Astra's problems in extending DTT

Astra Spain is fighting hard to be able to begin transmitting DTT signals to those Spanish territories where terrestrial coverage will never be possible, despite the termination of a key contract.

Last Spring the operator signed a contract with Cantabria's autonomous government in order to cover the region. The contract was formalized last August and Astra began building the uplink base in Cantabria.

But in September, the Spanish central government met with all the governments from the autonomous regions in order to search for an unified solution to distribute DTT signals on satellite to those uncovered areas to be able to reach the national analogue switch over on April 3, 2010. Seemingly that meeting and the presure from national terrestrial network Abertis Telecom (one of Hispasat's main shareholders) has worked, as the Cantabrian government now wants to step back from its contract with Astra Spain.

Astra Spain plans to go to the courts alleging the Cantabrian government is not fulfilling the contract requirements and at the same time alleging the Spanish government is not following the principle of 'technological neutrality' such as the European Commission has said all the EU governments must adhere to.

The Cantabrian government has sent a formal letter to Astra Spain announcing the contract is canceled. The reason for this decision is that the country's central government wants to reach a 100% unified national coverage. At the same time Cantabrian government has expressed its disposition to "find a solution in order to meet both parties' interests by taking into account its duty is to coordinate the actions of the different governments from Spain's autonomous regions".

Astra said the decision "will put off Cantabria's digitalization thus affecting thousands of homes in this region".

The satellite operator has also taken to the tribunals the decision of the autonomous government of the region of Castilla-León because it chose Hispasat for the distribution of DTT signals for those areas not covered by digital signals.