The transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting presents governments, broadcasters, regulators and the general public with immense opportunities and challenges. Digital terrestrial broadcasting provides new programmes and interactive multimedia services.
The GE06 plan
A digital broadcasting plan, covering 116 countries is coordinating the allocation of frequencies for Digital TV broadcasting in Europe, Middle-East and Africa. It was agreed for the frequency bands 174–230 MHz and 470–862 MHz at the ITU Regional Radiocommunication Conference (RRC‑06) in Geneva in June 2006. According to this plan (known as the GE06), the latest analogue switch-off date was 17 June 2015 (except for some countries in some frequency bands where the deadline is 17 June 2020). This objective of this Agreement is to prevent harmful interference between the different countries. Digital TV technology allows more efficient use of the frequency spectrum.
The transition to Digital TV can bring a number of benefits such as:
- better quality television services;
- more spectrum efficient and therefore enables the distribution of many more TV channels in the same spectrum.;
- lower protection ratio and therefore less sensitive for interference;
- enables more indoor and mobile reception of TV signals;
- can provide additional services like an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG);
- allows for a single broadcast infrastructure instead of independent parallel networks reducing the cost for all broadcasters as well as the environmental impact.
The transition from analogue TV to digital TV does require investments by:
- broadcasters: transmission infrastructure;
- content providers: studios and content production, in particular if HDTV is desired as well households: set-top box (or a new TV including a digital receiver);
- consumer awareness.
The Government role in the transition from analogue terrestrial UHF TV to digital terrestrial UHF TV is necessary to ensure that:
- households will be protected;
- continuity of terrestrial TV broadcasting service should be secured and the transition should allow for a simulcasting period. Citizens should be well informed of the transition and broad availability of affordable receiving equipment will be required;
- spectrum is used efficiently;
- after analogue switch off the unused spectrum can be reused for broadcasting capacity and/or other services (more TV, mobile TV, mobile services, broadband) benefiting the overall economy;
- sustain a competitive market between the broadcasters;
- support Public broadcasting;
- allow new entrants fair access to the digital broadcasting infrastructure.
After completion of migration to digital transmissions, a number of benefits can be offered to the consumers which include:
- more choice of channels. The amount of programmes available on any platform would increase considerably;
- high quality sound and picture, as well as supporting a wide screen aspect ratio. Digital Television is also available in a number of different definition modes ranging from standard to high definition;
- more services, offering a richer viewing experience. An example of a new service is the Electronic Program Guide (EPG).