Say farewell to DTT
March 15, 2013 10.00 Europe/London By Julian Clover

Could we live without terrestrial transmissions? The suggestion of Ulrich Reimers during his DVB World (March 11 – 13, 2013) presentation is that we probably could.

Specifically Dr Reimers was talking about Germany, where commercial broadcasters are actively considering dropping DTT and instead rely on satellite, cable and IPTV.

In Bavaria, four channels from the RTL Group; RTL, RTL2, Super RTL and Vox will leave terrestrial antennas on July 31, 2013. ProSiebenSat.1, which comprises Sat.1, ProSieben, Kabel eins and N24 have committed to the terrestrial platform in the region until at least May 31, 2014, hardly a ringing endorsement.

In other areas RTL will cease its terrestrial transmissions on December 31, 2014. Nothing it seems can stop them.

But looking at Dr Reimers’ figures you can see why. Just 11.3% of Bavarian homes actually use terrestrial TV as their primary means of reception. On a State by State basis the figure galls between 3% in Lower Saxony and 25.6% in Hamburg.

Across the country satellite and cable dominate; IPTV is actually lower than DTT in all cases, but this of course is a growing medium.

With pressure on terrestrial frequencies from the deep pockets of the mobile companies this is not the sort of solution that broadcasters were looking for.

Germany may be a special case. It is wrapped in cable and despite the historical problems experienced by pay-TV in the country, Germans have no problems in popping a satellite dish on the side of their house to receive one of the most extensive free-to-air line-ups in Europe.

There are of course consequences. It seems unlikely there will be any major HD offering available on DTT in Germany, the incentive to switch to the DVB-T2 format wiped out by the broadcasters’ decisions to date.

In the UK, Ofcom’s plans for Administered Incentivised Pricing (AIP) in spectrum charging may have a role here. They may not come in until 2020, but that’s a long way away.