Digital television trials
head for next phase

21 Nov 2005

Having completed the first stage in the development of a digital terrestrial television (DTT) pilot, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey TD, is seeking tenders for the transmission equipment elements of the pilot. Deals for the network component have already been signed with BT Ireland, Chorus and Siemens.

The Communications Department has been planning the DTT pilot since June and various procurement packages are under way.

According to the minister: “Progress is continuing with plans for the DTT pilot. It is important that free-to-air broadcasts move from an analogue terrestrial basis to a digital terrestrial basis over time. DTT is the more modern free-to-air technology that is being adopted by most countries across Europe in this regard. This limited third-party trial, to be run over approximately 24 months, will help explore and research the potential for DTT in Ireland.

“A tender process was started in June to select an operator for the multiplex and network element of the pilot,” the Minister said.

“Six applicants have been shortlisted for the multiplex and network component of the pilot and have been invited to tender. The shortlisted applicants are Arqiva, BT Ireland, Chorus, Crowncastle (National Grid Wireless), Siemens and Simac. The competitive response suggests a real interest in the provision of DTT infrastructure in Ireland,” he added.

The minister described the pilot as a suitable way forward in developing free-to-air digital television services in Ireland and in progressing a move towards analogue switch-off. “Initial broadcasts will transmit from the Three Rock site in Dublin and the Clermont Carn site in County Louth, beginning in mid-2006. The infrastructure will allow a basis for technical testing and spectrum planning, for demonstrating broadcast channels and services, and for exploring the possibilities of digital television at the viewer and user level.

Dempsey added that he will be looking to explore possibilities for citizen-focused digital television services that can be delivered across all platforms during the course of the pilot.

“While the pilot is under way, I intend to hold comprehensive discussions with all relevant stakeholders around the timing of analogue switch-off. Switch-off of analogue television services is being strongly advocated by the European Commission, with 2012 a target date suggested by the commission,” Dempsey said.

By John Kennedy