China to digitize cable TV by 2015

Chinese government reveals plans to digitize all cable TV networks in country by 2015, including proposal to set up national cable television network company, in efforts to spur convergence of cable TV, Internet and telecommunications, news report states.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

China has laid out plans to digitize all of its cable TV networks above the county level, by 2015, to spur the convergence of cable TV, telecommunications and the Internet, according to a local news report, which quotes industry watchers to say the absence of a unified regulatory body is hampering such plans.

Chinese news agency, China Daily, reported on Wednesday that a digitized cable TV network enables a larger amount of content transmission and allows more interplay between TV broadcasters, telecom carriers and Internet operators to provide services within the various industries.

Tian Jin, vice minister of China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), said in the report that the digitization process is "key" for cable TV operators to tap the convergence of technologies.

China Daily highlighted that China launched a pilot project in 12 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, last July to evaluate how the convergence of technologies would play out over cable TV networks. From the trial, SARFT drew up a preliminary plan to set up a national cable television network company and will send the proposal "for government examination as soon as possible", Tian said.

China's fragmented cable TV industry is one of the primary hurdles in realizing the government's plan to tap technology to boost its economy, the report stated.

To mitigate this, SARFT stated in an earlier report that it would consolidate about 1,000 regional radio and TV networks under the purview of a single, national cable television network company. This initiative was expected to have been completed by 2010, China Daily noted.

However, Tian told the Chinese news agency that the goal was not fully achieved and SARFT "should make more efforts" to do so this year.

Commenting on these developments, Horse Liu, an analyst with IHS iSuppli, said in the report: "Compared with technical transformation such as digitization, bringing cable TV networks together is a much greater challenge."

Another industry watcher, Wei Leping, agreed. The director of science and technology committee of China Telecom Corporation said there were areas TV broadcasters and telecom carriers disagreed on, making the task of consolidating these operators more challenging.

"The root of the difficulty lies in [the fact] that the telecom and broadcasting industries are supervised by two different industry regulators," Wei said, adding that a unified regulator should be formed to bring an end to such woes.

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