MANILA, Philippines - The Japanese government is offering to manufacture set top boxes locally to supply the country’s needs once it transitions from analog to digital television (DTV) broadcasting, in a bid to convince government authorities to choose the Japanese DTV platform over the European standard.
National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) deputy commissioner Douglas Michael Mallillin said that the Japanese government has already lowered the cost of set top boxes from around $40 to $11.
The Europeans, on the one hand, have offered set top boxes that cost between $13 and $14.
Mallillin said the Japanese have made a commitment that if the Japanese standard is to be awarded, they will set up a factory here in the Philippines to manufacture set-top boxes
He estimated that set top boxes costing around P500 for over 14 million households nationwide will be produced in the Philippines, resulting to more jobs for Filipinos.
Mallillin added that if the Japanese firm up their offer and local broadcasting companies prefer the Japanese DTV technology, then the government will adopt the Japanese standard‘s ISDB-T.
Transitioning from analog to digital TV will take five years from the selection of platform. “If we choose the standard this year, give it five years and we will switch off at 2015,” he said.
Mallillin concluded that once the standard has been selected, TV manufacturers will stop producing analog TVs.
DTV is an advanced broadcasting technology that promises to transform television viewing experience. It has enabled broadcasters to offer television with better picture and sound quality. The technology also offers multiple programming choices, called multicasting, and interactive capabilities.
Multicasting allows broadcast stations to offer several channels of digital programming at the same time, using the same amount of spectrum required for one analog program. So, for example, while a station broadcasting in analog on channel 7 is only able to offer viewers one program, a station broadcasting in digital on channel 7 can offer viewers one digital program on channel 7-1, a second digital program on channel 7-2, a third digital program on channel 7-3, and so on. This means more programming choices for viewers. Further, DTV provides interactive video and data services that were not possible with analog technology.
In the US, all full power TV stations were required to have broadcast over-the-air signals in digital only beginning last June 12, 2009.
An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum.
Aside from offering lower priced digital set-top boxes, the Japanese are also offering financial and technical assistance to make the deal sweeter.
Japanese officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) held a seminar and exhibition in Ortigas Center, Pasig City on Thursday to promote the advantages of the Japan’s over European and American Systems.
The Japanese Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial (ISDB-T) system was able to attract more users faster in its five-year existence at 97.7 million, compared to the 79.1-million users of the American standard (ATSC) and Europe DVB-T’s 81 million, according to Hideo Fuseda, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Commission director for digital broadcasting technology, told reporters.
Both the American and the European platforms had been in existence for 10 years now.“We are willing to support DTV (digital TV) implementation in the Philippines. We could provide financial and technical assistance,” Fuseda earlier said.
Japan’s ISDB-T had excellent reception, offering more channels, Fuseda claimed. Under the system, it is claimed that mobile and fixed broadcasting are available in one channel and a single transmitter, unlike European and American systems which require separate transmitters for fixed and mobile devices.
He added that the Japanese system has an emergency warning broadcasting system, helping warn citizens of any disaster in fixed devices or televisions at home. Its American and European counterparts have no such features.
Besides Japan, Brazil has also adopted the ISDB-T.
According to the Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT) to which the NTC reports, it has yet to firm up the policy requiring the migration to DTV, with the government still deciding on the standard of data transmission.
“We are at the evaluation stage. We are deciding between the European and the Japanese standards for digital television boxes. The technology is comparable. It’s just a matter of seeing what’s more comparable to our systems and standards,” CICT head Ray Anthony Roxas Chua said.
He added that prices of digital television boxes are going down and the units could eventually become affordable for the consumer.
“Digital television is very important (to be implemented) so we can free up the spectrum,” Chua pointed out.
DTV was originally planned to be launched in 2006 when the NTC released a memorandum circular that asked television stations to broadcast over digital systems.
The government had adopted the European standard but has reconsidered the decision. Under the schedule, analog television would be phased out by 2015.
Broadcasting companies have begun test broadcasts over digital systems but not all applications for digital TV has been approved by the NTC.
Several countries around the world have shifted to digital TV.
GMA Network chairman, president and CEO Felipe Gozon said that their equipment is ready for transition to digital broadcasting. - Mary Ann Ll. Reyes, dated 24 March 2010, 12:00 AM.