Taiwan and Korea Debate DTV Standards

The ATSC 8-VSB versus DVB-T COFDM debate may have died down in the U.S., but it continues in Taiwan and Korea. In Taiwan, ATSC is gaining some support. In Korea, broadcasters are looking to overturn the government's choice of DVB-T over ATSC technology.

A Korea Times article, Korea Struggles with Digital Broadcasting Standard said that while South Korea was one of the first countries to choose the U.S. ATSC standard, local terrestrial broadcasters now favor the European COFDM-based DVB-T standard. In addition to broadcasters, the article said broadcast technology experts and non-governmental organizations are claiming the DVB-T format is superior to the ATSC format because DVB-T can support mobile and portable devices. Terrestrial broadcaster Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. (MBC) tested the two systems in the Fall 2001 and came out in favor of DVB-T.

The argument now is how much it will cost to switch standards. The government, which supports ATSC, said the direct financial cost of switching would reach 3.98 trillion won (US$3.3 billion). Indirect losses would amount to 18.37 trillion won (US$15.8 billion). Advocates of the DVB-T standard say the cost would be much less over the long term and said "the European market has more potential than the U.S. when considering the country's digital TV broadcasting-related exports." Another organization, the National Union of Media workers, estimated the switch would cost only 200 billion won (US$169 million).

KBC Chairman Noh Sung-dai and Minister of Information and Communication Chin Dae-je agreed to send a joint government/private delegation overseas to see which standard is superior. However, the article pointed out, they can't agree on which countries to visit.

Taipei Times in the article Digital Television Still Far From Reality in Taipei City interviews David Dea, president and COO of Taiwan Broadband Communications Co. While much of the interview focuses on digital satellite and digital cable, Taipei Times asked Dea, "On Tuesday, yet another government department, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, told you to agree on a standard digital TV signal. What obstacles are there to agreeing on a standard, and is it necessary? Can different standards co-exist?" Dea answered that it was a huge issue and while DVB has been adopted in Taiwan by competitors, "one of the benefits that was believed to be of DVB was smart-card technology. Smart-card technology is, has been, and will be broken and pirated. ATSC is an American technology standard that does not have these issues. We feel the government's role should not be to predicate or dictate technology. Their role should be to set policy."