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21.01.2012 08:17

What will change with switchover to digital broadcasting?

Maia Tsiklauri
Digital Broadcasting

In 2015 Geogia must switch to digital broadcasting meaning that along with broadcasters the consumers will also face changes.  You may have to purchase an additional device, or change your TV-set in order to see the TV-image in 2015.  Although, you may even receive the digital signal without any changes; it depends on what kind of TV-set you have and what type of broadcast you receive.    

Who will the changes concern? 

Those viewers who receive broadcasting by means of outdoor, indoor, or general antenna will face the main changes after the switchover to digital broadcasting.  Survey “TV-Viewing Indicators 20120” has shown that 45.9% of Georgian population uses such antennas (mainly population living in rural areas).  In order for them to be able to watch their TVs in 2015 they must purchase the so called Set top boxes.  Set top box is a device that changes the signal from an antenna into digital image. 

In some countries governments have given out these devices to population free-of-charge, in some States specific social groups have been subsidized and in some of them even installation was free.  As long as Georgian authorities have not yet developed the strategy of switching over to digital broadcasting, it is yet unclear how the process will be implemented and what exemptions will be made for Georgian viewers. 

Who will not face any changes? 

Those customers that receive broadcasting via cable networks, or satellite will not have to change anything.  Cable TV companies will insure change of signal to digital themselves. 

“When we speak about digital broadcasting we mean over-the-land broadcasting, as cable and satellite broadcasting digitalization has completed throughout Europe, including Georgia,” Hakan Shaudin, satellite operator SES Vice President and General Manager in Scandinavia, Baltic Countries and Eastern Europe told Media.ge. 

He clarified that those who are using satellite antennas will not have to install any additional devices.  Nothing will change for customers who receive Internet televisions (IPTV) either. 

It is yet unknown whether or not the cable TV companies will increase customer fees.  “Change, or sustaining of prices will depend on expenses each specific provider will face,” Giorgi Baratashvili, National Broadcaster Technical Director said.  Cable companies will be able to calculate their expenses after the strategy will be developed and customer will decide to choose a provider, switch to satellite broadcasting, or to receive broadcasting via antenna. 

What kinds of TV-sets are good to receive digital signal? 

If you receive signal via outdoor, indoor, or general antenna you by all means have to think about changing your TV-set, although the problem can be solved without doing so. 

Giorgi Baratashvili explains that the Set top box (device that changes signal) allows any type of TV-sets, including the kinescope ones (so called TVs with back) to receive digital signal.  “Although, in this case you will not get the main advantage of digital broadcasting – improved image quality,” Giorgi Baratashvili told Media.ge. 

TV-image quality depends on the TV-set image quality.  Both HD (high definition) and SD (standard definition) TV-sets need Set top boxes although the image quality will be different.  Those who have HD quality TVs will watch in better quality.  HD is a manufacturing quality so it does not mean such type TV-sets will receive digital signal without the Set top box. 

Digital TVs on Georgian market

TV-sets that can receive digital signal via antenna, without any Set top boxes are gradually appearing on Georgian market.  Still, there are certain problems here too. 

Several standards are used when switching over from an analogue to digital broadcasting and the most popular in Europe is DVB – T (Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial) and its second generation – DVB – T2.  TV-sets are manufactured according to these standards too. 

According to Giorgi Baratashvili it has been decided that Georgia will directly switch to DVB-T2 standard, while TV-sets sold on Georgian market are mainly DVB-T.  Both customers and TV-distributors may face losses if Georgian authorities do not insure timely provision of information.  Baratashvili explains that DVB-T standard TV-set will not be able to show DVB-T2 standard TV-signal, which means in case if own DVB-T standard TV-set you will additionally have to purchase the Set top box after the official switchover to digital broadcasting. 

“We sell only one DVB-T2 standard Samsung TV-set for GEL 997,” Goga Kekelidze consultant of the electronics store OK located in Tbilisi Central Shopping Mall told media.ge. 

Manager of Aray Tomorrow store located in the same shopping mall Archil Iakopov says in 2011 they have imported TV-sets that have integrated receivers for both standards.  Prices start from GEL 500.  According to Misha Kakhadze, sales manager of Galaxy store they sell several brands of TV-sets that are DVB-T compatible.    

“We have not sold DVB-T2 before.  Customers have not shown interest to digital signal before.  We will act accordingly when the issue becomes important,” Misha Kakhadze says. 

Media.ge also spoke with consultants of several stores.  Not like their managers they either have incomplete information about digital standard TV-sets, or do not know about it at all. 

Why do we change to digital broadcasting? 

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) set the beginning of 2015 as deadline for European countries to switch over to digital broadcasting.  In 2006 Georgia also took the given responsibility and signed the Geneva Agreement.  Georgian TV-channels are now broadcasting via analogue signal.  The given frequency is limited and tends to expire.  That is why it has been decided to switch over to digital broadcasting which allows distribution of more channels.  Majority of European countries has already completed the given process.  We have not even started it yet. 

Active consultations between broadcasters and the Ministry of Economics and Sustainable Development are actively underway for developing strategy of switchover to digital broadcasting.  It has been announced at December 8 2011 Conference that the strategy will be developed by support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and will be ready by the end of March this year. 

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