Malta to set up free-to-air DTT network

Friday, April 17th, 2009

National Information Society Advisory Council (NISCO) 18th meeting; Digital Switchover planned to take place in Malta in December 2010

In the European context we have countries like Finland and Netherlands that have already completed this digital switchover, Denmark will do so in December 2009; Spain, Austria, Estonia will do so in December 2010 like us; other countries like Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic in 2011 while others like UK, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Slovakia will complete the European switchover in 2012.

Malta together with Cyprus and Luxembourg enjoys the highest television penetration rate with virtually all households (100%) having at least one television. It is estimated that 17% of Maltese households rely on free to air analogue terrestrial TV broadcasts and these will be affected by the digital switchover.

Malta already has over 80,000 subscribers with digital TV pay TV subscriptions and the EU 14th Implementation report issued on 23rd March 2009 said “Malta is on track for analogue terrestrial TV transmission switch off by 2010”.

The Digital Switchover will involve setting up of a General Interest Objective (GIO) network.

All transmissions on the GIO network will be unencrypted and therefore viewable without the need for any subscriptions to a network operator and free of charge

PBS, as the national Public Service Broadcaster will set up a network composed of one frequency that will serve for broadcasting stations meeting General Interest Objectives.

The GIO network will be required to carry up to six GIO TV stations.

This new digital network will provide improved picture and audio quality, new services such as multimedia applications including interactive ones like televoting, subtitling, Electronic Program Guides, and possibility of High Definition Television

A major benefit of the switchover will be the freeing up of radio spectrum thanks to the switching off of less efficient analogue services

The switchover represents a unique opportunity for the re-use of a part of the radio frequency spectrum for the provision of new convergent services combining telephony and terrestrial broadcasting.

Digital Switchover is a National Project necessitating coordinated approach by different stakeholders: MCA for the assignment of frequencies to networks; Broadcasting Authority for the articulation of GIOs as the basis to allot capacity/editorial content/introduction of licenses for commercial broadcasters; MITC responsible for electronic communication networks and services and the MCA; Office of Prime Minister responsible for broadcasting policy and Broadcasting Authority; Ministry for Education and Culture responsible for public service broadcasting; PBS as the Government owned company responsible for the provision of public broadcasting and for operating the GIO network.

Besides the above entities other stakeholders include of course the public, current terrestrial analogue broadcasters, pay TV operators as well as traders and retailers who supply the public with the required TV equipment.

A steering committee has been set up to ensure the necessary coordination and implementation work is on target and that all the stakeholders are kept informed.

The Digital Switchover is an important project in Malta’s roadmap to become an ICT centre of excellence by 2015.