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January 2018

DD SHUTS ANALOG TV TRANSMITTERS


On 31 Dec 2017, Doordarshan Shut Off Analog Terrestrial Transmissions In 19 Cities.


The Indian government is finally doing its bit to migrate from analog to digital TV.

The world over, analog terrestrial TV transmissions are the first to be shut down and shifted to Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT). This has begun happening in India, several years after privately owned cable TV networks in these cities were forced to migrate to digital.

Doordarshan operates network of 1412 analogue terrestrial TV transmitters in India, serving about 88% of the population. Currently Doordarshan operates 31 TV channels.

Each analog terrestrial transmitter can broadcast only a single TV channel. A single Digital Terrestrial Transmitter (DTT) can simultaneously broadcast 10 or more digital channels.

Hence DTT can provide much better reach for DD's multiple channels, which are currently widely distributed via the FreeDish DTH platform operated by Doordarshan.


NO COMMITTED SCHEDULE

On September 29, 2017 the Prasar Bharti board said that it an 'in-principle approval' had been obtained to migrate to DTT in a phased matter. However no specific time time table was committed.

Neither has there been a widely publicised DTT migration plan, by the national broadcaster. The homes receiving these broadcasts are in for a rude shock, as DTT STBs that are essential for receiving Doordarshan's new DTT transmissions are not widely available locally, nor have consumers been made aware of the new hardware required.







DECEMBER ANNOUNCEMENT

Speaking at the CII BIG Picture Summit, in December 2017, CEO Shashi S. Vempati declared "In 19 cities, we already have digital terrestrial transmitters and in those cities by the end of this month we would shut down analogue (terrestrial t r a n s m i s s i o n s ) completely."

"World over, broadcasters have moved from analogue to digital. We were the laggards. Last week, we finally took the call to retire analogue terrestrial transmitters," Mr. Vempati admitted. "We will figure out the pace," he added, referring to the shut down of additional analog terrestrial transmitters.

The Prasar Bharti CEO's statements confirm, not only the abrupt implementation, but also the lack of a well-planned transition to DTT.


PHASE II

In the second phase, the plan it to move another 44 cities to digital terrestrial transmission in a couple of years.


A DTT STB Is Required For Reception


DTT STB MUST

India has adopted the European DVB standard for all Digital TV transmissions. Besides Europe, these standards have been adopted in Australia, South Africa, Russia and many Asian Countries.

For DTT, India has adopted the new, DVB T2 standard.

Reception of DD DTT requires the use of DVB T-2 STBs that can receive Free To Air (FTA) transmissions, along with a terrestrial antenna.

While DD has provided contact details of a few vendors that retail these boxes, they are not widely available.

Some integrated Digital TV sets (iDTV) are available in market, that have in-built STBs or a DVBT2 tuner.


CURRENT DTT TRANSMISSIONS

DD has set up DTT transmitters in 19 Cities, detailed in Table -1.

In these 19 cities, DD DTT will broadcast 5 SD channels viz: DD National, DD News, DD Sports, DD Bharati and one Regional channel. Some states either do not have their own regional channels or provide only 3 to 4 hrs of regional content. In such cities like Delhi, Ranchi and Raipur, DD Kisan will be relayed and at Guwahati, the DD-North East service will be relayed.


5 SD + 1 HD Channel In The 4 Metros


HD TOO

One additional HD channel is available in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.


RANGE

The signal from DTT Transmitters is available up to about 60-70 Km using indoor/ outdoor antenna and upto 25-30 Km on mobile devices (cars & mobile phones).

Mobile devices have reported poor, and uneven reception in several places due to signals being blocked by buildings. DD has promised Gap fillers for smooth coverage, but none of these are installed to date.


PRIVATE CHANNELS TOO?

DD DTT has been exploring the option of auctioning DTT slots to private broadcasters like Zee, Star and others, as it currently does for its FreeDish platform. The matter had been referred to IIM Ahmedabad more than a year ago, for a business plan. No recommendation or decision has been made public.

"We are doing the exercise on what is the market potential and what is the consumer interest so that we could invite others to put their contents," Vempati said.

TRAI has already given us recommendation of opening up of digital terrestrial (transmission) to the private sector, he added.


DTT Is A Solution Of Little Use To TV Homes


POOR DEMAND?

Doordarshan's channels are 'Must carry' on all Cable TV and DTH platforms. These platforms extensively cover urban areas, and almost no one in these urban areas receive DD terrestrial transmissions. They are unlikely to buy an install and un-necessary DTT receiver.

Further, FreeDish covers the country with FTA satellite transmissions of these same channels. Rural viewers have installed more than 20 million MPEG-2 satellite receivers to receive these and other TV channels on the Ku band FTA platform. These rural viewers are also most unlikely to switch to DTT, as FreeDish offers a much larger choice of channels.

Hence, at least for now, DTT transmissions and the analog switch terrestrial off is likely to go mainly un-noticed.

Even if private sector channels are added to the DTT bouquet, the DTT channel count will be far smaller than the 100+ channels on FreeDish.

It does seem that DD's DTT will remain a technical statement, of little use to TV homes in the country. n