Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Business Insight Malaya: Digital TV migration system still hangs in the balance

Five years from now, the Philippines expects to migrate from analog to digital terrestrial television (DTT) which will bring major changes in the television landscape. This will require all Filipinos to buy the digital ready television or set top boxes to allow them use their TV.
The DTT allows the broadcast network to deliver multiple programs on single channel, using one transmitter, so consumers can watch the programs earlier aired at their own time. This will also pave the way for the introduction of the mobile TV services, allowing users to watch their TV program via phone.
The Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT) has given the signal to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to meet the technical working group (TWG) composed of stakeholders of the television broadcast industry, including the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), for the formulation of the implementing rules and regulation for DTT.
In an interview, Gamaliel Cordoba, NTC commissioner, said that they are looking at 2015 or 2016 as the migration period for DTT. The IRR is likely to be issued in April this year.
Although the NTC has chosen the Japan’s Integrated Services Digital Broadcast-Terrestrial (ISDB-T) as the country’s standard for DTT under Memorandum Circular No. 02-06-2010 issued last year, the telecom regulator has yet to sign the contract with the Japan, Cordoba said.
"We don’t have yet formal agreement with the Japanese," Cordoba said. The Japanese proponent plans to put up a manufacturing plant for set up boxes which will give employment to Filipinos.
Aside from the technical support and expertise and the proposed construction of manufacturing plant for set up boxes, Cordoba said that they also want to ask financial assistance from the Japanese government for the roll out of DTT.
For now, Cordoba said that they want to pursue the Japanese standard but they want to add new terms in the proposed MOU.
Japan standard over the European
In an exclusive interview with Motohiko Kato, deputy and chief of mission of the Embassy of Japan, explained the advantages of the Japanese standard over the European standard.
Among the advantages, he said, are the efficient frequency utilitization and mobile TV services, emergency warning broadcasting system, cheap prices of set top box, wider coverage area and clear image. The royalty is also free, Kato said.
He explained that once the Japanese standard is finally chosen, it will be easier for the broadcast firm to roll out mobile television services using the same transmitter in digital TV, unlike with the European system where the broadcast network would need to set up another transmitter for mobile TV.
The mobile TV services is expected to become a huge potential business opportunity for the telecom and broadcast firms. "Mobile is a huge potential to create a lot of new business and services," Kato added.
The proposed price of a set up box is pegged at $ 10 per box under the Japanese system. Kato said the price is expected to become even lower when the demand for the product is high and there’s a lot of competition in the market.
"We’re not expecting the kind of revenues (from royalty fee). It’s a kind of national pride if our system will be used, we’re quite happy. Of course Japan will also bring business opportunities to other countries like Korea, China," he said.
Japan will also send technical expertise and invite Filipino technicians to study in their country. They are also ready to provide the necessary equipment for the migration, but the subsidy should come from the Philippine government, Kato said.
Japan’s full migration to DTT is scheduled in July this year.
Kato added that the Japanese system coverage is 20 percent better than the European. Among the countries using the Japan system include Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Venezuela, Chile, and Brazil.
But globally, the European system is more widely used. It is used by more than 120 countries, of which 21 are European countries. In Asia those using the European system include Sri Lanka, India and Taiwan.
Broadcast Industry feedback
The country’s three broadcast firms are ready to migrate to digital terrestrial television anytime. GMA network said it would spend up to P600 million for the migration and ABS-CBN about P1 billion. TV5 has yet to disclose its investment on DTT but it said that it is ready any time it is given the go-signal to roll out.
Ray Espinosa, ABC Broadcasting Corp. president, said that their technology is "neutral" on whatever system is eventually adopted. A more serious concern, he said, are the consumers who will have to pay for the set top boxes
"We have to think of the consumers, because television is public service. they have to take into account the consumers," Espinosa said. - Myla Iglesias, dated 1 March 2011.
Source: Business Insight Malaya

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