Cork TV station examines broadband potential


3 Dec 2004

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Cork-based TV station Southcoast Television, which is preparing a digital television offering that will compete against BSkyB and Chorus in the Munster region, is understood to be in negotiations with a number of internet service providers with a view to providing broadband connectivity directly to customers’ living rooms.

Southcoast Television, which has been providing television services to the Munster region for more than 20 years – originally as a pirate station – recently secured a licence from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to launch digital terrestrial television (DTT) services that beam digital signals to homes from a network of radio signals. Not only does DTT afford better sound and vision but it also affords providers with better economies of scale than analoge television due to better frequency management.

ComReg instigated a licensing process last March with a view to boosting competition in the television distribution market, currently dominate by satellite firm BSkyB as well as Chorus and NTL. There is a widespread industry view that RTẾ is failing to exploit the potential of digital television. There is also a view that ComReg’s plans could also signal a death knell for Government plans that originated in the Nineties and so far have failed to materialise to launch a national competitor to BSkyB and the cable firms.

Southcoast Television was originally set up as a pirate television deflector firm in Cork in 1985 and today has more than 10,000 multi-channel television subscribers in the Cork area. Years of legal wrangling over licences saw the company make appearances against the Department of Communications in the High Court as well as the Supreme Court before finally receiving a licence from ComReg in October this year.

Eric Curtis, secretary of Southcoast TV, said that the company is planning to launch full-scale DTT services next September and is in discussions with various channels such as the Discovery Channel with a view to providing potential customers in the Munster region with more than 60 channels. “We intend to undercut the competition by as much as 15pc,” Curtis told siliconrepublic.com.

He said that the company is in discussions with a number of internet service providers about deploying broadband services over the digital television frequency as part of an overall package. “We are in discussions with a number of providers with wireless broadband licences and hope to strike a partnership deal in the near future.

“We don’t envisage technical difficulties in deploying broadband over these signals but it is more a matter of getting the right license agreements in place,” Curtis added.

By John Kennedy