TRAI released a consultation paper based on the issues related to Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting in India. It aims to formulate various methods and develop a road map to switch to Digital Terrestrial TV transmission/ Mobile TV transmission and also suggest the timelines for switching off the existing analog transmission.
It also aims to look at the feasibility of participation of the private sector in the growth of terrestrial broadcasting ecosystem and to put in place a regulatory framework that encourages migration to DTT/ Mobile TV channels while ensuring transparency and a level playing field that facilitates growth in the sector.
The broadcasting sector contributes to nearly 46% of the total size of Media and Entertainment industry. Currently there are 869 private satellite TV channels permitted by the MIB in addition to 26 TV channels being broadcast by DD. At present, there are about 100 million cable TV subscribers, 58.5 million pay DTH subscribers, and about 18 million consumers using free-to-air (FTA) DTH. There are 247 million households in India as per the 2011 census.
Terrestrial broadcasting is currently the exclusive domain of DD. There are many limitations in the current analog terrestrial broadcasting such as poor reception quality due to susceptibility to Radio Frequency (RF), it is spectrally inefficient as more spectrum per TV channel is required and frequency re use is limited, it also proves difficult to receive signal in a portable environment like a moving car.
On the other hand Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) holds many advantages like better TV quality, efficient use of frequency, efficient reception on frequency on portable devices and newer formats of TV channels such as HD and UHD can be delivered.
However, there are various issues relating to digitization of terrestrial broadcasting.
Unlike the broadcast method, the telecom network cannot provide mobile TV channels to unlimited number of users in a given coverage area. Therefore terrestrial broadcasting is relevant not only for traditional broadcast delivery but also for mobile and handheld devices.
The DTT standards have been designed in a manner to maximize utilization of existing infrastructure; however digitization of terrestrial broadcasting is cost intensive and requires creation of new infrastructure.
India has a huge terrestrial network and the process of digital migration becomes more complex as it may require huge resources and time to completely digitize the network.
TRAI adds that since analog terrestrial TV broadcasts primarily cater to the needs of people in rural, far flung and remote areas, it may also be argued that DTT implementation may be restricted to such areas where a mix of TV and radio services through a single small power DTT transmitter may be made available to the people. This may however require that DTT STBs are made available to them at affordable costs.
It thus asks its stake holders if there is a need for introduction of Digital terrestrial transmission in presence of multiple broadcasting distribution platforms.
Introduction of DTT services requires concerted effort on the part of various stakeholders to make available DTT STBs, TV receivers, infrastructure and appealing services to drive migration process. It is expected that the entry of private players in DTT sector may help developing necessary ecosystem.
TRAI has proposed various models for the implementation of DTT. Firstly, integrated DTT broadcasting model, transmission network model and thirdly common transmission infrastructure model. It has also asked its stakeholders which model or a combination thereof for Digital terrestrial transmission will be most suitable in Indian context.
The roadmap for digitization of terrestrial broadcasting is emphasised by TRAI stating that it is important to have a well laid down roadmap and timeframe for complete digitization of the existing terrestrial network.
As on date, only 40 DTT transmitters have been installed so far. Analog transmission in these places is still continuing as services to be broadcast over DTT platform are yet to be finalized.
According to TRAI, the Indian context of digitization may be implemented in a phased manner on the basis of several criteria such as regions, major cities covering large population, existing terrestrial channels etc.
TRAI has asked its stakeholders to provide suggestions about the roadmap of digitization and about the analog switch off date(s) for the terrestrial TV channels in context with the suggested roadmap for DTT implementation.