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Digital terrestrial television in Ireland

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Digital terrestrial television in Ireland

The deployment of digital terrestrial television in Ireland has taken some time, with the first small tests being carried out in 1998. 2002 saw the cancellation and non-award of the DTT commercial licence and transmission network sale. In August 2006, a major regional DTT trial began in conjunction with major television channels in Ireland including Radio Telefís Éireann, TV3, TG4 and 3e (formerly Channel 6). By 2008 the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland announced that three groups had come together with proposals to manage commercial DTT in Ireland, which was awarded to Boxer DTT Ltd.

Historical testing

DVB-T has repeatedly been tested from RTÉ Network Limited's Three Rock Mountain transmitter, with relatively long tests in 1998 and 2001, and shorter tests in 2004, with a single multiplex carrying the four Irish analogue terrestrial channels, and Tara Television while it was in existence, on both UHF (channel 26) and VHF (channel D). These were under temporary licences for testing, which are regularly awarded.

A contract to run a nationwide system, with six multiplexes from main sites and four from relay sites, was awarded in 2001 to ITS Digital Limited, trading as "It's TV" and led by former RTÉ executive Peter Branagan, who intended to launch a pay TV and broadband service. ITS wanted to offer broadband internet access using the DVB-RCT standard (which, while providing 30 Mbit/s, does not provide sufficient reverse link capacity for 20,000 people on one mast). ITS did not have a broadband licence and no viable business plan without selling broadband, and due to lack of funding withdrew its application in Oct 2002.

The government also planned to privatise RTÉ's transmission network at this time but this too failed in Oct 2002 following the withdrawal of ITS Digital Limited DTT licence application and a number of other factors.[1][2]

National digital terrestrial plan

Ireland will use the DVB-T standard with MPEG-4 compression. MHEG-5 will be used for epg and interactive services. The Broadcasting (Amendment) Act 2007 assigned one multiplex to RTÉ to ensure the continued availability of the four existing free-to-air services in Ireland – that is, RTÉ 1, RTÉ 2, TG4 and TV3. RTÉ will establish and run this DTT multiplex independently of BCI-licensed multiplexes in fulfilment of its public-service obligations. Under the 2007 Act, the BCI is required to licence commercial DTT in the State. In the first instance, the BCI will seek to licence three DTT multiplex operators for the establishment, maintenance and roll-out of commercial DTT in Ireland. In the future one further multiplex will be assigned to RTÉ and one multiplex to the BCI for licensing. A public DTT Information Campaign is planned from March 2009.

2008 multiplex licensing

The Commission engaged in two phases of targeted consultation to assist in the development of its DTT Multiplex Licensing Policy. These consultations ran from May to December 2007 and involved the production of a comprehensive consultation document outlining policy proposals in relation to DTT licensing and the commissioning of independent research on DTT.

The BCI launched the commercial multiplex processes with a minimum of twenty-four channels specified. Interested parties submitted their applications as specified in ads in National Papers on Friday March 7, 2008.

The BCI’s application process for the DTT multiplex contracts ran for a period of eight weeks. The application document sought a considerable amount of information including: proposals for programming; financial and business plan; the transmission/multiplexing proposals as well as details regarding the shareholding and management of the applicant group.

Nine applicants consisting of 3 bid consortiums for all 3 muxes made presentations to the Commission, which was open to the public at 1:30pm in the Westbury Hotel, Grafton Street, Dublin 2 on the 12 May 2008 and the award of contract was offered to the most suitable bid team shortly after July 21, 2008 following evaluation by the BCI on the applications received.

The BCI on 21 July 2008 announced Boxer DTT Ltd trading as Boxer as the sole winner to operate the three commercial multiplexes. Boxer DTT Ltd is a consortium made up of Communicorp, Boxer TV Access in Sweden and BT Ireland. The award of the contracts is subject to clarifications and the successful outcome of contract negotiations.

In the 2008 perspective Boxer DTT Ireland proposed a tentative start date of January 2009, which was considered unrealistic.[3] Standards chosen were MPEG4/H.264 and DVB-T. Boxer TV Access had a 50% holding in Boxer Ireland.

In April 2009 it was announced that Boxer had decided to decline the license offered to the consortium. The BCI instead offered the license to the runner up, Onevision.

At the end of April 2010 the negotiations with Onevision ended. In May 2010 the Contract was offered to Easy TV (the RTE / Liberty Global consortium. It's not clear if they will accept it (3 May 2010)[4] A DTT Information Campaign was announced by the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, to launch in March 2009 ahead of the September 2009 launch of Irish DTT.[5] AS of December 2009, the information campaign has not launched and has been postponed until after Saorview launches in public testing phase.[6] The Information Campaign is to be undertaken by the BAI, with support of the Department.

As of October 30, 2010 FTA DTT, which will be known as Saorview, has launched [7] following a direction from the Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, to RTÉ and signing of the RTÉ (National Television Multiplex) Order 2010 (S.I. No. 85 of 2010) on February 26, 2010.[8] The rollout of FTA Saorview DTT will now proceed, and a commercial DTT competition may well be deferred until the economic situation improves.[9]

Easy TV considered its position on the license offer which it was offered on April 29, 2010.[10][11] The Easy TV consortium informed the BAI on 12 May 2010 that it was declining their offer to pursue negotiations regarding the Commercial DTT Multiplex Licence.[12] RTÉ publicly confirmed on 14 May 2010 that Easy TV was "declining their offer to pursue negotiations" on the DTT contract.[13] The BAI officially confirmed Easy TV's withdrawal and the conclusion of the current DTT licensing process on 18 May 2010.[14] On 1 July 2010 RTÉ announced that Mary Curtis, RTÉ's current deputy head of TV programming, would take on the role of Director of Digital Switchover (DSO).[15]

Pay DTT launch uncertainty

According to an article in the Irish Independent on February 26, 2009, there could be further delays in a launch of Pay DTT slated for late 2009.[16] As yet Boxer have apparently not completed a contract with RTÉ NL regarding equipment and the contract for the license with the BCI is not yet concluded, leaving uncertainty regarding a pay DTT launch date. According to the article however, "While there is an obvious synergy between the commercial and public aspects, the department expects RTE to deliver on the 2007 (Broadcasting) Act obligations (to achieve analogue switch-off by 2012) and to ensure the project does not lose its momentum".

See also

References

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