Brazil adopts Japan's digital TV standard

Brazil is adopting Japan's ISDB-T high-definition digital television system, preferring it to the standards used in the United States and Europe.

Brazil and Japan entered a technical agreement last month with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva approving it last week, the official Agencia Brasil news service reported.

The Japanese ISDB-T standard, for Terrestrial Integrated Services Digital Broadcast, was selected in part because it is easier to send TV signals to cellular phones with it than with other systems, said Helio Costa, Brazil's Communications Minister.

According to local press reports, the accord with Japan also involves technology transfers, the establishment of semiconductor manufacturing operations in Brazil and financing of up to $500 million from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

Latin America's most populous country has more than 90 million cell phone users, and the number continues to rise as poor and working class Brazilians who have never had fixed line phones choose to use cell phones only. The nation also has the planet's fifth-largest cell phone market, behind China, Japan, Russia and the United States, the Associated Press reported.

A memorandum on the digital standard signed earlier this year between the Brazil and Japan called for Japanese firms to train local staff and allow Brazilian companies to use the technology without paying royalties.

Last year Brazil abandoned a quest to create its own digital TV system due to high costs. The country then returned to negotiations with various international groups to find the best system for its more than 120 million television viewers.

With more televisions than refrigerators per household, Brazil is an attractive market for Japan, which has invested about $3 billion in the ISDB-T system, the AP said.

Brazil hopes to start putting the new system in place this year, and plans to spread the technology to the country of more than 185 million within 15 years.