Antenna Hungária announces DVB-H and 'MinDigTV' DTT

Friday, September 5th, 2008
Antenna Hungária logo

The NHH (National Communications Authority of Hungary) and Antenna Hungária signed contracts related to the license of operating digital terrestrial television and radio broadcasting networks

Today the NHH represented by its Chairman Pataki Dániel, and Antenna Hungária Zrt, represented by its Chief Executive Officer Jean-Francois Fenech, Dr. Erzsébet Bánkuti and Rudolf Kárpáti Head of Divisions signed the official contracts on digital terrestrial television and radio broadcasting rights. The digital television service called ‘MinDigTV’ will be available from December, with network coverage of almost 60 percent; the programs dominantly will be available without a subscription fee.

In the European Union, including Hungary, the objective is to discontinue and replace analogue terrestrial television broadcasting by digital broadcasting by the end of 2011. Radio broadcasting has no binding ASO (analogue switch-off) deadline but digital radio switchover is expected to be concluded by the end of 2014 in Hungary, provided that radio network coverage is high enough and enough radio listeners have digital devices.

In the spring of 2008 the NHH issued two invitations to tender for licenses to set up and operate digital terrestrial television and radio networks in Hungary. Antenna Hungária Zrt. (AH) was selected official winner of both tenders.

Antenna Hungária, as the winner of these two tenders, was granted the license for operating 5 television multiplexes and 1 radio multiplex for 12 years. AH shall start digital broadcasting as early as this year on the radio multiplex, and on multiplexes ‘A’, ‘B’ (mobile television), and ‘C’, while broadcasting on multiplex ‘D’ and ‘E’ shall be started after the switch-off of analogue terrestrial services in 2011. Once the network infrastructure has been set up and completed, DVB-T television multiplexes and radio multiplexes will reach 96 and 94 percent of the population, respectively.

“We hope that the start of digital terrestrial broadcasting creates a more competitive environment in this sector, brings a wider range of television and radio content, and ensures a better quality and varied program portfolio to those viewers, representing around 20 to 25 percent of all households, who currently use traditional analogue indoor or rooftop antennas” – said Mr. Dániel Pataki, Chairman of NHH.

AH was able to win the tenders because it offered lower public service broadcasting fees and a tighter schedule for network rollout and higher coverage compared to its competitors.

“AH is well-prepared and ready for the rollout of the digital networks at a fast pace. Decisive factors in winning the tender were, among others, our available infrastructure, our expertise, and the several decades’ experience of TDF Group in rollout and operation of analogue and digital broadcasting networks” – said Mr. Jean-Francois Fenech, CEO of Antenna Hungária.

Network rollout

AH shall spend around HUF 25 billion on the intensive network rollout in the next 4-5 years. AH has the obligation to change almost all of the transmission antenna systems to enable the transmission of digital TV due to the requirements of the Hungarian State and the NHH.

Digital television (DVB-T), radio and mobile television services are expected to start this December. DVB-T service will have a coverage of around 60% in 2008, and will be operated from three sites (Budapest, Szentes, Kabhegy). The network shall have 8 additional transmitting stations in 2009 with a coverage of 88%, it will be higher than the present analogue commercial channels’ coverage, which is currently 86%. Coverage of the network shall reach 95% by the end of 2010.

The mobile television (DVB-H) service shall be started in 2008 in and around Budapest (16% coverage). The service will be available in 7 larger cities and the area of Lake Balaton by the end of 2009, the coverage will be 30%, which will reach 50% by 2012. DAB+ digital radio broadcasting service starts its operation from three sites in Budapest with already a coverage of 31% this year and 44% next year. The full network shall be completed by 2013.

MinDigTV, the new digital television service

The new digital television service is called MinDigTV. The programs dominantly will be available without a subscription fee. As soon as the digital terrestrial service starts, the number of free-to-air channels will rise significantly (currently only 3 free-to-air channels are available on the analogue terrestrial platform).

Public service channels m1, m2, and Duna TV will surely be included, as their intention, in HD resolution. RTL Klub and TV2 have 60 days to decide whether they wish to be included in the new service. A new Media Law – which is under preparation now – may enable new free-to-air content to appear on the digital terrestrial platform, offering wider choice to the DVB-T viewers.

ATV and HírTV will be included in encrypted mode, but no decision has yet been made on the details. There will be new free-to-air content on the platform: two television groups have submitted letters of intent that they wish to be on the new digital platform as new free-to-air channels. The public service radio channels of Hungarian Radio (MR1, MR2, MR3) and program of Catholic Radio will be included in the television service as well.

Since 1999 Antenna Hungária has been using MPEG-2 compression technology in its terrestrial digital television tests, but the company opted for MPEG-4 coding in the tender, because the invitation to tender clearly favored this more modern and efficient technology that allows up to 8 or 12 SD channels (or 3 HD channels) per multiplex. Most of the households will able to receive DVB-T signals through their existing rooftop or indoor antennas. Additionally, to receive the signals, a set-top box or an integrated TV set with built-in DVB-T MPEG-4 tuner are needed. There will be several types and models of set-top-boxes of different brands in the Hungarian market proposed to the public from direct purchase to the special hire purchase constructions. The decoders shall be available in retail network stores. Electronic Program Guide (EPG) will be included in the television service from the beginning.

Mobile television, digital radio

Mobile television services shall be offered by Antenna Hungária in cooperation with mobile service providers. Mobile television service, containing around 16 to 20 channels, shall be available from this December within the offerings of mobile service providers that will have a valid agreement with AH. The service will most probably be subject to a subscription fee. In radio broadcasting, AH opted for the modern DAB+ compression technology that allows to broadcast of 16 to 18 channels. Public service channels of Hungarian Radio (MR1, MR2, MR3) and program of Catholic Radio will be included in the service.

Communication of the new service

An information campaign shall support the digital terrestrial switchover in the next 4 years. AH plans to set up a so-called Digitalization Organization, which would include all stakeholders of the value chain (governmental organizations, content providers, equipment manufacturers, distributors, etc.), to ensure the most efficient communication of the digital switchover. Based on foreign examples, the network operator does count on the support of the government in this process. Proper communication of the switchover is vital because according to the plans the current analogue terrestrial platform is to be switched off and replaced by the digital platform by the end of 2011. The information campaign is to be launched this autumn. Set-top boxes will be available for sale in retail stores before the start of the new service and have a ‘MinDigTV’ sticker for easier identification.