The digital transition is complicated, everywhere

Posted on October 25, 2014  /  1 Comments

I’ve been asked by several people to comment on the choice of a Japanese standard for digital broadcasting in Sri Lanka, as part of the process of clearing the 700 MHz band of analog TV broadcasting and making the freed up spectrum available for more productive uses.

I have not commented, partly because I lack the time to research the subject. But I have not made the effort to reallocate priorities in order to make time for this task because I know that refarming (which is what the digital transition is in essence) is inherently problematic and hard to do. There are pros and cons associated with all standards and there are vested interests that benefit or lose from any standards decision. I have lived long enough to know that there is no objective and undisputed superior standard.

The mess around the spectrum reallocation process in the US, which started the process very early, is instructive:

The auction, previously set to begin in mid-2015, is likely to be the largest and most complicated sale of airwaves that the commission has undertaken. It involves a multistep process in which some broadcasters agree to give up their airwaves or move their signals to new spots on the electromagnetic spectrum in exchange for a portion of the proceeds of their sale.

Broadcast stations that do not participate in the auction could have their spot on the broadcast spectrum moved anyway, to help create contiguous blocks of airwaves for sale to mobile phone companies.

Most broadcast stations affiliated with the four major networks are not expected to participate in the auction, and the trade association said in its lawsuit challenging the sale that the initial rules laid out by the commission would cause some stations to lose some of their coverage area and viewers.


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