TV standard rules may be out in Q1

Posted on January 14, 2014

THE GOVERNMENT could finish the migration plan for the implementation of the Japanese digital television standard as early as this quarter, an official said.

National Telecommunications Commission Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba said in a chance interview yesterday that the technical working group has started drafting the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the new standard.

“Right now we are already putting all together the implementing rules and regulations. We are doing that with all the stakeholders, composed of government agencies, broadcasters, cable operators, and networks,” Mr. Cordoba said.

“We need to thresh out every issue that might come out before we could finish the IRR, which we expect to finish by the first or second quarter of this year,” he explained.

This means that right after the issuance of the migration plan, the implementation of the technology will follow.

The technical working group -- composed of representatives from the government and the networks -- was not able to meet in December to start preparing the IRR.

The migration plan will include equipment pricing, channel planning, and how to implement the transition to the Integrated Service Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial (ISDB-T) standard, among others.

When ISDB-T is fully implemented, consumers will have to buy a digital set-top box -- mainly used to receive digital television signals -- which would cost about P1,000.

But, despite the second quarter deadline, Mr. Cordoba said that the government cannot meet the 2015 implementation deadline announced earlier.

“If we start implementing the new standard in 2013, it will be too short a time for the people to adapt to the new technology by 2015. We have to give them ample time for the shift,” he said.

The official explained that, during the implementation, both digital and analog signals would be available for customers for a certain period of time to aid them in the shift.

“We could easily implement the new technology, but when it comes to the implementation of the analog shut off or ASO we would have to give consideration to the readiness of the consumers,” Mr. Cordoba noted.

President Benigno S. C. Aquino III announced late last year that the country would apply the Japanese standard over the European.

Subsequently, the NTC formally endorsed ISDB-T as the sole standard for digital terrestrial television in the Philippines.

Television networks have been gearing up for the new technology, and some have disclosed investments to this end.

Emmanuel C. Lorenzana, chief executive officer of TV5 operator MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has said that the broadcasting firm will invest P500 million over three to five years for the shift.

ABS-CBN Corp. Chief Financial Officer Rolando P. Valdueza has said that the firm has spent P2 billion for the new technology and expressed interest in a government subsidy.

The company will be spending P1 billion more for the technology over five years, according to a new disclosure.

GMA Network, Inc. earlier said that it has allocated P600 million for the technology.

Experts have said that the Japanese technology is much cheaper to implement and allows for the transmission of larger amounts of data over airwaves, promising cable-TV-quality services for free-to-air TV subscribers.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of MediaQuest, has a majority stake in BusinessWorld. -- Lorenz Christoffer S. Marasigan