NTC wants digital TV service launched in key cities by 2012

By Lenie Lectura, Business Mirror

Posted at Feb 25 2011 12:55 AM | Updated as of Feb 25 2011 07:10 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) targets by next year the implementation of digital television service, starting with select key cities in the country.

The regulator wants the shift to be implemented it in phases, the same way Japan did, said NTC deputy commissioner Carlo Jose Martinez.

“We plan to follow Japan’s model. They started with Tokyo then Osaka and then followed by other major cities. The TWG (technical working group) has yet to identify which cities will start the digital TV shift but maybe we could start with Manila, Cebu, Davao, among others,” he said.

The Philippines is going to adapt Japan’s Integrated Services Digital Broadcast (ISDB) technology as the standard for digital TV. The TWG is currently working on the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) broadcast service in the country.

“The IRR will be finished in 60 to 90 days. We may implement digital TV this year or next year but we are not yet going to switch off analog TV yet. We will introduce digital TV [service] in major cities first,” said Martinez.

This means that broadcasting firms can still transmit analog TV service while digital TV is being implemented in other areas. The NTC official said as soon as compliance rate has reached 85% then the government will consider terminating all analog TV broadcast transmissions.

Martinez could not provide the timetable for the analog TV broadcast termination but said it won’t be soon—or not in 2015 which is the year previously identified by the NTC administration.

“Japan was able to shut off its analog [broadcasts] after nine to 10 years upon introduction of digital TV. So it would probably be the same here. The consumers will be our basis as to when the shutdown will take effect,” added the NTC official.

When DTT technology is enforced in the country there is a need to switch off all analog TV handsets. The switchoff would render all non-digital TV sets obsolete unless connected to a set-top box, which could cost $10 each.

Depending on the demand, Japan is willing to manufacture set-top boxes here so these could be sold at cheaper prices. At the same time, this could provide job opportunities to Filipinos.

The TWG is composed of members from the broadcast industry and stakeholders such as the government, suppliers and consumers.

Japan’s ISDB-T platform is expected to provide more business opportunities because the bandwidth that will be assigned for digital TV can also be used to service mobile phones. The technology is also capable of sending emergency warning broadcasts to households.