Julian Clover on what happens when the UK completes the digital switchover.
The UK digital switchover is all over bar the shouting. In the next few days Northern Ireland will become the last part of the British Isles to receive its television by digital means alone.
Ireland, which is making the switch on the same day, is anxious to avoid a wobble through viewers leaving a purchase of the necessary reception equipment until the last minute.
It has been a long old process, and the dismantlement of careers and brand names now seems long forgotten. Monkey, the knitted hero of ITV Digital’s advertisements, is probably the only personality of the early days still in public life after the failed attempts to establish a pay platform. Advertising PG Tips tea, TV executives will need something a little stronger for the days ahead.
The most recent switchover statement from Arqiva, the transmission company responsible for much of the work, even admitted to a purpose for switchover other than the ubiquitous more choice for consumers.
4G Internet is now close to becoming a reality for consumers and telcos alike. It will provide speeds far greater than what is currently possible. The ironic twist is of course that in launching a new service capable of comfortably delivering high definition video over the Internet, you risk messing up the ability of those people currently watching HD on a television to continue doing so.
If the failure of pay DTT in the UK market was the first defining part of the switchover process, then HD was the second. Remember the HD for all campaign? There was a time when it seemed possible that there would be no high definition signals on the UK terrestrial system.
Then a multiplex was cleared, Red Button services eased, and there are now four HD channels with at least one more to follow.
But wait, isn’t HD the format of the future, and won’t it one day be the only domestic format? At this point I’m making something of an assumption about 3D and even Ultra High Definition, but keep with me.
Because the telcos want more and the chances are the International Telecommunications Union is going to give it to them. The body that controls frequency allocation has already indicated that it intends to go beyond the Digital Dividend and provide the telcos with more frequencies from current TV bands to give consumers the broadband services they are asking for.
Consumers may well be asking for ever-greater broadband speeds, but they’d probably also ask for their TV back were they to lose it.
A few months ago I wrote an article for Even Higher Above, a new book produced on behalf of SES, in which I mischievously suggested that a lack of terrestrial frequencies might force broadcasters onto satellite. What I wasn’t expecting is for the ITU to create the means for such a scenario while the book was on the printing presses.