The DTV transition in Germany has often been cited as a model for how the United States might proceed to complete the transition from analog to digital over-the-air television broadcasting.
Last week, some details emerged in a new report on the German transition, which took place between January 1, 2002 and August 4, 2003.
Before the transition, 8.9 percent of households in the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, two regions of Germany that comprise a single TV market, depended entirely on over-the-air television. An additional five percent used over-the-air for second and third sets in the household, the report said.
The transition consisted of selectively shutting off analog transmitters and replacing their signals with digital transmissions. The higher power analog transmitters were shut off first, one by one, over a set period of time. The low-power analog units were the last to go off the air.
The nine new DTT channels, a mix of VHF and UHF, range in power from a low of 25KW for VHF, replacing 100KW analog, to a high of 200KW UHF, replacing 100KW to 1MW analog transmitters.
Two transmitter stations were established in a single frequency network. Additional transmitter locations could improve reception, the report noted, but this would have required considerable additional expenditure.
Using channel 44 as an example, a forecast for reception — which was largely confirmed by practical experience — found that the channel could be received in all areas of Brandenburg via a rooftop antenna. An indoor antenna could be used in the largest part of the city area, the report said.
The price goal for DTT set-top boxes (STBs) was set at about $241. This was quickly met and even reduced, the report said. Of the STBs sold, 60 percent went to over-the-air users, 26 percent to cable subscribers and 14 percent to DBS subscribers. The vast majority went to viewers living in the indoor coverage area, i.e. people living within 14.5 miles of pattern center.
The reported noted that the successful switchover took place at the right moment. “DTT roll-out could not have been effected any earlier as receiver prices would have had a adverse effect on acceptance. Nor should the switchover have come any later — even though the Digital Broadcasting Initiative envisages 2010 as the deadline for switchover,” the report said. “The incentive for switchover decreases in direct proportion to the decline in the number of households receiving television through the air; the lower this proportion, the lower the interest of commercial television broadcasters in this mode of transmission.”
To download the full report, go to: www.mabb.de/bilder/Projektbericht_engl.pdf.
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