Philippines inches closer, but slowly, toward digital TV

Philippines inches closer, but slowly, toward digital TV

Summary: Philippine government selects Japan's ISDB-T as the industry standard the country will use when it finally switches from analog to digital broadcasting, but the migration may still take years.

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The Philippines has chosen Japan's integrated service digital broadcasting-terrestrial (ISDB-T) as the industry standard the country will use when it finally switches from analog to digital broadcasting.

television-tv-remote
Japan's ISDB-T standard chosen for its ability to send warning alerts in amid natural disasters such as typhoons.

The announcement is not exactly unexpected because the country was already poised to go digital since 2011, when the regulatory body National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) sought government approval to adopt the Japanese standard over DVB-T, a competing standard widely used in Europe. 

From a layman's point of view, digital TV may mean clearer television signals and, therefore, clearer TV reception from broadcasting providers. This is possible because the broadcasting companies will upgrade their equipment to support digital broadcasts, including cameras, and other essential equipment to produce TV shows made for digital broadcasting. The digital signal is also touted to be able to reach even remote areas that are otherwise difficult to reach using analog.

To enjoy free-to-air digital TV shows, consumers would have to replace their older televisions sets and buy digital set-top boxes that can directly receive digital TV programs into their TV sets.

Beyond the obvious reasons, the Philippine government seems to lean toward the other benefits of ISDB-T over its European counterpart, namely, the capability of the Japanese standard to be used to send warning signals and announcements in times of typhoons.

The built-in warning system is touted to enable people with TV sets, mobile phones, and other gadgets with TV receivers to receive these warning broadcasts.

A spokesperson from the Office of the President of the Philippines said this was one of the major considerations when selecting the Japanese standard. It was also reported that the shift to digital TV was one of the main talking points in a recent meeting between Philippine President Benigno Aquino Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

For an archipelago with close to 100 million people with handsets, this feature is indeed valuable considering that like Japan, the Philippine archipelago lies precariously in the way of typhoons and is prone to earthquakes.

However, one would wonder how this is done and whether there are tests or pilot sites that showcase digital TV and the features the platform is able to deliver. Considering the timeframe for the Philippine government to migrate from analog to digital is two to three years, will there be test runs on exactly how this built-in warning system works? Will the whole digital TV infrastructure stand the test of the numerous typhoons that visit the Philippines every year, should traditional means of communications such as landlines and cellular phone towers break down?

For consumers, it would be very helpful if the government and other stakeholders construct a working model or prototype to help consumers truly appreciate what the system can do.  

The national government also noted that regulations on the digital TV shift will need further consultations between government and other stakeholders. The creation of implementing rules, the necessary tests, and upgrade efforts of local broadcasting companies, among other factors, seem to indicate consumers may have to wait at least two years before digital TV truly takes off in the country.

Topics: Emerging Tech, Philippines

Joel D. Pinaroc

About Joel D. Pinaroc

Joel has been a media practitioner since 1996, starting off as a reporter and eventually becoming editor of a pioneering IT trade newspaper in Manila. He is currently one of the content producers of a Manila-based developmental website.

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