Dempsey seeks tenders for digital TV pilot

29 Jun 2005

Communications Minister Noel Dempsey TD is seeking expressions of interest for the infrastructural elements of a digital terrestrial television (DTT) pilot his department is developing.

His department has been planning the pilot for a number of months and a number of procurement packages are being put together to implement the pilot.

The first process is under way with the department seeking expressions of interest around the multiplexing and networking elements of the pilot.

The failure to get DTT off the ground in Ireland has garnered much criticism over the past few years, from when it was the hottest thing on the e-commerce agenda of government in 2000 to being a non-issue until recently. Most vocal among the critics has been Peter Branagan, former head of digital development at RTÉ and the head of a consortium known as It’s Comms (formerly known as It’s TV), who has been lobbying the Government to create a realistic licensing regime for DTT and argues there is still time to create a viable DTT service.

Acknowledging Ireland laggard status Dempsey said: “Most countries in Europe are starting to switch over from analogue terrestrial transmission to digital and for very good reasons. DTT can provide much more to the free-to-air viewer in terms of additional channels, improved quality of service and innovative new services.”

According to TV industry insiders, Ireland had a good opportunity to deploy DTT services around the time that the Broadcasting Act, 2001 passed into law following a year-long delay caused by squabbling over the ownership of the proposed network. More than three years later, the Government has still not awarded a licence to operate the service in Ireland, despite running a 12-month tender.

The advantage DTT presents to TV service providers is a more efficient management of ultra-high frequency whereby 10 times more content could be filtered within one single band, resulting in the opportunity to deploy other services such as broadband and telephony to homes with standard analogue antennae.

Describing the DTT pilot Dempsey explains: “The pilot is seen as a means to develop interest and momentum in the DTT platform.

“Initial broadcasts will transmit from the Three Rock site in Dublin and the Clermont Carn site in County Louth. Such transmissions will allow for technical testing of services, for trialling and demonstrating of existing and new broadcast channels and services and for illustrating and displaying the possibilities of DTT at the viewer and user level,” he said.

“Operating on a limited third-party trial basis, I expect the pilot will generate the awareness and discussion among broadcasters, investors and other interested parties to move towards a full national rollout of DTT in time. I will be engaging with interested parties in this regard as soon as the pilot commences,” Dempsey said.

By John Kennedy