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Mixed DTV Standards in Central and South America

Supporters of the ATSC, DVB-T and SBTVD-T (the Brazilian version of ISDB-T) all claim their terrestrial DTV system is best for the Americas. The U.S. ATSC standard is clearly the winner in North America as it is the standard for Canada, the United States and Mexico. In Central America, ATSC is the standard in Honduras and El Salvador, but recently Panama selected the European DVB-T standard, joining Columbia, Uruguay and French Guyana. SBTVD-T gained support in South America when Peru adopted the standard. Argentina adopted ATSC in 1998, but is re-evaluating that choice. Commercial DTV services in Argentina are currently using DVB-T. Venezuela has both DVB-T and DMB-T/H (the Chinese standard) trial broadcasts underway.

Many countries have yet to decide on a terrestrial DTV system, so it's too early to declare a "winner" in the terrestrial DTV standards battle in the Americas. While DVB-T and ATSC have the edge as established and well tested systems with low-cost receivers, more recent standards such as SBTVD-T and DMB-T/H are able to support new technologies without concern for receivers manufactured over a decade ago. Ecuador, for example, has successfully tested DVB-T, but is now investigating SBTVD-T and DMB-T/H. I wouldn't be surprised if more countries adopt the SBTVD-T standard and I'm somewhat surprised there hasn't been more interest in the DMB-T/H standard, which has a wide range of options for optimizing the modulation and error correction to the local propagation environment.

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.