More Full HD on DTT in Europe as countries prepare for second terrestrial TV switch

A third German broadcaster has announced it's going to terrestrially broadcast six of its channels in Full HD after being convinced by technical trials testing out various parameters ahead of the relaunch of digital terrestrial TV in the country.

ProSiebenSat.1 will broadcast six channels - ProSieben, Sat.1, Kabel Eins, Sixx, Sat.1 Gold and ProSieben Maxx - in 1080p50 on its digital terrestrial TV multiplex, following the lead of RTL and ZDF, who have already confirmed they're going Full HD on terrestrial.

Germany's digital terrestrial TV service is being moved over to a newer platform based on the DVB-T2 and HEVC broadcast standards, which will see the current standard definition digital terrestrial TV service replaced by an HD part-pay, part free platform: channels from the public service broadcasters will be free, but commercial channels will only be available to viewers who pay a monthly fee, expected to be around €5. First DVB-T2/HEVC broadcasts will launch this summer in time for Euro 2016, followed by a full roll-out starting next year.

Tests in Berlin last year saw a multiplex running six HD channels using HEVC with 27.6Mbps total bandwidth, compared to the 40.2Mbps available per Freeview HD multiplex in the UK. Germany is going for a low bandwidth option to enable improved mobile/indoor reception and single frequency network operation.

The new platform will enable further frequencies to be cleared for mobile broadband services in the 700MHz frequency band later this decade. The frequency clearance is also prompting a number of changes - a second digital switch-over -  in other countries:

In Austria, terrestrial TV has mostly moved over to DVB-T2/MPEG4-AVC, remaining broadcasts in DVB-T will be withdrawn, with Multiplex A - the multiplex carrying standard definition versions of the main Austrian public service channels being switched to DVB-T2 on a region-by-region basis from late 2016. By 2018, every channel is expected to be encrypted, although viewers who register their cards with Austrian DTT company SimpliTV will receive the basic channels without monthly subscription.

Overnight from the 4th to the 5th April 2016, France's digital terrestrial TV service, called TNT, will switch to DVB-T/MPEG4-AVC only, meaning older receivers only capable of MPEG2 will become redundant. As part of the change, channels will be distributed in HD only. 25 free-to-air HD channels are expected - five HD channels per multiplex.

The Dutch terrestrial TV service will switch to DVB-T2 from 2017. A transitional period is planned from 2017, when current broadcasts using DVB-T will be phased out and when existing terrestrial TV licences run out. The Dutch government intends to issue new licences for DVB-T2 broadcasts from 2017.

Republic of Ireland
No major changes have been announced for Ireland's digital terrestrial TV service, which consists of the free-to-air Saorview platform: commercial terrestrial platforms failed to get off the ground ahead of the country's digital switchover in 2012. However, frequency changes to make way for more mobile broadband services at the end of the decade will mean viewers will have to retune, and some additional services received from Northern Ireland or Wales may not be guaranteed after this point in time.

Compared to other countries, precious little has been announced thus far about what exactly will happen and when. What is known is that the broadcasters are moving towards a platform that will be DVB-T2 only, which will leave all older Freeview boxes (i.e. those that can't receive BBC One HD on channel 101) redundant. What is also known is that from 2018 there will be frequency changes and a reshuffling of services on the UK's digital terrestrial TV multiplexes.

And finally, while many countries are preparing for the next generation of digital terrestrial TV broadcasts, spare a though for viewers in the Dominican Republic, where it's been announced that analogue TV will be around until 2021. The country is proposing a digital switchover in August of that year.

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