a similar allocation. However, migrating broadcast services from these frequencies into frequencies located in lower parts of the band will require significant resources. In the case of Spain, changes will need to be made to 4,000 broadcast transmitters and will require significant frequency coordination with neighboring countries in northern Africa.

Improving the consumer's DTT experience

According to the Commission, viewers' television experience can be improved through the use of more efficient transmission systems. In addition, increasing digital compression capacity would bring a benefit of €4 - 10 billion. While it is not clear how the benefit would be generated, it could be assumed that the released capacity would be allocated to non-broadcast service providers.

In order to facilitate the transition towards MPEG-4 AVC compression technology, the Commission proposes its inclusion in all DTT receivers sold after 1 January 2012. It estimates that DTT receivers are replaced every 5 to 8 years, at which time a migration to MPEG-4 AVC could be envisioned.

The Commission also proposes the development of new standards that provide improved interference protection for DTT services against adjacent channel mobile services. By doing so, viewers will be guaranteed a minimum quality of reception, and non-broadcast service providers using the adjacent frequency channels will be able to reduce the cost of interference protection measures.

Increasing the size of the digital dividend

The Commission proposes that Member-States increase the size of the digital dividend through the more efficient use of spectrum. To make this possible, the Commission proposes three actions.

• first, Member-States should coordinate future broadcasting network deployment plans and migrate to more frequency efficient technology such as MPEG-4 AVC and DVB-T2,
• second, Member-States should consider the use of Single Frequency Networks (SFNs) when possible as well as the progressive migration towards lower power and dense frequency networks, and,
• third, Member-States should support research into "frequency agile" mobile communications systems in order to simplify spectrum coordination and allow for easier transitional arrangements in the future.

Other proposed actions

The Commission has proposed further actions that should be taken including:

• the adoption of a common position on the potential use of “white spaces”,
• the continuity and further development of wireless microphones applications and other secondary uses of UHF frequencies,
• more effective cross-border coordination with non-EU countries, and,
• monitoring external market developments such as the uptake of HDTV services and broadband wireless services, the pace of introduction for new technology, and the possible synergies with other regions of the world.

Next steps

The Commission is inviting all interested parties to respond to the consultation by 4 September. These views will be taken into consideration when the Commission develops its formal position on the digital dividend this autumn. The Commission also plans to submit a spectrum action program to the European Parliament and Council in early 2010.


(1) The European Commission defines the digital dividend as the "significant amount of high quality radio spectrum which will be free for the deployment of new services" as a result of digital switchover.


Source: Natalie Mouyal, DigiTAG Project Office

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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.
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Italy - 41% DTT household penetration

At the end of April, 8.7 million television households relied on the DTT platform for access to their primary television services in Italy.

A total of 14.5 million DTT receivers have been sold since the launch of DTT services in early 2004.

Source: DGTVi news letter

France - Government publishes ASO roadmap

The Prime Minister, together with the Strategic Committee on Digitalisation (CSN), published the roadmap for analogue switch-off and confirmed that the process will be completed by 30 November 2011.

The process will officially begin on 2 February 2010 when 14 regions complete analogue switch-off. The regions have been based on the regional services of France 3.

Source: Prime Minister's website

Poland - Government publishes draft DSO plan

The Ministry of Infrastructure has published a draft plan for digital switchover. The plan calls for the launch of DTT services on 20 September 2009.

Services will roll-out in further areas on by 31 March 2010 and reach full population coverage by 31 July 2011. Analogue switch-off will commence on 30 June 2011 and be completed on 31 July 2013.

Source: Ministry of Infrastructre website

Slovakia - Three bids submitted for DTT licenses

The Telecommunications Office (TU SR) has published the names of the three companies that have tendered for two available licenses to operate DTT platforms.

The first license is for the operation of the multiplex providing free-to-air services while the second license is for the operation of two multiplexes providing commercial services.

The free-to-air multiplex must use the DVB-T standard while the commercial multiplexes could use the DVB-T2 specification. No requirement regarding the compression techology has been made by the regulator.

Source: TU SR website

Spain - DTT penetration reaches 61.5%

According to the latest information published by Impulsa TDT, DTT penetration has reached 61.5% of all television households. DTT services are availble to 95% of the population.

In the first five months of 2009, a total of 3.8 million DTT receivers have already been sold.

Source: Impulsa TDT newsletter

United Kingdom - Nationwide DTT re-tune on 30 September

Freeview viewers will need to retune their receivers on 30 September in order to continue accessing services. Changes will be made to multiplexes to allow for the universal availability of Channel 5 and the launch of Freeview HD.

To inform viewers about the need to retune their receivers, Freeview will launch its "Remember to Retune" campaign in early September. On screen messages will appear on BBC channels, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, supported by press advertisements.

Source: Freeview website

Norway - Government decides against launch of a second pay-DTT operator

The government has decided that the DTT platform operator Norges Televisjon (NTV) will not be required to provide capacity for a second pay-DTT operator. Currently, only Riks TV provides pay-DTT services.

Following the completion of analogue switch-off in December, NTV will roll-out two additional DTT multiplexes. Already, three multiplexes provide DTT services, one of which is reserved for free-to-air services.

Source: Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs

Ireland - September launch of DTT services delayed

The public service broadcaster RTE has stated that it will not launch its DTT platform in September as initially planned. Rather RTE will launch its services alongside those on the commercial DTT platform.

Initially, the commercial DTT platform had been set to launch in September. However, since One Vision was only allocated the DTT license in May, it will not be ready for a September launch.

Source: The Independent

United States - $1.5 billion spent on STB coupon programme

The government's coupon programme which provided viewers access to 2 coupons each worth $40 to use towards the purchase of DTT set-top boxes will end on 30 July.

The program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, has provided a total of $1.5 billion in subsidies. A total of 34.4 million households received benefited from the coupon programme.

Source: TVB