UEC set-top boxes for Eastern Australia satellite TV in-fill service

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 
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Landmark agreement to deliver Digital TV to Remote, Regional and Blackspot viewers

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy today announced a landmark agreement that will provide digital TV services to viewers in eastern Australia who cannot receive terrestrial digital TV.

Senator Conroy said the agreement between the Australian Government and broadcasters Southern Cross Media and Imparja would establish a joint venture company, Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST). It will ensure access to free-to-air television for viewers in the Remote Central and Eastern Australia licence area, and those in regional and metropolitan areas who are unable to receive their local TV services terrestrially.

“This is a significant breakthrough in the provision of digital TV services to all Australians, particularly for those in remote and regional areas who for many years have had to put up with less choice than people in the cities,” Senator Conroy said. “The new VAST service will for the first time make available to all parts of Australia the same number of channels as are available in the capital cities.”

This includes programming in standard definition from the Seven, Nine and Ten networks and their new digital channels GO!, 7TWO and ONEHD, as well as all of the ABC and SBS channels, including ABC2, ABC3 and SBS TWO. The VAST service will also provide high definition channels.

The VAST service will operate in northern and southern time zones, providing standard definition services for viewers in Queensland and the Northern Territory based on Brisbane time, and standard definition services for viewers in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania based on Sydney time.

The high definition services will be provided in a combined zone, covering both the northern and southern zones.

“Viewers of the satellite service will be able to watch their local news services through a dedicated news channel. State-based ABC and SBS news services would also be available on their respective channels,” Senator Conroy said.

Households currently served by self help transmitters that are not being upgraded to digital would be able to receive all of the digital TV services from the new satellite service.

The Government will provide a subsidy of $400 to eligible households to convert to the new satellite service.

Executive Director of the Digital Switchover Taskforce, Andy Townend said the satellite service will be available for the Mildura/Sunraysia region as the first region to switch over to digital-only TV on 30 June 2010.

To access the VAST service, viewers will need to purchase a new satellite set top box with an access ‘smart card’, a satellite dish and cabling.

“Households wanting to get ready for the new satellite service should contact a qualified antenna installer to express their interest so they can start making arrangements immediately, including the installation of a satellite dish,” Mr Townend said.

Altech UEC will be the initial supplier and distributor of satellite set top boxes. The supplier will be informing antenna installers and satellite equipment suppliers in Mildura/Sunraysia about the availability of the new satellite service from today.

Households in the Mildura/Sunraysia region already using the existing Aurora satellite service will be able to convert to the new service using their existing dish as soon as the new set top boxes are available.

A satellite service for Western Australian viewers, using the same Optus platform, is currently under negotiation with the remote area commercial TV licensees in Western Australia (Prime and WIN Television).

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