Analysis of the digital television market
Bureau Telecommunicatie en Post has chosen the most widely used digital TV standard in the world to be implemented in Curaçao. The system is called Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T). This standard is chosen based on the following criteria:
- Economies of scale: at this moment, the DVB-T and DVB-T2 systems have been adopted or deployed in more than in 140 countries worldwide as the digital broadcasting standard. Similar systems are the ATSC and ISDB-T. ATSC is currently adopted or deployed in 8 countries including the United States, Canada and Mexico. The ISDB-T standard has been adopted or deployed in 14 countries including Japan, Brazil and other South American countries. Due to the extend and availability of the needed technical equipment, the costs for introduction of DVB-T will be substantially lower than the introduction of ATSC or ISDB-T;
- Efficient use of frequency space: the DVB-T system is originally set up to broadcast multiple simultaneous programs through one frequency channel, while ATSC was set up to broadcast one HDTV program on one frequency channel. The DVB-T system was set up from the viewpoint of efficient use of terrestrial frequencies. The DVB-T system is developed to make use of the so-called Single Frequency Network (SFN), where the same frequency is being reused for the broadcasting of the broadcast signal. This is why more than one channel can be broadcasted on the same frequency, which will add to better coverage over the island while having also better reception of the signal by viewers.
Next to SFN, DVB-T offers the possibility for the introduction of a Multi Frequency Network (MFN), where different transmitters transmit on separate frequencies. Each frequency is used for a certain coverage area. However, BT&P decided to not choose this option as it will lead to non-efficient use of the frequency spectrum.
- Technical consideration: the used technology of the DVB-T system (known as ‘COFDM transmission scheme) has initially proven to be more robust than the ATSC-system, so it is better protected against interference. Next, the DVB-T system is more flexible as it is possible to adapt certain technical settings (the system parameters) so that the reception area can be changed and improved. The required signal level for digital television is 20 dB lower than for analogue television. This is why a normal indoor antenna will suffice for homes near a transmitting tower.
- Relevant standards and diversity: The DVB-T system is part of a greater family of standards, of which DVB is used in other platforms. The most important are: DVB-C for cable television, DVB-S for satellite television, DVB-H for mobile television and DVB-IPTV for television over broadband internet. The advantage of this is that changing or communicating between these different platforms is easier and cheaper. Next to the ATSC-system, these standards are also used in the United States. Additionally, the DVB-T system is designed from scratch to have the possibility for reception in different ways, such as portable and mobile devices. Also other aspects as interactivity and data services played an important role in the design and developments of DVB. Meanwhile, these developments have grown into its own standards.
- Market indication: apart from the previous reasons, the introduction of the DVB-T system has been requested by local broadcasters, such as the Antilliaanse Telivisie Maatschappij N.V., and Wireless Telecommunication Network (on Sint-Martin). Reason for this was the technical knowledge is available on the islands and therefore adoption of the system is relatively easy. Pay-Tv by TDS is already using the previous mentioned DVB-C format.
The migration to digital television is planned for 2014-2015 and all television stations will start parallel broadcasting of analog and digital signals. This will make a flexible transition from analog to digital possible. TeleCuracao is one of the leading companies in digital television and is actively transmitting in digital format with three program channels since 2008.
The UHF spectrum, 470-806 MHz, is a valuable spectrum, not only for television services but also upcoming mobile broadband services. The upper part of the band, 698-806 MHz, is seen as the ‘Digital Dividend’ part and is already being used for LTE mobile broadband services in the United States. The need for more spectrum is high, especially in the lower bands with good coverage like UHF. In the Unites Stated the FCC is planning to scrape 120 MHz off the UHF band for spectrum efficiency in the digital television market and assign it to mobile broadband. Also other parties and applications, and experiments with White Spaces, want to use this band.
In Curacao there is no scarcity in the UHF band yet, but still must use the spectrum efficiently. The DVB-T standard provides big efficiency and quality improvements. The space of one analog television channel can be used for 6-10 digital channels. The newer DVB-T2 standard adds up to this and is even more efficient and provides even more quality improvements. In the future, a further extension to DVB-T2 is therefore a logical step. DVB-T is now even being considered as the next standard for ATSC 3.0 in the United States.
From a technical viewpoint, it is essential that the transmitters in the DVB-T network are one the same locations. The whole network architecture and configuration is described in a technical policy document DVB-T Implementation Plan: Transmission system.
In many countries a single digital broadcast infrastructure is developed, also from the viewpoint of cost efficiency. This requires a different approach on television broadcast authorizations where the production of program content and technical distribution of channels are split. The technical infrastructure of broadcasting will be a ‘shared infrastructure’, which all broadcasters/program content providers can use. Possible constructions for a shared broadcast infrastructure are drawn in the document DVB-T Network Tender: Information, planning and procedures.