Thursday, June 9, 2011

News 5 InterAksyon: Technical review stalls issuance of IRR for shift to digital TV

MANILA, Philippines - The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has mandated a review of the standards for the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) broadcast service, and thus will not be able to meet the end-June target for releasing the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the transition to digital broadcasting.
Industry players cannot fully start the shift to digital TV until the IRR is released.
NTC chief Gamaliel Cordoba issued an office order dated May 26 directing the technical committee to re-evaluate the standards for the DTT broadcast service even though it earlier opted to adopt Japan’s Japanese Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting (ISDB) standard.
Japan ’s ISDB-T platform is seen to provide more business opportunities because the bandwidth to be given to digital TV can be used to service mobile phones. Emergency warning broadcasts to households are also possible with this technology.
The Philippine government and Japan, though, have thus far signed no agreement yet on the matter.
Cordoba’s order explained the decision to hold off on the IRR despite the favorable earlier verdict on Japan’s platform by citing the possibly superior European model: “In light of the recent developments in digital television broadcasting, a technical committee is hereby created for the purpose of re-evaluating the standards for DTT. The committee shall be tasked to look into the latest developments in the DTT service, to include the emergence of 2nd generation DTT standards and an update on the prevailing market price of DTT set-top boxes, among others.”
The “latest developments” pertain to the second-generation Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB2) from Europe that other broadcasting firms support.
The committee has been given until June 30 to turn in a written report of its findings. Since the NTC had earlier also targeted end-June for issuing the IRR, that deadline would obviously not be met, officials said.
“The IRR is almost done. We just have to indicate in the IRR the technology that we will adopt. Of course, we can’t issue the rules yet if we haven’t fully decided yet on the technology but the technical aspects are almost done already,” Cordoba said.
Cordoba hoped the IRR can be completed as soon as the technical panel completes its review of the possible shift to the European platform.
Industry players have described DVB2 as superior to Japan’s ISDB. “GMA has been vocal in saying that it prefers the second generation of DVB. TV5 also wrote us stating its support for the review. So, we think that it’s best to explore everything before we decide,” said the NTC chief.
NTC deputy commissioner Carlo Jose Martinez heads the technical review panel, which has as members the representatives from the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), Commission on Information and Communications Technology, NTC, ABC Development Corp., ABS-CBN Corp., Aliw Broadcasting Corp., Broadcast Enterprises and Affiliated Media, Inc., Christian Era Broadcasting Service, Inc., Department of Trade and Industry, Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection, Eagle Broadcasting Corp., and Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc.
Last month, the Television Committee of the KBP prodded the NTC to issue the IRR as soon as possible.
Atom Henares, KBP’s TV committee chairman, had elaborated on the significance of the migration to digital, saying this “will not only give Filipinos a better viewing experience with superior clarity in image and sound, but also more choices on free-to-air tv.”
Free-TV or non-cable households account for 90 percent of the total 17 million TV households in the country. With digital TV, each existing TV frequency in the country can air up to eight free-tv channels each. This means the country could end up with 176 total channels from its existing 22 TV frequencies.
Regulators earlier indicated they will follow Japan’s model of a phased transition. “They started with Tokyo then Osaka and then followed by other major cities. The TWG (technical working group) has yet to identify which cities will start the digital TV shift but maybe we could start with Manila, Cebu, Davao, among others,” NTC’s Martinez said. - Llewelyn Sanchez, dated 08 June 2011, 05:01 PM
Source: News5 InterAksyon

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