Ireland’s minister for communications Eamon Ryan has told parliament digital free-to-air services from RTE will be on air this October and that Ireland will fulfil its obligations to complete analogue switch-off in the final quarter of 2012.
While the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and its predecessor the Broadcasting Commission have struggled to get a commercial DTT service on air, Ryan told The Dáil that public broadcaster RTE had assured him it would be in a position to launch services to 90% of the population by October 31, 2010.
“I have informed RTE that the date for the provision of a full national digital terrestrial television service is 31 December 2011. In conjunction with this, the memorandum of understanding I signed earlier this year with the United Kingdom will facilitate co-ordination around the roll-out of digital terrestrial television and analogue switch-off with Northern Ireland.” He added that the digital switchover would also give Ireland the ability to launch broadband services into rural communities. “I regret that the BAI process did not result in a commercial DTT operator as it would have delivered additional consumer choice. As a result of the outcome of the BAI’s commercial DTT process, I am in detailed discussions with the BAI, ComReg and RTE to consider the broadcasting, telecommunications and spectrum policy issues that arise. Meanwhile, it is important to note that commercial DTT is not essential to provide for analogue switch-off. It is the transition from free-to-air analogue to free-to-air digital that will yield the digital dividend. RTE’s plans for the national DTT service are advancing.”
In the absence of a commercial player a working group has been established to set the necessary technical standards. Ryan said receivers are ready to go. They will be tested by Sweden’s Teracom and comply with specifications set out by the Scandinavia standards body NorDig.