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Digital switchover progress in Portugal
The economic woes in Portugal have not spared its broadcast industry. As part of its bailout plan, the government has proposed the privatization of one channel belonging to the public service broadcaster Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP). And with the economy expected to contract by 1.9% in 2011 and 2.8% in 2012, many of the pay television operators and broadcasters expect a decline in revenue. Yet, despite this economic situation, analogue switch-off is progressing without difficulty.
The digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform launched on 29 April 2009 and currently offers viewers access to free-to-air television programme services from one multiplex. Analogue switch-off is set to begin on 12 January 2012 and to be finalized on 26 April 2012. Already, three analogue switch-off pilots have taken place to allow the communications regulator Anacom and broadcast industry better assess the challenges facing viewers during the process.
The terrestrial platform is used as the primary source for television services by approximately 36% of the 3.9 million households in Portugal. The number of primary terrestrial television households has been decreasing in recent years; for example, it accounted for 65% of households in 2008. However, with the economic difficulties facing the country, it is possible that some households may consider renouncing their pay television subscriptions in favour of free-to-air services.
Launching the DTT platform
This multiplex is operated by the broadcast network operator Portugal Telecom (PT). Coverage is available to 87% of the population while the remaining 13% of the population will access free-to-view television services from satellite. The cost of operating the multiplex is currently the subject of a consultation that Anacom launched in October. In its consultation, Anacom is calling for PT to reduce the costs to broadcasters by a minimum of 38%. Responses must be received by 14 November.
Five further multiplexes were also initially available. The license to operate these multiplexes had been allocated to PT for the launch of commercial services. However, Anacom revoked this license in February 2010 since PT failed to launch its commercial DTT platform by the 31 January 2010 deadline. Because of the unfavourable market conditions, PT had requested a change in the terms of its license agreement.
However, in preparation for analogue switch-off, extensive planning has taken place, most notably with the three analogue switch-off pilots that occurred in 2011. These pilots took place in the region of Alenquer on 21 May followed by the region of Cacém on 16 June and the regions of Nazaré and Alcobaça on 13 October. These regions were selected due to their small size (population of less than 150,000 residents), the availability of the DTT platform for at least 1 year and a topography that does not allow for an analogue signal to be received from other transmission sites.
The experience in these pilot areas has been rather positive. In the regions of Nazaré and Alcobaça, 99% of households were aware of switch-off two weeks beforehand while 90% of households were already prepared. The information made available, including publicity in local shops, information sessions, brochures mailed to homes, advertisements, a call centre and website, proved sufficient.
Greater difficulty, however, arose among the households that would lose analogue terrestrial services but would not be able to access services from the DTT platform and instead needed to move to satellite reception. In the two weeks prior to analogue switch-off in Famalicão and Alfeizerão, only 30% of households were aware of the need for satellite reception. As a result, Anacom increased its communication efforts with these households and mailed an information brochure.
Reports also emerged that some pay television operators in the region of Alenquer were informing viewers that they would need to subscribe to a pay service in order to continue receiving television services after the completion of analogue switch-off. As a result, Anacom issued a resolution making it illegal to provide misleading information about analogue switch-off
The DTT multiplex operator PT, as part of its license obligations, will provide support to low-income households and viewers with special needs. Qualifying households can receive a reimbursement of up to 50% of the total cost of their DTT receiver. In addition, Anacom signed an agreement with the consumer protection association, DECO, for the testing of DTT receivers. DECO undertakes comparative tests of DTT receivers, including their cost and power consumption, and makes the results available on both the DECO and ANACOM websites.
Discussions were held in early September proposing to delay the analogue switch-off process by approximately six months. However, the process is deemed sufficiently successful in order to move ahead as planned and allow Portugal to meet its target of completing analogue switch-off in 2012.
Source: Natalie Mouyal, on behalf of the DigiTAG Project Office
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 50 members from broadcasting, network operators, regulatory, and manufacturing organisations throughout Europe and beyond.
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DTT NEWS ROUND-UP
For access to the full articles archive, please go to DigiTAG News
Agreement on RSPP nears
An informal compromise between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers on the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) has been agreed.
Members of Parliament on the Industry, Research and Energy Committee have negotiated the agreement which was approved by the Council of Ministers.
Source: European Parliament website
United Kingdom - 3.1 million HD/DTT receivers sold
The DTT promotions organisation Freeview has reported that 3.1 million Freeview HD (HD/DTT) receivers have been sold in the United Kingdom as of the end of September.
This represents 20% of all households that only rely on the DTT platform for their television reception. Of the receivers sold, 90% are integrated television sets.
Source: Freeview website
Poland - TVP 1 and TVP2 to launch HD/DTT services
The public service broadcaster TVP has announced plans to launch two HD television programme services on the DTT platform.
These services will be launched on 1 June 2012, in time for the UEFA Euro 2012 Football Championship and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
Source: TVP website
France - CSA suspends 4G trial during weekend
It has been reported that the broadcast regulator CSA specifically requested an end to the 4G trial currently underway in the region of Laval during the weekend of 15/16 October.
According to the regulator, the trial causes sufficient interference to the television services of approximately 300-400 viewers. Because of the number of television viewers was expected to be particularly high due to the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup, the CSA preferred to suspend the trial over the weekend.
Source: Les Echos
Czech Republic - DTT coverage reaches 100%
In its report on digital switchover progress, the communications regulator CTU noted that the transition is progressing according to plan as of 30 September 2011.
DTT coverage has reached 100% of the population for the first multiplex 95% of the population for the second multiplex and 91% of the population for the third multiplex. The fourth multiplex has a coverage of 23% of the population and is used primarily for new services.
Source: Telecom Paper
France - CSA opens tender for 6 HD/DTT licenses
The CSA has opened the tender for six licenses on the DTT platform. These new services will be available in high-definition (HD) using the DVB-T and MPEG-4 AVC standards.
Two new multiplexes, R7 and R8, will be launched to accommodate these six new services. Roll-out of these multiplexes is expected to be rapid with a 25% population coverage by Autumn 2012 (availability in the cities of Paris, Marseille, and Bordeaux). Coverage must reach 95% of the population by 2014.
Source: CSA website
Ukraine - Zeonbud to offer DTT services free-to-view
The DTT platform operator Zeonbud has announced plans to encrypt its DTT services. However, the services will be available free-to-view.
This decision has been criticized within the Ukrainian broadcast industry with experts noting that it could encourage piracy since many conditional access systems can be cracked. However, it will allow Zeonbud to offer some its content for payment.
Source: Broadband TV News
DTT tuner for iPad2
The manufacturer Elgato has announced the launch of its DVB-T tuner for the iPad2, called EyeTV Mobile. This device allows the user to watch television from the DTT platform on their iPad2 device.
EyeTV Mobile allows the viewer to watch, rewind and record over 8 hours of television. It also includes a 7-day electronic programme guide (EPG).
Source: Elgato website