Analogue TV will be switched off forever by the end of 2012, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan confirmed today. RTÉ will in the meantime build a €70m replacement digital service.
The new digital service is expected to provide full national coverage, as well as significant coverage throughout Northern Ireland.
The new TV service will be available on both a terrestrial network and a satellite network. RTÉ is planning on building a terrestrial network which will operate from 51 transmitter sites throughout the country, providing coverage to 98pc of the population.
RTÉ currently operates 170 analogue sites. For the remaining 2pc, RTÉ plans to develop a new satellite service. Such a public service satellite service is unique to Ireland. This provides all-Ireland coverage of RTÉ and TG4 for the first time.
RTÉ estimates that the new digital network will cost in the region of €70m.
Digital TV will provide access to seven to nine TV channels, including RTÉ, TV3 and TG4, the national radio channels, will provide on-screen programme information and will provide a new digital teletext service.
Why digital over analogue?
Ryan said digital technology is much more efficient than analogue technology and that going digital will free up valuable spectrum in the broadcasting bands, which can be used for mobile, broadband and other services.
“Digital television will offer viewers more channels, more choice and higher quality television,” Ryan said.
“Going digital will also free up valuable spectrum, which can be used for broadband and mobile services. I have asked ComReg to expedite release of the 800 MHz band, which they will be consulting on shortly.
“Analogue switch-off will take place at the end of 2012 and we need to be prepared. My department will be co-ordinating the preparations and I will be receiving regular updates on progress.
“I am glad we are in a position to move to the next generation of television transmission. I thank RTÉ for their work to date and look forward to the successful completion of this important modernisation project for Ireland.”
Ryan said the transition is good news for television viewers, for the broadcasting industry and for those looking for faster and better broadband.
“This will bring a huge boost to Ireland’s economic and social development by providing jobs, new services and revenue to the country. Ireland is moving firmly into the digital age and we will all reap the benefits,” Ryan said.