Thursday, November 13, 2008

Road to Digital Television..&HD

The Road to Digital Television….and HD
…it is not to be that the world should have one common digital television standard.... Just as it was split into PAL, NTSC and SECAM for analogue TV, digital is split into four standards ATSC from USA, ISDB from Japan and DMB-T from China. In 1999 MediaCorp (TCS then) was asked by the then Singapore Broadcasting Authority to propose the adoption of a national standard for digital TV. I was given the task to round up people in the industry and make a recommendation. There were good representations from the industry ..companies such as SONY, Panasonic, Philips , Starhub etc and institutions such as NTU, NUS, the Polytechnics participated in the discussions and field trial of the systems from Japan, Europe and USA. The Chinese standard was not ready yet. After 6 months of exhaustive testing in the HDB and private estates the task force (known as the Singapore Digital Television Technical Committee) unanimously recommended the DVB standard from Europe for reasons of ruggedness, ability for mobile TV operation and ready to market. It turned out later most of the countries going digital adopted this standard and would enjoy economies of scale. Subsequently in the following two years MediaCorp put on air 3 channels (ch 5, 8 and CNA)in standard definition digital. Also a digital service TVMobile was launched for commuters in buses . TVMobile was the first such service in the world. It attracted a lot of attention world over…visitors from USA, Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Taiwan etc came and studied this world’s first. Beijing and Shanghai implemented this system and made money quickly because of volume in the TV market. Taiwan also implemented similar system.
Meanwhile in the last five years HDTV became popular mainly because of availability of HDTV receivers that were marketed ahead of broadcast transmissions. As such more HDTV content were created and a critical mass had appeared in countries such as Japan, USA and Korea. China also committed to have future services in high-definition. The recent Beijing Olympics were produced all in high-definition. Against this backdrop Singapore through the efforts of MDA facilitated the launch of HDTV channels in StarHub Cable and MediaCorp Terrestrial Network in 2007. Currently there are 5 HD channels on Cable and one on terrestrial HD5. More channels are expected.
MediaCorp has announced it will convert all its channels to HD when analogue TV is switched off (ASO).
When is ASO?? That is another story…

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