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All systems go for digital TV

Posted on December 19, 2014

THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS regulator has finally cleared the way for the country’s shift to a Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcast (DTTB) system, with the publication in a newspaper yesterday of implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the switch.

The National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) Memorandum Circular No. 07-12-2014 requires broadcast companies to simulcast their digital TV and analog services within a year from grant of authority to provide such service.

Saying that Japan’s Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial (ISDB-T) system “shall be the sole standard in the delivery of DTTB services in the country,” the circular stated that “provisioning of DTTB services shall be allowed upon effectivity of this IRR,” which, in turn, is 15 days from publication or Jan. 1.

The circular also spells out criteria to be used in considering applications for DTTB service provision, general guidelines for the sale of TV sets and set-top boxes, and requires the government to draw up a plan for gradual migration to digital from the existing analog system.

To recall, President Benigno S.C. Aquino III had announced in October last year that the government had chosen Japan’s standard over Europe’s DVB-T2.

Should an analog TV operator be unable to simulcast DTTB, the government will allow other qualified operators to utilize its unused frequency, the circular read.

NTC said that analog operators may implement the DTTB standard anytime during the transition period, provided the viewing public will be advised of such shift at least a month before the start of the new service.

The transition period involves an analog shut-off (ASO) process “wherein DTT and analog services can be simulcast simultaneously”, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba explained in a telephone interview yesterday.

“No analog TV service shall be allowed after the analog shut-off. The ASO shall be reviewed five years after the digital switch to determine which objective targets of the transition plan have been achieved,” the IRR stated.

Mr. Cordoba said total shut-off of analog TV services is targeted “in less than five years from now, starting with networks based in the National Capital Region (NCR).”

Instructions for networks and consumers regarding the ASO will be included in the migration plan, which is targeted to be released “within first half of next year,” Mr. Cordoba said.

The circular said the migration plan will address policy, regulatory and technical issues as well as fiscal considerations, needed industry and consumer support intervention, among others.

“For the migration, we will start off with network companies based here in NCR, as they already have the budget for the shift, while those in provincial areas need more time to get the necessary funding to build infrastructure, so they will just follow after NCR” Mr. Cordoba explained.

Applicants intending to provide digital TV services must have technical and financial capacity to install, operate and maintain a DTTB network, and hold a congressional broadcast franchise in the area it applied for, the circular read.

The circular said “a bandwidth of six megahertz (Mhz) shall be assigned for each authorized DTTB service per service area.” It also allotted the 512-698 Mhz (Channels 21 to 51) frequency bands for DTTB service.

Holders of a congressional broadcast franchise in respective areas will have 60 days from start of IRR implementation to submit their DTTB transition plan.

Officials of the country’s biggest networks had earlier said that they were just waiting for the IRR and migration plan before switching to the new system, saying they have spent billions to upgrade equipment and infrastructure.

Once the new standard is implemented, households will have to buy set-top boxes that will receive digital TV signals, each of which “would cost about P1,000,” NTC’s Mr. Cordoba said by phone. -- Chrisee Jalyssa V. Dela Paz