Spain studies satellite DTT distribution

Following a dispute last spring over Astra's project to distribute Spanish digital-terrestrial channelsí signals on satellite for the Cantabria, and the desire of Galicia's regional government for a similar solution, the national Ministry of Industry is studying this alternative way of distributing DTT.

Only 98% of the country will be covered by digital-terrestrial signals at switchover in April 2010 and Spain's government wants to guarantee DTT will reach all of Spainís population. In order to achieve this goal the Ministry has already made contact with representatives from the autonomous regions in order to analyze the possible use of satellite. The autonomous regions are responsible for the implementation of the new technology in their territories.

In April 2010 national private TV channels will have to reach 96% of the population in digital while public broadcasters will have to reach 98% of it. These percentages are the same ones analogue television has right now. According to latest figures from Impulsa TDT, 89.15% of the Spanish population has already DTT coverage.

The evolution of DTT's coverage is regulated by the National Technical Plan of the DTT and it establishes an extension calendar in order to set up the implementation of new television in six different phases. This plan establishes all national and regional broadcasters had to reach 88% of coverage by last July 31.

The next extension of coverage is set for December 31 when DTT coverage will have to have reached 90% of the population, to be extended to 93% by July 31 2009.

If the government does decide to use satellite transmission to make up the difference, the government will count on Hispasat and Eutelsat, both of whom are partially owned by Abertis Telecom. Abertis is the telco in charge of DTT broadcasting for most part of broadcasters.

Broadcasters will hope that the extra costs a satellite solution would mean, becasue it will have to be combined with the present terrestrial signal distribution, will be compensated for by the national government. But Spain's government contemplates the use of satellite only as a temporary solution until terrestrial coverage is completed.