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Japan Prepares for Analog Shutoff

On July 24, 2011, Japan will shut down analog broadcasting. The Japan Times describes Japan's digital transition in the article The countdown: six months and a day till TV goes digital by Mark Schreiber.

Even though Japan is using a different terrestrial DTV system--ISDB-T based on COFDM—as compared to the U.S. single carrier 8-VSB system, the article flags concerns that will sound familiar to broadcasters after the analog shutdown in this country. It notes the media is reminding the Japanese "that people residing in remote islands and mountainous areas with poor reception--no one is exactly sure how many--will be left without any TV. Likewise for some homes whose reception may be blocked by adjacent taller structures."

An estimated 3.7 million television sets in hotels, hospitals and rest homes will require replacement. The article said the nationwide replacement status to date for hotels and inns "may still be as low as 30 percent." There is also concern about the impact on the environment from disposing of all the old analog sets. "With many municipalities unable to deal with the sheer volume, concerns have been voiced that illegal dumping of discarded sets may reach into the hundreds of thousands, wreaking further damage to the environment."

The article's final note will also strike a resonance with U.S. broadcasters:

"For all the sound and fury, pundits have pointed out that both television and radio as we know it may already be technologically obsolete."

The writer cites "increasingly sophisticated technologies" such as pay-per-view, satellite TV, the Internet and high-speed mobile communications all as diminishing conventional television's audience. It concludes with the statement that digital broadcasting "may barely survive into its teens."

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.