- Digital television in the Philippines
The digital television (DTV) broadcast transition in the Philippines also known locally, the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) was the switchover from analog signals (the provisional technique of conveying television waves) to digital transmission of free-to-air television programs. The digital transition broadcast will take effect on Friday, January 1, 2016, with television broadcast ending regular programming from their analog signals no later than 11:59 p.m. (Philippine Standard Time, UTC+8). Under the transition circular, broadcasting of analog television signals in the Philippines would have ceased after Thursday, December 31, 2015. The commission will be using the ultra-high frequency television channels from 14 to 51 between 470-698 megahertz for digital terrestrial television broadcast service and deliberating channels 14 to 20 (470-512 Mhz) which is currently being used for fixed/mobile services.
The future of digital broadcast transition in the Philippines from analog transmission to Digital Terrestrial Television or DTT service commenced with an issuance of Executive Order 546, series of 1979 and Republic Act 3846 or the Radio Control Law as amended by the local governing body for broadcast services, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and adopted the said order to promulgate rules and regulations in order to facilitate the entry of digital broadcast services in the Philippines and implement a specific standard for the delivery of DTT services. Subsequently organizing two technical working groups for the purpose of directing the governing body in the selection of appropriate DTT standard and upon the commendation of investors in the broadcast business, comprising the local broadcasters group, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, the NTC issued Memorandum Circular 02-06-2010 on June 11, 2010 implementing the standard for digital terrestrial television broadcast service.
The digital television transition is the procedure in which analog broadcasting via television is converted to and replaced by digital broadcast. Principally it includes television stations though it also involves other mediums like cable television switching to digital cable. In any other countries, a broadcast facility is operated where a transmission is made accessible to audiences in analog and digital simultaneously. As digital broadcasting becomes common in other countries, present analog signals will be turned off gradually in territories who have just started implementing their respective guidelines for choosing the standard in digital transmission. In early 1950s, television broadcast using analog signals transmits from black and white images to monophonic sound. With the advent of digital age, analog waves were replaced by color images, stereo surround sound and closed captioning. Throughout the 1950s, digital communications evolved. For household user, digital television has the potential of broadcasting superb screen resolution and sound reliability equivalent to today’s high-end digital equipment. Digital broadcasting can transmit television signals in multichannel and can simulcast television programs simultaneously. Today, broadcast industry and their respective governments rearranges radio spectrum to digital television for the introduction of new broadcast services and products in mobile telephony, Internet and telecommunications development.
Since early 2000s, studies have been carried out on the migration from analog signals to digital broadcast. A “wait and see” plan is being trailed and examining progresses with no resolution to ensue with digital television services in the Philippines. Implementing the digital technology in the television broadcast is envisioned to postulate larger quantity of channels, enhanced screen resolution and stereo sounds through a conventional aerial antenna instead of a satellite or cable TV service. The commission adopted from Memorandum Circular 02-06-2010 the Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial (ISDB-T) system that is capable of delivering 3 level of categorized modulation (audio, video and data services) to fixed, portable and handheld devices exclusive of the necessity for an supplementary communication facility. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has given the local television companies operating in the Philippines until 11:59 p.m., Thursday, December 31, 2015 (Philippine Standard Time, UTC+8) to convert their analog signals to digital in line with the worldwide broadcast standard. But conferring to the commission pronouncement on digital television transition, the switchover may be condense or extend conditional on the current circumstances affecting the broadcast industry. After the switchover, all analog frequencies will be reallocated to other telecommunication services.
Presently, the commission is preparing the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) that will govern the use of digital broadcast service. According to the draft IRR, broadcast companies who intend to provide digital terrestrial television service must have a congressional broadcast franchise before operating such services and have at least 15 television stations throughout the Philippines; have a minimum paid-up capital of Php1 billion and accessible locally in 10 regions while broadcasting companies with less than the required television stations and availability locally, the minimum paid-up capital will be Php1.2 billion, whereas new applicants with no present broadcast station, the paid-up capital will be Php1.5 billion. For those broadcast companies who intend to delivery digital broadcast locally, must procure a congressional franchise and have at least Php60 million per digital terrestrial television station. Concurring to the commission, the outline of digital technology in the broadcasting service would guarantee the effectiveness of the broadcast business and provide them the prospect to offer superior facilities to end-user. The draft outline as an enactment of the digital technology in the television broadcast is intended to provide greater number of channels, better screen resolution and stereo sounds through a conventional aerial antenna instead of a satellite or cable TV service.
Initially, the commission adopted the European standard in digital service, the Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T). The broadcast providers adopt either high-definition television format or its standard definition multiprogramming. The draft IRR also states that a duly broadcast provider with a congressional franchise will deliver analog television service and must carry its present analog television programs through its digital terrestrial television service. For digital broadcast provider aiming to offer pay-per-view or restricted access will be required to seek additional permission from the commission. Supplementary services may be permissible, subject to prevailing decrees, acts and laws. The draft rules equally specify the commission shall continue to process new applications for analog television stations up to December 31, 2008 but will no longer approve or authorized to broadcast beyond December 31, 2010 and all certified digital broadcast providers will relinquish their individual analog frequencies upon the termination of its analog television broadcast transmission by 11:59 p.m., Thursday, December 31, 2015.
Digital television rollout
Migrating to digital terrestrial television takes numerous benefits over analog television signal, the most substantial advantages is the use of lesser frequency bandwidth. It uses digital modulation data, which is digitally compressed and requires decoding by a standard receiver with a set-top box.
- ABS-CBN. ABS-CBN Corporation announced its plans to spend Php500 million for its fractional relocation from analog to digital terrestrial television technology and currently testing its DTT service and once migrated, it would offer 14 to 15 channels in addition to its ABS-CBN and Studio 23 brands. Its early test, ABS-CBN will be using its analog and digital services for more than 1,000 households in the Philippines. ABS-CBN started laying its foundation for digital broadcast as early as 2007. On April 4, 2011, ABS-CBN revealed that its digital service is completed ahead from its original schedule and it can launch five premium channels on free-to-air TV via digital television as soon as the local regulator finalizes its implementing rules and regulations regarding digital terrestrial television broadcast. ABS-CBN will be using ultra-high frequency channel 35 (596–602 MHz) for its ISDB-T test, and channel 51 (692–698 MHz), which is previously used for testing for its DVB-T. Their initial test was conducted in areas of Valenzuela, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna. In November 2010, ABS-CBN begin rolling out its digital broadcast in 17 cities in Metropolitan Manila including selected areas in Bulacan and Pampanga. ABS-CBN allocated Php1 billion to migrate its analog service to digital terrestrial television broadcast.
- NBN. People’s Television Network Inc. operates NBN or the National Broadcasting Network started its digital test broadcast in 2009 on channel 48 using the Japanese standard in digital terrestrial television broadcast, the Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial. In 2011, NBN continue to improve its digital broadcasting proficiencies with apparatus donated by the Japanese government. Using the modern digital broadcasting equipment, NBN can convey an emergency alerts when needed comparable to the Emergency Alert System used in the United States, though NBN is using the Japanese standard, its emergency alert system will be based on J-Alert system. Currently, NBN is transmitting its digital television via NBN HD on multiplexed SD channel 48.
- TV5. ABC Development Corporation operator of TV5 is planning to test its digital terrestrial television broadcast running on Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial (ISDB-T) upon the recommendation of Japan’s largest mobile phone company, the NTT DoCoMo. Upon securing approval from the local regulator, ABC Development Corp. will start rolling out its digital test broadcast on ISDB-T platform to compare with newer version of European’s Digital Video Broadcast-Terrestrial (DVB-T2) as the regulator asked to review its earlier decision to use ISDB-T as the standard platform of digital broadcasting in the Philippines. Stressing the need for a digital broadcast, ABC Development Corp. plans in switching its analog television station, DWET-TV channel 5 as the soonest and using its DWDZ-TV channel 47 to test the digital platform.
- GMA Network. GMA Network, Inc. is presently applying for a digital television license from the National Telecommunications Commission to install and maintain transmitting stations that will be attuned with and utilize to offer digital terrestrial television and digital mobile TV broadcast services, using channel 27 (548-554 MHz) frequency. Areas planned for a temporary digital broadcast will cover the cities of Quezon City, Makati, Pasig, Tagaytay, and Angeles in Pampanga; and areas like Ortigas, Cavite, and Calumpit in Bulacan. To this date, GMA Network Inc. is unable to conduct test broadcast with the ISDB-T standard due to its UHF channel 27's frequency, which is currently being used for retransmitting the signal of GMA News TV's in the southern part of Metropolitan Manila. In its disclosure, GMA Network Inc. ask the governing body to reconsider its decision to use the Japanese standard and examine the European digital broadcast system instead. In earlier decisions, the National Telecommunications Commission reaffirmed its resolutions to use ISDB-T and conduct public consultations for its implementing rules and regulations which will be ready by April 2011. On the other hand, GMA Network Inc. asked the National Telecommunication Commission to reevaluate its decision and reconsider other technologies, thus recommending DVB-T2 as the standard digital television technology in the Philippines. Thus on March 27, 2011, the local regulator ordered an evaluation of the standard to be used by the Philippines for digital television and reconsidering the second-generation Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB2) from Europe and replacing the Japanese Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial (ISDB) standard.
- NET25. Using Global Expansion Media Network (GEMNET) facility, NET 25 started its first digital and full high-definition broadcast on May 10, 2010 using Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial through GEMNET ultra-high frequency channel 49. NET 25 broadcast uses datacasting to allow data to broadcast over a wide area via radio waves. Currently, NET 25 is still conducting its digital test broadcast and its evening news program, I-Balita uses high-definition signals and presently conducting a joint ISDB-T trial on channel 49 with GEM HD.
- GEM HD. Global Expansion Media Network or GEMNET started its digital terrestrial television testing using Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial from June to September of 2007 with an approval from the National Telecommunications Commission. The digital test was conducted in order to substantiate the initial findings on digital television conducted by Digital TV Project Group. In 2009, GEMNET shifted is testing using Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial at a higher power level of 5 kilowatt using a Toshiba ISDB-T transmitter. Currently, GEMNET is transmitting its digital television via GEM HD on 8k, 1/16-guard interval modulation HD/One Seg channel 49 (681.25-685.75 MHz).
Digital cable system has permitted cable companies to offer numerous communication services and compresses video channels to lessen frequency requirements. It enables cable companies to offer more channels, on demand services, telephony, Internet and other communication services.
- SkyCable. In October 2010, cable television provider in the Philippines, SkyCable Corp. announced that it would migrate 80 percent of its Metropolitan Manila subscribers to digital broadcast system by 2011. In line with the migration, SkyCable has allocated 20 percent of its Php1 billion capital expenditure through its SkyGlobal brand. To date, SkyCable transmit its cable signal to more than 500,000 subscribers. Today, the cable company offers digital cable TV service through its SkyCable Digital facility. The service adopts digital video broadcasting for cable or DVB-C. It is a standard for transmitting digital television signal over cable. SkyCable uses digital video compression or distribution through its digital addressable box or the Digibox, a digital set-top box that uses the DVB-C broadcast standard to give its subscribers access to its digital infrastructure and uses different encryption techniques. To date, more than the 70 percent of total cable household in the Philippines subscribed to its digital service and offers a number of high-definition channels available.
- Global Destiny Cable. In March 2009, Global Destiny Cable join the bandwagon in offering digital cable television service. The cable company invested Php500 to Php700 million for the migration from analog to digital cable service by purchasing set-top boxes and facility upgrades. Around Php100 million was used to fund the cable television headend, the main facility for receiving television signals for processing and distribution over a cable television system.
- Parasat Cable. Mindanao’s largest cable television operator launched its digital cable television platform in July 2009. The digital transitions are made in 24 months from its initial shift from analog to digital. It uses the TVS Challenger Platform digital CATV transmission system from Transparent Video Systems Inc. (TVS) for the service. To date, Parasat Cable TV rollout its digital service in the areas of Cagayan de Oro City; municipalities of Opol and Tagoloan; in Malaybalay and San Carlos, Negros Occidental; Ginoog City; municipalities of Balingasag, Don Carlos and Valencia City, Bukidnon; and, the east and west sides of Misamis Oriental.
In order to broadcast in digital satellite, various satellite and direct-to-home companies uses digital video broadcast-satellite infrastructure to broadcast numerous video channels in digital form to its customer using direct broadcast satellite methods. Today, satellite companies offer HDTV signals and transmitting using DVB-S2 standard. DVB-S2 is envisioned for transmission services containing standard and HDTV, interactive services including Internet access, and data content delivery. The improvement of DVB-S2 concurred with the presentation of HDTV and H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC) video codecs.
- Cignal Digital TV. In October 2010, Media-Scape, a wholly owned subsidiary of MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., operator of Cignal Digital TV announced that analog cable service provider would be out of business as soon as the mandatory switch off pushes through on December 31, 2015. While the National Telecommunications Commission announced the implementation of a digital terrestrial television service in the Philippines, Cignal Digital TV started rolling out its Cignal HD and Cignal Digital TV broadcast service to its subscribers. Cignal digital facilities is supported by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and infused Php1.5 billion to offer digital television broadcast to its subscribers. Cignal Digital TV digital service are equipped with the latest encoding and compression system with high-end audio and video processing equipment.
- July 2007. Television firms who plan to broadcast digital terrestrial television services to television and other communication devices cannot implement such as the commission is revising its guidelines on digital television programming. However, the commission allows broadcast firms to test its system while waiting for the implementing rules and regulations (IRR). The development comes in light with telecom company, Smart Communications Inc. through its MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. for its myTV service. The commission reiterates in the absence of IRR, the telecom company cannot charge the service being offered to its subscribers.
- June 2009. In formulating the transition from analog television broadcast to digital terrestrial television (DTT) transmission in the Philippines and to guide the commission in outlining the planned implementing rules and regulations for the enactment of DTT service, ultra-high frequency television channels 14 to 51 (470-698 Mhz) will be assigned to the DTT Broadcast Service and deliberating further channels 14 to 20 (470-512 Mhz) which is currently being used by Fixed and Mobile Service. On June 24, 2009, the local unit of the commission, the Frequency Management Division is assigned to formulate a frequency allocation plan for the effective transmission of appropriate users of channels 14 to 20.
- February 2010. The Philippines is anticipated to deferment its planned analog television signal automatic switch-off in 2015 due to technicalities in implementing an official digital terrestrial television platform. While other members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations cooperatively accepted the digital video broadcasting-terrestrial or the DVB-T as its favored standard, the Philippines have not adopted any platform.
- February 2011. The National Telecommunications Commission plans to implement the digital terrestrial television service in select key cities in the Philippines in 2012. The governing body desires the transition be implemented gradually. The technical working group has yet not classified where the transition will take place. Key cities in the Philippines are being considered but in the absence of an implementing rules and regulations, the digital terrestrial television service may not be fully consummate to the viewing public. While the transition will be made progressively, broadcasting networks can still convey analog television service although DTT is being rationalized in other areas. Meanwhile, the commission set an 85 percent compliance rate before it consider terminating all analog signals for broadcast transmission.
- December 2010. The governments of Japan and the Philippines reached a collaboration decision in adopting a memorandum of cooperation resulting in the commission’s earlier pronouncement to use the Japanese’s Integrated Services Digital Broadcast-Terrestrial platform for digital terrestrial television broadcast standard for the Philippines. According to the Commission on Information and Communications Technology, the Japanese government is keen on guiding Filipino counterpart to the technology. The Philippine government also requested its counterpart to shoulder the cost of set-top boxes and also deliberating in rescheduling the compulsory switchover from analog transmission to digital broadcast from an earlier target.
- March 2011. The National Telecommunications Commission asked to reevaluate the platform to be used for the Philippines digital television broadcast. The regulator is studying the possible implementation of a newer platform, the European second-generation Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T2) substituting the Japanese Integrated Services Digital Broadcast-Terrestrial (ISDB-T) standard that the commission adopted earlier and was the basis of creating implementing rules and regulations for digital broadcast. Experts announced the DVB-T2 is more superior to its Japanese counterpart. Broadcasting firms, GMA Network, Inc. and TV5 conveyed their support to reevaluate its earlier decision to adopt ISDB-T platform. The commission adopted the ISDB-T primarily owing in terms of affordability.
- April 2011. One of Philippines broadcasting firm, ABS-CBN Corporation criticized the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for conveying varied indications on the Philippines official stand on digital television standard. The firm panned the commission on its incompetence in supporting its initial pronouncement to implement Japanese digital television standard, the Integrated Services Digital Broadcast-Terrestrial (ISDB-T). In 2010, the commission officially led the digital television period in the Philippines and releases a memorandum circular agreeing the use of ISDB-T as the standard digital platform. But in recent developments, the commission is considering the European digital television platform, the European Digital Video Broadcast-Terrestrial (DVB-T). According to the commission, the European platform is more superior to its Japanese counterpart.
- May 2011. Television companies in the Philippines have supported the local governing body to reevaluate the digital television standard to be used, and the attempt to reconsider the advancement of the Japanese technology (ISDB-T) over the newer version of the European digital television platform. Broadcasting companies initiated to delay the switchover provided the technology will be used is far more advanced than the initial digital standard adopted on June 11, 2010. GMA Network, Inc. and TV5 agreed to do comparative tests with the European and Japanese standard. Currently, the commission is simultaneously drafting the implementing rules and regulations for digital terrestrial television broadcast under the Japanese platform and reviewing the DVB-T2 European standard.
- August 2011. Philippine local agency, the National Telecommunication Commission has finalized its evaluation on the chosen standard for the digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcast service in the Philippines. The commission adopted the Japan’s Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Television (ISDB-T) standards over its European counterpart, the Digital Video Broadcasting-Television (DVB-T2).
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Digital television deployments by country
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