BT-backed consortium wins digital terrestrial licence

22 Jul 2008

The BT-backed Boxer DTT consortium emerged victorious from the competition for a commercial digital terrestrial television licence for Ireland.

Welcoming the decision, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD said Ireland’s switch from analogue to digital television is on schedule.

Three consortia – Boxer DTT, comprising BT and Swedish broadcaster Boxer Group; OneVision consortium, which includes TV3, Eircom, Setanta and technology firm Arqiva; and EasyTV Limited consisting UPC and RTÉ – had been shortlisted by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) for the three DTT licences.

DTT will eventually replace analogue television and the spectrum freed will be used for other services such as broadband or mobile services.

Under the Broadcasting Act 2007, RTÉ is required to provide a digital television service offering access to the Irish national channels – RTÉ, TG4 and TV3 – on a free-to-air basis.

The BCI, an independent regulatory body, was required to identify a commercial DTT service provider suitable for the service.

“This marks an important milestone in the independent BCI process,” Minister Ryan said.

“The Broadcasting (Amendment) Act 2007 assigned the task of finding a commercial DTT provider for Ireland to the BCI and I am delighted at the speed at which it has pursued this activity. I am looking forward to the BCI continuing the process and finalising contracts with Boxer DTT, its chosen service provider.

“I know RTÉ have commenced work on upgrading its analogue television network and that it expects to provide national, free-to-air digital services starting from autumn 2009.

“This, coupled with today’s decision, means we are on schedule for the switchover to digital television in Ireland,” Ryan added.

Boxer DTT chairperson, Lucy Gaffney, in her submission to the BCI outlined plans for the consortium to invest €115m in a broadcast network and multiplexing services, €30m in customer support services and €20m in sales and marketing in its first four years if successful in its bid to secure a licence.

She envisaged the consortium offering over 30 channels from January 2009 through existing roof-top aerials, with the service debuting in major cities and being rolled out to the whole country by 2012, when analogue TV signals will be turned off.

The news was welcomed, no doubt enthusiastically, by BT Ireland chief executive, Chris Clark. “BT chose to support the Boxer application because we believed it had the right blend of skills and experience to be the DTT champion for Ireland, in conjunction with RTÉ as the public service multiplex operator.

“As outlined in Boxer’s application, BT will now proceed to implement a new world-class digital multiplexing service to support Boxer’s business plan and to play our part in Ireland’s journey towards digital TV switchover by 2012,” Clark said.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years