On 09 January 2015, DigiTAG in collaboration with Analysys Mason issued a new report to help benchmark technology evolutions on the Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT) platform in Europe. While nearly all countries have completed the migration of the terrestrial television platform from analogue to digital, considerations are now underway in many countries to adopt new DTT technologies that can better accommodate changes in viewing habits and spectrum usage.
Importance of the DTT platform
Viewers have remained committed to the terrestrial platform. It is the primary television delivery platform for 43% of households across Europe, used by 250 million viewers. Coverage is widespread with most markets making the DTT platform available to 98% of the population. DTT is the only platform that provides a percentage of free-to-air services in all markets, while in many countries there is an extensive free-to-air offering. It ensures public service content to all viewers.
Despite claims that broadcast television is heading towards extinction, 1 it remains the most popular means to access content. Linear television viewing has increased in recent years and accounts for an average of 4 hours per day in the five major European markets. Live television content, most notably major sporting events remain popular. Even among younger watchers, who spend a greater percentage of time on non-linear content, compared to other viewers, linear television accounts for 50% of all viewing. To date, non-linear television has not eroded traditional television viewing. Instead, linear television serves as an entry point to access timeshifted and on-demand content.
DTT Technology Evolution
Viewers increasingly access linear and non-linear content on various devices, ranging from large screen television sets to mobile tablets and smartphones. DTT standards have evolved to match these viewing demands. It is possible to increase content choice and improve programme quality through upgrades to television channel formats (SD, HD, UHD), encoding technologies (MPEG-2, MPEG-4 AVC, HEVC) and transmission standards (DVB-T, DVB-T2). Complementary DTT technologies (HbbTV, MHEG-5, MHP) now enhance DTT functionality by introducing ancillary services such as non-linear and on-demand content, usually via a broadband connection. Mobile DTT technologies (DVB-T2 Lite, DVB-NGH) have also been developed to allow for the integration of DTT into smartphones and tablets.
Roadmap for DTT 1
The new DigiTAG report seeks to better understand DTT technology evolution and migration in major European markets. Three DigiTAG Profiles have been defined for technology evolutions based on channel format, encoding technology, and transmission standard adopted. Nine countries are analysed in the report, including four of the largest economies in Europe.
Most countries in Europe are currently categorised in DigiTAG Profile 1 (SDTV/HDTV, MPEG- 2/MPEG-4, DVB-T/T2) although some countries may leapfrog to DigiTAG Profile 2 (SDTV/HDTV/UHDTV-4K, MPEG-4/HEVC, DVB-T2) by launching their DTT platforms at a later date. Three country typologies have been defined based on key drivers impacting DTT evolution. These drivers, which include the DTT market, key players and market structure, and a country’s regulation and policy, determine not only how a DTT platform will evolve but also the speed of the evolution. Countries with the fastest adoption profiles are defined as Early Adopters while Early Majority and Late Majority will require more time to migrate to new technologies. Most countries in Europe are categorized as Early Adopter and Early Majority. The timescale for the transition to DigiTAG Profile 2 will take between 3 and 12 years, depending on country typology. In Europe, most countries will reach DigiTAG Profile 2 between 2017 and 2026 and DigiTAG Profile 3, which will include more advanced transmission and encoding standards as well as resolutions up to 8k, from 2023 to 2030 and beyond.
DTT need for spectrum
A clear spectrum allocation is necessary to provide security and stability, promote innovation, and assure long-term investments for industry stakeholders and viewers. The DTT platform is currently facing a scarcity of radio-frequency spectrum. The re-allocation of the 700 MHz band will reduce the total spectrum available for DTT by an average of 30%. Yet, to remain competitive and sustain the adoption of new technologies, the DTT platform will require continued access to sufficient spectrum especially during migration periods.
Broadcast for the foreseeable future
DTT will remain the pre-eminent television viewing platform in Europe for the foreseeable future. Until 2030 and beyond television will be the leading medium for the majority of viewers to access video content. And, among the television delivery platforms, DTT is the only platform which currently provides universal coverage and free-to-air services. With the continued support of viewers and industry stakeholders, DTT has a bright future.