Regulators start preparing for digital TV age

TELECOMMUNICATIONS regulators have set in motion a plan that may, in time, cause the phase-out of traditional television signals and bring the local broadcast industry into the digital TV age.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) will circulate before the end of this month a consultative document among major players in the industry to help the agency come up with standards for the country's foray into digital TV, NTC Commissioner Ronald O. Solis said in a meeting with executives of Samsung Corp., a leading manufacturer of digital TV equipment in Korea.

Solis said the consultative document and the comments it would generate from industry stakeholders--broadcast firms, equipment manufacturers, potential content providers and consumer groups-- would help regulators define the standards and parameters of the new technology.

The NTC's approach to the introduction of this new technology will mimic its moves when it set the policies for the third-generation (3G) mobile phone networks last year, he said.

Digital DTV is a new type of broadcasting technology that is expected to transform traditional television delivery platforms. By transmitting the information used to make a TV picture and sound as "data bits" like a computer, a digital broadcast can carry more information than is currently possible with analog technology.

The technology will allow the transmission of pictures with higher resolution for better picture and sound quality than currently available or the transmission of several "standard definition" TV programs at once, called multicasting."

Standard definition digital TV pictures would be similar in clarity and detail to the best TV pictures being received and displayed today using the current analog broadcast system and TV receivers.The technology can also be used to provide interactive video and data services, including Internet connections, that are impossible to do with the analog technology.

The NTC chief noted that there were several digital TV markets competing for dominance in the budding industry, and that the consultation process would help regulators determine which standard was best suited for the local environment.

"We want to look at the US, Korean, and European models," he said.

"Everybody around the world is migrating to digital TV, we we have to look at this, too," he said.

Solis said the matter of when digital TV would take off in the local market would depend, to a large extent, on how fast the prices for the service and the technology would down to make them affordable to the average consumer.

"Samsung is the first group invited to give a presentation on the matter," Solis told officials of the Korean firm.