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China: Government to Use Olympics as HD Driver

Although China has not yet officially chosen an HD transmission standard, Beijing's pending 2008 Olympics is destined to speed the introduction of terrestrial DTV in Hong Kong and the mainland, according to the official Chinese news agency. According to several Chinese Web sites, the government will require the territory's two terrestrial broadcasters to start digital transmissions by next year.

A high Chinese commerce official said at a recent Hong Kong press conference the Olympics promised a "golden opportunity" to encourage viewers to switch to digital TV and the government did not want to "miss this chance." While only a small minority of China's 1.3 billion people will have HD (or DTV of any kind) in the foreseeable future, China's telecom landscape seems to be changing at lightning speed. To date, more than 100 million PC users reportedly now have Internet broadband.

If the Chinese mainland has not begun to disseminate a new national DTV transmission standard by the end of 2006, Chinese channels ATV and TVB will apparently adopt the European DVB-T standard. (The Chinese mainland's original target date for promulgating an OTA standard had been 2005.)

Meanwhile, new DTV-HD services from channels ATV and TVB -- which will be delivered to most households terrestrially in large areas of the mainland outside its major cities -- will be free to the public.

ATV and TVB each will invest about $51.5 million to provide HD and multichannel broadcasting. Both channels are mandated to deliver content in analog and digital by the end of 2007. Analog broadcasts are currently set to end throughout China no later than 2012.