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Progress Made On Digital Terrestrial Television

Major progress has been made towards the successful introduction of Digital Terrestrial Television, Communications Minister Maurice Williamson said today.

"Following consultation with major network providers and transmission consultants, a draft frequency channel plan and detailed engineering criteria for digital television transmissions in New Zealand has been developed," said Mr Williamson.

"I'm delighted to have reached this key milestone in the engineering project. This milestone represents great progress towards a successful introduction of this exciting new technology.

"The technical work completed to date is a fine example of Government and industry working in close consultation to maximise the value of the resource to the benefit of the viewing public."

It has also been determined that three separate national frequency networks can be accommodated in the plan for the reservation of spectrum for transition of free-to-air broadcasts, leaving up to a further five potential networks for sale by auction.

"The advent of digital television promises greater program choice, new interactive program services and a host of options for improved picture and sound quality," said Mr Williamson.

In December 1998 the Government announced plans for the transition of terrestrial television broadcasts from the present analogue format to the new generation digital transmission format. Those plans included a decision to implement digital programs in the existing UHF-TV bands using a frequency interleave approach. Additionally, the Government announced a program of spectrum reservation for free-to-air broadcasts, to enable continuity of service to the public over the transition period.

The draft channel plan and engineering criteria document can be found at: http://www.moc.govt.nz/rsm/planning/dttv/index.html.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, DIGITAL TERRESTRIAL TELEVISION PROJECT

Q When do you expect to be auctioning DTT spectrum?

A The DTT auction is tentatively timed for around June 2000. This is somewhat dependent on the duration of the 2GHz auction.

Q How soon will the engineering be complete and the auction lots be announced?

A We plan to release an auction catalogue sometime in March 2000.

Q The draft channel plan does not include channels 25 and 26, the Single Frequency Networks? Is there a plan to auction them as well?

A Channels 25 and 26 are indeed part of the spectrum available for DTT implementation. Until such time as the detailed engineering for the interleave channels has been completed, we cannot be sure exactly how the frequencies will be allocated as part of the overall plan.

Q Will all free-to-air broadcasters be given reserved spectrum as part of the transition programme?

A It is the Government's intention to provide for the transition from analogue to digital through a process of frequency reservation. We have further engineering work to complete before we know exactly which specific frequency bands or channels will be reserved and whether spectrum will be required by the free-to-air program providers.

Q What is meant by "whether spectrum will be required"?

A Each free-to-air program provider has a unique commercial model and indeed some have specific, niche-oriented target markets. We are working with each of these organisations to determine what their specific plans are.

Q Is it likely that this auction will also be affected by Treaty of Waitangi claim?

A The Government has made a reservation of UHF frequencies sufficient in capacity to establish a nationwide Maori Television network. These frequencies are also capable of supporting digital transmissions.

Q In relation to the engineering criteria adopted by the Ministry of Commerce, are these compatible with the rest of the world?

A Yes. The New Zealand approach is aligned to the engineering standards criteria adopted by the European Broadcasting Union and it is expected that that same criteria will be adopted internationally by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union).

Q How soon can the New Zealand public expect to see digital television transmissions?

A Already some program providers are implementing digital transmissions via satellite. The timing of the conversion of programs and networks to digital transmission is not determined by Government regulation, rather each television provider will make those decisions based on commercial and value-added service strategies. Our understanding is that some network providers have indicated they may commence digital transmission of free-to-air programs as early as 2001.

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