Friday, June 8, 2007

2006: first country ends analog television

The Netherlands ended transmission of "free to air" analog television in December 2006, becoming the first nation to switch completely to digital signals.

Few Dutch consumers noticed, because the overwhelming majority get TV via cable. Only around 74,000 households relied primarily on the old-fashioned TV antennas in the country of 16 million, although 220,000 people had an "occasional use" set somewhere such as in a vacation house, camper or boat.

Digital television has several advantages over traditional analog TV, the most significant being that digital channels take up less bandwidth space. This means that digital broadcasters can provide more digital channels in the same space, provide High-Definition digital service, or provide other non-television services such as pay-multimedia services or interactive services. Digital television also permits special services such as multicasting (more than one program on the same channel) and electronic program guides. The sale of non-television services may provide an additional revenue source. As well, digital television often has a superior image, improved audio quality, and better reception than analog.

The bandwidth formerly used by analog has been licensed through 2017 by former telecommunications monopoly Royal KPN NV, which will use it to broadcast digital television.

Under its agreement with the government, KPN bore the cost of building digital broadcasting antennas and must continue to broadcast three state-supported channels and several regional public broadcasters free of charge. In return, it can use the rest of the open bandwidth to charge around $18.50 a month for a package of other channels that is comparable with cable.

Whether customers opt for just the free channels or a full cable-like package, they must first buy a tuner to decode the new "digital terrestrial" signals, available for around $66.50.

In the United States, television broadcasts will be exclusively digital as of February 17, 2009. The government will subsidize the purchase of digital adapters for use with older analog televisions. It is expected that the adapters will cost between $60 and $100, and each family can get two $40 payments from the Feds. The Feds are supposed to get the money back when they sell the transmission channels that had been used for analog TV, to cellphone carriers and other companies. (some info from The Associated Press and Wikipedia)

No comments: