Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia has publicized the action and plan and recommendations for switchover to digital broadcasting. The document has been developed by support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and by considering recommendations from the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) and non-governmental organizations. Government approved the strategy for switchover to digital broadcasting 7 February 2014.
Broadcasters are currently circulating analogue signal. Due to limited resource of frequencies countries members of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) agreed on switchover to digital broadcasting in 2006. 17 June 2015 has been set as deadline for switchover. Majority of those countries have already switched to digital broadcasting.
Meanwhile, Georgia has only 1.5 year left for implementing the activities set forth in the strategy.
According to the plan publicized by the Ministry changed will be conducted in several directions.
Legislative regulations are to be changed after switchover to digital broadcasting. According to the strategy publicized by the Ministry, TV-broadcasting/TV content making activities must be separated from electronic communication (including those intended for TV-broadcasting) networks activities.
By the developed draft amendments is to be abolished the licensing regime for TV-broadcasters; instead of that form of admission to market is to be simplified – TV-broadcasters will go through authorization and receive the right for circulation of content, including via digital terrestrial and open-air networks.
For introducing national digital terrestrial TV-networks Georgia will use DVB-T2 (EN 302 755) standard, whith MPEG 4 (ISO/IEC 14496) technology of data compression, which allows circulation of an average of 15 standard definition (SD), or from 4 to 6 high definition (HD) TV-programs within frequency resource allocated for one multiplex platform.
Digital signal of broadcasters is circulated via multiplexes (telecommunication network, by which analogous signal is transformed into digital signal.)
In framework of EBRD technical support program a frequency resource necessary for seven multiplex platforms.
Until full switchover to digital broadcasting from March to 17 June 2015 there will be a so called transition period, when along with analogous signal, broadcasting signals will also be circulated in digital format. During that period has been planned a frequency resource necessary for only two platforms from seven multiplexes, in framework of which open-air TV programs will be circulated in digital format during the transition period.
During transition period, after analogous TV-broadcasting will be switched off and coinciding frequency resource will be freed, 6 multiplexes will start functioning and five of them will be available via open competition.
Sixth multiplex will be handed over free-of-charge to Georgian TV-Radio Center LLC, which owns several TV-towers throughout Georgia, including Tbilisi TV-tower. TV-Center circulates Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) signal.
GNCC will conduct open competition for the right of constructing multiplex.
Georgian TV-Radio Center is restricted from participating in open competition, which is explained by the Ministry by reasons of insuring and supporting competition. It will also prohibited from using resource left free after allocation of GPB programs for transiting other channels or for circulating its own content.
In case if free resource will remain after circulation of GPB, TV-Radio Center will obliged to insure (in case if requested) admission of holders of first, second and seventh platform licenses by cost-oriented tariffs.
Regional broadcasters have several alternative solutions for switchover to digital broadcasting. Those who wish to remain content-producers and circulate program in open air only within small radius or to increase broadcasting area, both in one or several digital zones, also throughout the country, will have the possibility to allocate at one of digital terrestrial broadcasting multiplex platform after paying coinciding fee.
Regional broadcaster gains possibility to become owner of multiplex in the broadcasting zone it currently circulates signal in. If a regional broadcaster or union of regional broadcasters decides to receive frequency resource, they must be able to construct multiplex before 1 March 2016 and circulate programs free-of-charge.
When forming local multiplex it is allowed to use DVB-T standard instead of DVB-T2. They will be able to circulate frequency resource only after switch-off of analogue signal.
Analogue signal will be circulated in parallel with digital signal from 17 March 2015 through 17 June 2015. During the given period, until the alternative digital terrestrial broadcasting networks are formed, public multiplex insures free-of-charge circulation of TV programs in SD format of the GPB content and also existing national broadcasters (Broadcasting Company Rustavi 2 LLC, TeleImedi LLC and I Stereo TV-Company LLC).
Holders of broadcasting licenses which have already paid license fee for the period after 17 June 2015 will be partially reimbursed from the State budget, proportionally according to years.
Changes for customers – Set Top Box
In order for viewers to be able to receive TV-signal after switchover to digital broadcasting, their TV-set must have DVB-T2 standard support. In case if it does not have such standard support, then it needs the so called Set Top Box. Receiving non-receiving of digital signal does not depend on TV-set definition. A TV-set may receive HD quality signal, although it may not be able to receive digital signal.
A detail technical specification document for Set Top Boxes, which must be used by persons/potential investors interested in importing the Set Top Boxes.
All the imported Set Top Boxes must be certified and must coincide with unified norms set forth by the document – they must be able to transform and/or decode open-air and crypto-coded, both standard and HD signals circulated in framework of DVB-T and DVB-T2 standard digital networks.
State insures free-or-charge provision of Set Top Boxes to socially vulnerable population having less than 70 points of rating points.
For insuring informing of population, broadcasters, potential investors and equipment importing companies after important aspects of the reform and measures necessary to be taken and for optimal provision of subsidies to socially vulnerable families, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia is to found a legal person of public law – Digital Broadcasting Agency, which will function through completion of the migration to digital broadcasting.
24-hour multilingual information hotline will be launched; special information website (www.digital.gov.ge) will be created, which will publicize coinciding text and video information related to digital broadcasting; Coinciding information will also be available at a forum, social networks and blogs.
Systematic provision of information to population on the trading points which will sell certified Set Top Boxes; Information type social advertisements and video-clips will be made and circulated via media; special training sessions for journalist and all those interested will be conducted; information booklet for sellers and customers will be published and circulated via trading points.
Official document by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia can be viewed here (in Georgian) – Action plan and coinciding recommendations for switchover from analogue terrestrial TV-broadcasting to digital terrestrial TV-broadcasting.