Australia ready for digital TV switchover: NEC

Balanced approach to the use of the Digital Dividend now needed

The switching off of Australia’s analogue TV is scheduled to commence on 30 June, but Australia is ready for digital, the company responsible for delivering driving digital television terrestrial signals, NEC, says.

Speaking to Computerworld Australia NEC Australia Group Manager, Broadcast and Media, David Cooke, said despite findings from the Digital Tracker in February, that two out five Australian households are yet to convert to digital television, the switching off of analogue signals should not be postponed.

“NEC believes Australian consumers and society more generally achieve a greater gain through timely completion of the switchover,” he said. “Consumers receive higher quality and more content, society receives an upside in alternative use of spectrum.

“The [Q1 2010 Digital Tracker report] suggests that consumers such as those in Mildura will take-up the transition as scheduled.”

According to the report, in Mildura, which is scheduled to switch over on 30 June 2010, about nine in 10 households are already converted to digital television, up 17 percentage points since the first quarter of 2009.

The report, which is produced by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, also finds that in regional South Australia, the area next scheduled for analogue switch-off, 74 per cent of the households have already converted their main TV set to digital.

Conversion rates are also found by the report to be tied to age and income with typically only 50 per cent of aged pensioners, and 52 per cent of government pension/benefit households across Australia converting to digital.

Where households have an income of less than $30 000, 55 per cent have converted to digital, whereas in households with an annual income of $90 000 or more, 75 per cent have converted.

On the issue of alternative uses of the analogue spectrum made redundant by the switch to digital, Cooke said there was a good argument for a balanced approach to the utilising the so-called 'Digital Dividend'.

“New broadcast technologies such as 3D, higher compression techniques and DVB-T2 (Digital Video Broadcasting – Second Generation Terrestrial) represent new opportunities for enhanced viewing experiences or further efficiency gains, and spectrum to allow these future transitions should not be overlooked,” he said.

“This needs to be balanced with the pervasive wireless applications that are emerging in advanced mobile and fixed wireless applications.”

As reported by Computerworld Australia, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) signalled in April last year that it was [[artnid: 300793|developing 100Mbit wireless broadband technology which would run over the same spectrum previously utilised by analogue television.

NEC first started deployment of digital transmitter technology in Australia in 2000, as a result of a series of tenders over the past decade by both metropolitan and regional broadcasters or broadcast infrastructure providers, and the company now has hundreds of transmitters country wide.

Customers include Broadcast Australia and TXA, providing services to national and commercial metro broadcasters respectively, and regional broadcasters such as WIN TV, Prime TV, Southern Cross Media, Seven Queensland and NBN.

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