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.
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The expansion of DVB-T2 in Europe
The benefits of the DVB-T2 standard are unquestionable. Compared with the first-generation DVB-T standard, DVB-T2 provides significantly increased capacity, and robustness gains, allowing for the launch of broadcast services that make the most intensive use of increasingly limited frequency resources. According to the DVB Project, DVB-T2 has already been deployed in 11 countries and adopted in a further 55 countries around the world.
In Europe, countries are in various stages of digital switchover. While several countries are in the nascent stages of DTT deployment, many have completed analogue switch-off. And because of different levels of terrestrial television penetration and acceptance of pay television services, the approach to launching a DTT platform using DVB-T2 will vary across European markets.
As can be expected, countries that have not yet launched a DTT platform can leap-frog the DVB-T standard and immediately implement the DVB-T2 standard. Some of these countries had planned to launch DTT platforms using DVB-T. However, by delaying the launch, they have instead been able to deploy their DTT platforms directly with the DVB-T2 standard. This has been the case in Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and the Ukraine. While these countries will adopt different business models, all will offer at least some free-to-air services.
In Russia, the early stages of DVB-T deployment had already begun when the government decided to adopt the DVB-T2 standard. As a result, regions without any DTT platform will launch using DVB-T2 while the 39 regions that had already introduced DVB-T will simulcast services using DVB-T2.
Strong pay television presence
In the Nordic region, the presence of pay television across all platforms is strong. This has allowed for the introduction of the DVB-T2 standard to be handled by the pay operators who have leveraged the increased capacity gains of the standard to improve their service offering.
In Sweden and Denmark, the pay operator Boxer has artfully combined the DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 AVC standards to increase their service offering without an increase to the number of DTT multiplexes available. While both free-to-air platforms use DVB-T and MPEG-2, the pay platforms use a combination of DVB-T/DVB-T2 and MPEG-2 /MPEG-4 AVC to provide various different service packages. The availability of DVB-T2 has most notably allowed for the introduction of high-definition (HD) services with 4 HD services in Denmark and 9 HD services in Sweden.
Both countries have completed analogue switch-off and the service operator Boxer anticipates that the transition to wholly DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 AVC services could be possible in the medium term. At this stage, DVB-T2 is available in all Boxer set-top box receivers thus limiting the number of DVB-T-only receivers that may need to be converted in the future.
In Finland, pay operators have also taken the lead in the introduction of DVB-T2. All three service providers, Canal Digital, DNA and Plus TV, offer a combination of standard-definition and HD services using the DVB-T2 standard in addition to the standard-definition services available using the DVB-T standard. Currently, DVB-T2 is used to provide one free-to-air HD service, YLE HD, from the public service broadcaster. As in Denmark and Sweden, the remaining services on the free-to-air DTT platform use the DVB-T and MPEG-2 standards.
Countries with low terrestrial penetration
Interest in DVB-T2 has emerged even in countries with a low penetration of terrestrial television services. In these countries, where analogue switch-off has been completed, the DVB-T2 standard provides the opportunity to offer new services, most notably pay-DTT and HD services, which could increase the appeal of the DTT platform.
In Austria, the terrestrial television market share is small and the DTT platform provides only a limited offering of 8 television programme services. By launching a DVB-T2 platform in the first half of 2013 offering between 30-40 television programme services, including some in high-definition, the broadcast network operator hopes to reinvigorate terrestrial television. Similarly, in Belgium, the network operator Norkring is planning to upgrade its network in early 2013 to allow for DVB-T2 services. This could permit the launch of a commercial DTT platform, including payTV and HD services. Currently, the DTT platform only offers services from the public service broadcaster VRT using the DVB-T and MPEG-2 standards.
In Germany, where DTT market penetration has wide regional variations but averages about 12%, the broadcast network operator is optimistic that DVB-T2 could be deployed by commercial broadcasters to augment their DTT service offering. Already, an extensive trial has been undertaken in the northern part of the country and DVB-T2 service parameters have been selected. However, as yet no launch strategy has been formally announced.
Countries with high DTT penetration
At this stage, only the United Kingdom, which has a high percentage of the population (over 50%) relying on the DTT platform, has launched services using the DVB-T2 standard. It has done so in conjunction with analogue switch-off; as regions switch-off their analogue television services, the DVB-T2 platform is launched. The platform offers one multiplex with 4-5 free-to-air HD television programme services in addition to the existing DVB-T platform offering 50 standard-definition television programme services across 5 multiplexes. As of October 2011, over 3 million DVB-T2 receivers had been sold.
In Croatia, where 59% of the population uses the DTT platform, plans are also underway to launch services using DVB-T2. In July, two DVB-T2 multiplexes will launch and these are expected to offer HD content. It is not yet clear if these services will be free-to-air, pay TV or a combination of the two. Like the United Kingdom, Croatia has an existing DTT platform offering free-to-air standard-definition services using the DVB-T and MPEG-2 standards.
In Italy, interest in DVB-T2 is growing. Currently, one pay operator, Europa 7, has launched services using DVB-T2 and the public service broadcaster RAI offers some local DVB-T2 services. Most notably, however, the government approved legislation obliging manufacturers to include DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 AVC technology in DTT receivers as of 2015. Similarly, interest is high in the Czech Republic where the broadcast network operator Ceske Radiokomunikace (CRa) has conducted DVB-T2 trials as it believes that the standard could be used to launch pay-DTT and HD services. However, the CRa fears a lack of support from the national governmental regulator.
Both Croatia and the United Kingdom have benefited from DVB-T2 in order to launch HD services on the DTT platform. However, launching DVB-T2 in France and Spain may be more complicated since both countries already offer free-to-air HD services on the DVB-T platform. A new service proposition is expected to be necessary to encourage the viewers to upgrade to DVB-T2 receivers.
DVB-T2 offers new service opportunities, most notably HD and compelling pay packages, which enable the DTT platform to maintain its competiveness compared with other television delivery platforms. Currently, DVB-T2 has been launched alongside existing DVB-T platforms and not as a replacement service.
However, with telecom operators clamouring for access to existing broadcast frequencies, and with the very real possibility of broadcasters needing to clear their services from the 700 MHz band (the so-called “second digital dividend”) in 2017, it may be necessary for broadcasters to implement DVB-T2 in order to maintain a viable terrestrial television platform.
Yet, for many countries, the prospect of switching off the DVB-T platform is not currently feasible, given that many have only recently finished the analogue switch-off process. Rather, both DVB-T and DVB-T2 platforms will need to co-exist until a sufficiently high number of households convert to DVB-T2. But this will inevitably take some considerable time when the large legacy number of DVB-T receivers (> 200 Million) in Europe is taken into account.
Source: Natalie Mouyal, on behalf of the DigiTAG Project Office, from material including the presentations given at the DigiTAG Workshop (Vienna, 8 & 9 May 2012).
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 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
Italy - DTT penetration reaches 91%
According to the latest information published by DGTVi, DTT penetration has reached 91.5% of households.
This represents a total of 22.8 million households that rely on DTT for their primary television services. An additional 500,000 families adopted the DTT platform since January 2012.
Source: DGTVi newsletter
Hungary - DTT to reach 98% coverage by end of summer
The DTT platform operator Antenna Hungaria has announced plans for a 3D/DTT trial and DTT coverage expansion.
DTT is currently the fastest growing platform in the country. It is used by 1.14 million households of which 300,000 households rely on the free-to-air DTT platform for their primary television services.
Source: Antenna Hungaria website
Thailand - Government officially adopts DVB-T2
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has formally announced that the country will adopt the DVB-T2 standard for its DTT platform.
This announcement follows the cabinet's approval to adopt DVB-T2 as per the recommendation of the NBTC.
Source: Bangkok Post