Japan first in Asia to enter digital TV era

Country completes move from analog to digital transmission of television broadcast and may offer freed up airwaves to local telcos such as Softbank to bolster their mobile services.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Japan marks a milestone in Asia's history as it becomes the first country in the region to migrate from the traditional analog transmission to a fully digitized television broadcast system.

News wire Reuters reported Sunday that Japan ended its 58-year-old era of analog television transmission over the weekend as cathode-ray tube TVs are no longer able to display programs without an additional special tuner, following the migration to digital broadcast. Public broadcaster NHK's news program and cartoon series Pocket Monsters were among the shows that are fully digitized, it added.

Additionally, the switch to digital transmission frees up airwaves that can then be allocated to local mobile operators such as Softbank to improve their existing services, the report stated.

The Japanese government in January released a statement saying that the country's digital broadcasting will take up only two-thirds of radio bands used by analog system. The additional spectrum has been earmarked to improve mobile phone services, traffic information services, disaster prevention measures and a new business of broadcasting exclusively for mobile devices, it explained.

Currently, Softbank is seeking government approval to use part of the freed up airwaves to improve its data transmission, Reuters noted. The operator plans to spend 1 trillion yen (US$13 billion) over the next two years based on the expectation that it will be allocated some spectrum, according to company president, Masayoshi Son.

Other Asian countries going digital, too
While it is the first, Japan is not the only country in Asia moving toward a fully digital broadcast system.

China in March announced 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. Such a network would enable a larger amount of content transmission and allow more interplay between TV broadcasters, telecom carriers and Internet operators to provide services within the various industries, according to an earlier ZDNet Asia report.

Singapore had also revealed plans to switch fully to digital TV transmission, which it said were in line with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (Asean) plan to turn off analog broadcast between 2015 and 2020. Yaacob Ibrahim, Singapore's minister for information, communications and the arts, said last month that the country's media regulator, the Media Development Authority, is preparing a nationwide trial network which is slated to be up in September, to assess how DVB-T2 (Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial) can be deployed across the island.

Editorial standards