Broadcasters are beginning to ask for capabilities that may not be inherent to the current 8-VSB transmission standard but are important to them in realizing a potential business case
This is not going to be an endless process since spectrum issues and the U.S. DTV rollout timetable simply won't permit it. The transmission standard should be resolved this year. Already there have been about 600,000 HDTV display units sold in the U.S. and a number of manufacturers are planning to bring to market 8-VSB set top box decoders in considerable numbers at affordable prices this year. At a certain point if the broadcasters and the FCC can't agree the marketplace may well decide it for them.
In the midst of all of this what are we doing to get the industry ready for DTV/HDTV transition? CDTV members have been very active completing the first phase of testing of an 8-VSB transmitter at our Ottawa test facility, work has begun on developing business models for over the air broadcasters for DTV/HDTV services, a second edition of our consumer/retailer DTV pamphlet has been completed and distributed to retailers across the country and work continues on assessing various picture formats and conversion from standard to high definition pictures and the reverse. It is a time of learning, familiarization and development. This work and more will continue through 2001 and include a test transmitter in Toronto ( just licensed as of January 4 ) which will give operational experience to Toronto based broadcasters and networks of DTV/HDTV services in both 8-VSB and COFDM transmission standards.
I'm often asked will DTV/HDTV happen? Yes in fact it's already happening on DTH services in Canada and the U.S. Over 170 stations are on the air in the U.S. and growing. Cable systems are either digital ready now or getting there quickly. Service providers are gradually replacing their aging analog equipment with digital equipment capable of delivering a wide screen DTV signal. Virtually every distribution platform is moving towards or is already capable of DTV delivery. The cost savings associated with digital plant and production equipment and the eventual savings on distribution when the transition is complete are compelling reasons for making the digital switch. Digital delivery is very spectrum efficient and allows for more and new compelling DTV/HDTV programs and associated services. And we have only talked about the North American region. Europe and Asia are well into their DTV transition with some countries like the UK fully operational on every delivery platform.
It is important to remember this is a replacement technology that is of a magnitude which makes the introduction of color a cake walk. The challenges for the industry, consumer and creator all require careful attention and time to find the right road, but we will.
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