This month, the curtain falls on Analog Cable TV, in India. The entire country is to shift to digital CATV from April. Can this genuinely be achieved? It has taken more than 3 years, to install 70 million Cable TV STBs, to date. Compulsory digitisation in DAS..........
TRAI RECOMMENDS DTT
The Indian government has forced all cable TV networks to shut off Analog cable TV transmissions even in the smallest of villages, by 31st March, 2017.
Surprisingly the Government has not dictated any similar discipline by Doordarshan to shut down its 1412 analog TV transmitters that wastefully use precious spectrum.
Digital Terrestrial Transmissions (DTT) offer 5 to 10 times as many TV channels in the same bandwidth. The picture is free of 'ghosts' and DTT can deliver HDTV as well as mobile TV.
DD & DTT
DD has commenced installing DTT (DVB-T2) terrestrial transmitters. 16 DTT transmitters are operational and 3 more are likely to be installed by March 2017.
DD plans to setup another 40 DTT transmitters under the first phase of digitization.
These DTT transmitters are presently broadcasting experimental services comprising of 5 DD TV channels & 2 radio channels targeting static and mobile TV receivers.
DTT in India is still at a nascent stage and a clear DTT roadmap is yet to be formulated.
The TRAI has now taken an initiative to usher in Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) in a phase manner countrywide. The TRAI issued its "Recommendations On Issues related to Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting in India" on January 31, 2017. It has recommended the setting up of 630 DTT transmitters countrywide, with a single Transmitter multiplex.
PRIVATE SECTOR IN DTT
Another key recommendation by the TRAI, for DTT transmissions, is to permit private sector DTT platforms.
Due to the miniscule number of TV channel available terrestrially, viewers currently rely on Cable TV and DTH for their entertainment. To make DTT viable, it must offer a much large bouquet of channels. Bringing the private sector into DTT, will go a long way in attracting viewers to consider the DTT option.
TRAI stated that private participation in DTT will bring in investments, spur innovation through differentiated content. It will also ensure plurality and competition, benefiting the consumers.
MOBILE TV TOO
A DTT transmitter can provide multiple broadcasting services such as SD & HD TV channels, Mobile TV, Radio and other value added services. Even data can be transmitted economically to mobile phones via DTT, to ease mobile telephony bandwidth congestion.
The DTT channels can also be received on mobile phones and handheld devices with help of plug in dongles or integrated tuner chipset.
The TRAI has recommended that each location must have 1 transmitter (8 MHz) dedicated for Mobile TV.
To avoid the mess during compulsory Cable TV digitisation, the TRAI has cautioned that the implementation of DTT will be meaningful only if the necessary ecosystem is created for availability of STBs, mobile phones and integrated TV receivers.
In order to create a supportive ecosystem, the MIB, along with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, may devise policy framework to make available DTT complaint devices, in time for the DTT roll out.
DTT FREQUENCY ALLOCATION
Allocation of spectrum is a key activity, and needs to be carefully planned to ensure optimum utilisation of the frequency spectrum.
TRAI has not recommended specific frequencies for DTT. That task has been left to the Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) Wing in Department of Telecommunications.
However, TRAI has provided the following pointers:
♣ MIB has said that DTT would be implemented in the UHF Bands IV & V (470 MHz to 646 MHz).
♣ The Proposed DTT roll out will require a theoretical frequency span of atleast 168 MHz. In practice a larger band of frequencies will be necessary.
I&B Ministry in consultation of WPC of DoT and other technical agencies such as BECIL should carry out comprehensive frequency planning for roll out of DTT services within 6 months.
A minimum overlap of 3 months for simulcast of Analog + DTT, before analog switch off.
Some of the key recommendations on DTT proposed by the TRAI include:
♣ Private sector players should be permitted to provide DTT services along with Doordarshan.
♣ DD permitted to operate maximum 3 transmitters (8 MHz X 3) at a given location out of which 1 (8 MHz) to be used exclusively used for mobile TV services.
♣ Private broadcasters to operate maximum 4 transmitters (8 MHz X 4) at a given location.
♣ Maximum number of DTT providers be capped at 5 (DD + 4 private broadcasters).
♣ DTT to be implemented with MFN for main transmitters + gap fillers in SFN. This will facilitate provision of local content as well as rich bouquet of services.
♣ DTT to be rolled out in 3 Phases, from 2020 to 2024 when analog terrestrial transmissions will be shut down throughout India.
ACTION BY I&B AWAITED
The TRAI has submitted its detailed recommendations.
It is now upto the I&B ministry to accept and implement any or all of the final recommendations.
Given the public-private sector partnership model proposed by the TRAI for DTT, it would be best if the I&B ministry transparently declares its stand on the TRAI's recommendations, and clearly endorses or rejects the time frames suggested by the regulator. That will permit the private sector to plan its DTT business model and bring much needed resources that are necessary to make Indian DTT a success.