No commercial digital TV multiplexes for Ireland

There will be no commercial digital terrestrial TV (DTT) multiplexes licenced in Ireland amidst concerns over cost, viability and the future use of terrestrial TV frequencies.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) assessed the future of Irish digital terrestrial TV, commissioning a report into the current market conditions by Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates (O&O), together with a consideration of a number of potential business models for commercial DTT. Following a review of the report, BAI has decided not to proceed with a licensing process for commercial DTT.

The Authority agreed with the findings contained in the report, which suggested that the market conditions for launching commercial DTT services have not improved and remain very challenging since the last unsuccessful licensing process was undertaken in 2008, especially following a consolidation of the TV market at the time of digital switchover (DSO), when, according to BAI "viewers made a choice with regard to the optimum digital offering for their home".
Cost of Irish DTT v Satellite (annual costs)

Saorview DTT
Astra 2 satellites^
Standard Definition channel
€1 million*

€400,000

High Definition channel
€2.4 million*
€800,000

*Costs would come down if more channels joined the platform.
^The satellites used to beam Sky and Freesat channels across the UK and Ireland.


The report noted the high cost of transmitting a commercial service on digital terrestrial television in Ireland, stating that a standard definition TV slot on Saorview would cost €1 million a year, compared to €400,000 per year for a service transmitted via the Astra 2 satellite used for Sky and Freesat services.

Additionally, uncertainty over the future use of the 700 MHz frequency band later this decade was cited as another reason why a commercial DTT service might struggle during the course of any licence period, along with concerns over its viability thanks to strong and established competition from Sky, UPC and Freesat - which many Irish viewers use together with current terrestrial TV service Saorview.

Following the collapse of the last commercial DTT licensing round in Ireland, Saorview was launched to provide free-to-air access to Ireland's terrestrial broadcasters RTÉ, TV3 and TG4 beyond digital switchover.

Saorview has recently expanded with the launch of a second multiplex, creating space to switch RTÉ One to high definition.

The Irish Republic had originally intended to have two multiplexes assigned to public service broadcasters and four multiplexes to a commercial DTT operator.

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