Ireland looks set to be a laggard in digital terrestrial television (DTT), as well as broadband, and even the EU is urging Ireland to get into gear on DTT, said Labour spokesperson on communications Liz McManus.
McManus called on Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan to address the ongoing delays in implementing DTT in Ireland as a matter of urgency following calls from the EU Commission to speed up the move to DTT.
Deputy McManus said: “The delay in implementing digital TV in Ireland is adversely affecting our ability to upgrade and improve our broadband provision in this country.
“Time and again, international and EU reports have placed Ireland bottom of the table for broadband quality, cost and provision. The move to digital TV could have a real impact on our broadband provision.”
Autumn 2009 start
In August last year, Ryan said Ireland’s digital switchover would begin in autumn 2009. Yet there is little indication anything has happened.
McManus pointed to research that indicates Ireland is languishing at the bottom the DTT table.
Five countries have completed the switch-over with a further six countries due for completion by 2010 or earlier. Of the EU 27, Ireland is one of only two countries that has no firm plans available for the switch-over to DTT and is set to miss the 2012 switch-over target set by the commission.
“The delay in implementing digital TV in Ireland
is adversely affecting our ability to upgrade
and improve our broadband provision in this country."
– Labour spokesperson on communications Liz McManus
The UK has already begun the first stages of its digital TV switch-over with homes in Wales moving to the new technology. This means viewers in the southeast of the country may no longer receive UK TV stations on ordinary terrestrial TV.
“Last May, our DTT plans were in flux after the Boxer consortium pulled out, blaming the changed economic conditions, having not signed the contract eight months after it was offered the tender. It is now six months since the latest consortium, OneVision was offered the tender and there has been no update on when a contract will be signed and where our DTT future lies.
“Yesterday, the European Commission stated that the airwaves, which will be freed up from the move from analogue TV to digital TV, referred to as the digital dividend, would make ‘broadband for all’ a reality across Europe," McManus added.
Need for speed
“The EU Commissioner for Information Society, Viviane Reding, has called on EU countries to speed up the move to digital TV, which she outlined will bring wireless broadband where high-speed internet cannot be provided efficiently by other technologies," McManus said.
“She also stated that this ‘digital dividend’ will offer opportunities for new operators and new services and will have a positive impact on the economy. The benefits across Europe could give be worth from €20 billion to €50 billion, according to the commission.
“The minister must provide an update immediately on whether this contract is to be signed in the near future. It is an urgent matter for Ireland’s digital future and for our ability to take up on the significant benefits from the digital dividend.
“Ireland has been trailing behind in broadband provision and we must not now be left in the dark in relation to the EU-wide digital switch-over plan. I am tabling a Parliamentary Question to the minister on this issue,” McManus said.
By John Kennedy
Photo: Ireland is one of only two EU countries that has no firm plans available for the switch-over to digital terrestrial television and may miss the 2012 switch-over target set by the EU Commission.