Shift to digital television seen happening by ‘16

Industry players await decision on PH standard

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12:42 AM March 26th, 2012

By: Paolo G. Montecillo, March 26th, 2012 12:42 AM

MANILA, Philippines—The shift to digital TV broadcasting technology in the country, which would result in better services for millions of households, can still be completed before the end of the Aquino administration, a top government official said.

Once the standard to be used for digital TV in the country is chosen with finality, the shutting off of inefficient analogue signals could take just three years, Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) Deputy Executive Director Monchito Ibrahim said. This is shorter than the previously projected five years.

Ibrahim noted that the use of digital broadcasting would lead to benefits to both consumers and television networks.

“The first benefit is the improvement in the quality of broadcasting. Normal homes can get high-definition content for free with digital TV,” Ibrahim said. “It also allows for interactive broadcasting that can be used in many ways such as conducting surveys or holding contests.”

For the networks, Ibrahim said digital TV would free up significant amounts of radio spectrum that could be used to deliver more content, giving consumers more viewing choices.

He said the ICTO, which is an agency attached to the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), is currently forming a migration plan to digital TV technology for the country.

“President Aquino wants a definite plan that will explain why the country needs this,” Ibrahim said. “There are a lot of issues, chief of which is the cost to consumers.”

Once the controversial issue of what standard to use in the country is resolved, Ibrahim said the biggest challenge would be to convince all homes in the country to spend for the purchase of “set top” boxes—devices that convert digital signals into television images and sounds.

“The goal is to shut off analogue signals in three years,” he said. Once the analogue shut off is complete, television sets without set-top boxes would no longer work.

There are currently two standards competing for the government’s approval: the Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting (ISDB) platform from Japan and the second generation Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB-2) standard from Europe.

The DVB-2 platform is widely recognized as technically superior, but the Japanese standard has been in existence a longer time, which means equipment that supports it is cheaper for both networks and consumers.

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