Russia and the CIS countries are operating to a different digitisation timetable to the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, with ASO in almost all set for 2015. However, even this still distant deadline is unlikely to be met in some cases.
Digitisation in Russia and the CIS was discussed in some detail by Ivan Omelianiuk, general director of the Ukrainian company Kvant-Efir, speaking at the Digital Switchover Strategies conference earlier this week in London. In the specific case of Russia, it also received considerable coverage this week at the CSTB annual conference and exhibition in Moscow.
Mr Omelianiuk argued that the economic crisis and political issues have affected the digitisation process in most post-Soviet countries. Furthermore, in his view lack of funding and the absence of proper legislation have effectively put back the national rollout of DTT in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan by at least a year.
He concluded that without “radical government remedies”, some post-Soviet countries are unlikely to complete ASO even by 2015.
When seen in these terms, the switchover situation elsewhere in CEE looks decided healthy. Huge progress has already been made in such countries as Slovenia, Croatia and the Czech Republic, while Estonia will become the first in the region to complete the process on July 1 this year.
That is not to say that some countries further east will soon also not be making progress. Russia, in particular, has a strategy in place that it seems to be constantly refining and has indeed launched its first DTT multiplex.
Earlier this week its deputy minister of communications and mass communications announced that viewers in all major population centres would be offered up to 13 TV channels by 2015 – a huge improvement, given that many (certainly outside the big cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg) currently make do with only two or three.
However, the ambitions seem to go much further, with the plan being to eventually offer everyone in major population centres throughout the country up to 24 SD channels on three multiplexes free of charge. HD channels and mobile TV are also on the agenda.
Though there are undoubtedly still major obstacles to overcome, it is probably safe to assume that Russia and most CIS countries, including Belarus and Ukraine, will quickly make up for lost time in the digitisation process.