Discussion Papers

Ulrich Stumpf, Daniel Tewes

Digitaler Rundfunk - vergleichende Betrachtung der Situation und Strategie in verschiedenen Ländern
Nr. 186 / Juni 1998


In several countries, the introduction of digital broadcasting is highly prioritized. This is especially valid with regard to digital terrestrial television which will allow the complete abandonment of analogue TV transmission. Particular advantages of digital terrestrial TV are the higher variety of programmes, the potential for portable reception and the higher spectrum efficiency. Besides digital terrestrial TV, there are also activities for promoting the introduction of digital terrestrial audio broadcasting.

In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Economics has developed a strategy proposal for the transition to digital broadcasting in co-operation with the Länder, the service providers, network operators, systems producers and the consumer association. In other countries, corresponding activities are discussed, partly already realized. The study describes the initiatives that have been taken in France, Spain, UK, Sweden and USA (as of May 1998).

With regard to the introduction of digital terrestrial TV in Europe, the United Kingdom is at the forefront. Here, digital terrestrial TV services are already licensed and will be launched in November 1998. In Sweden, the licensing process is about to be completed and commercial service will begin in January 1999. In Spain, there are ambitious plans for network roll-out. Only in France, the necessary legislative preconditions are not yet given. The US is taking a slightly different approach by enhancing the existing analogue TV licenses, thus avoiding a lengthy licensing process. Selected licensees are obliged to commence service in May 1999 at the latest.

In contrast to terrestrial digital television, the introduction of digital TV via satellite and cable is largely market-driven. Digital satellite TV is already accessible in France, Spain and Scandinavia. In UK, the market launch is imminent. In these countries, cable network operators also offer digital TV services, but digital satellite is growing more dynamically.

The introduction of digital terrestrial audio broadcasting on the basis of the European DAB standard is the subject of political initiatives in some European countries. UK and Sweden already have introduced this technology in September 1995 whereas France is intensively trialling it. However, in Spain there are only selective pilot schemes. In all countries, the main obstacle for a wide adoption of DAB is seen in the inadequate supply of low-priced receivers. In the USA, there are no initiatives for introducing digital terrestrial audio broadcasting technologies.

In Europe, providers of digital satellite and cable TV services generally enhance their programmes with digital audio programmes. Only in the US, autonomous providers of digital satellite audio services have been licensed.

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