Thursday 18 June 1998
The Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) Selection Panel unanimously agreed today to recommend DVB-T for use in terrestrial over-the-air broadcasting in Australia.
The Selection Panel was comprised of members representing the National broadcasters (ABC and SBS), Commercial Network and Regional broadcasters, the Department of Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts, and the Australian Broadcasting Authority.
The Chairman of the Selection Panel, Bruce Robertson of the Nine Network, hailed the decision as an important milestone in establishing a framework for the introduction of digital broadcasting in 2001. He said that with this decision, the path was now clear for the industry to develop the full set of standards that will be needed for receivers to be designed in time to meet the start of digital television.
He added that the decision was important to broadcasters as they needed to start detailed planning for the change to digital and would have to order equipment in the near future to meet the 2001 deadline.
The decision follows a detailed evaluation of the two alternative digital systems over the past two years. This evaluation showed that both systems offered a viable choice for Australia, with each system offering competitive advantages.
The most important criteria in the overall assessment were to meet the coverage requirements foreshadowed in the draft legislation and to ensure the availability of receivers to match the high definition broadcasting intentions of the Government and broadcasters. The Australian tests satisfied the Panel that both systems met the basic coverage requirements.
Responses from receiver manufacturers have assured the Panel that there will be receivers available for high definition television in the chosen format.
With these basic requirements being satisfied, the Panel was able to concentrate its deliberations on elements of difference between the systems which will ensure the best outcome for the Australian broadcasting environment.
The recommendation will now be forwarded to the Department of Communications, Information Economy and the Arts for its formal ratification and to Standards Australia for formal documentation and public comment. The detailed standards will involve considerable work addressing the individual elements needed to define the interoperability, specific format details and service information elements needed for completed definition of the system to be used for Australia.
The Chairman said this decision reflected the results of considerable work by Australian experts and enormous cooperation from the ATSC and DVB organisations.
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Since 1992 Australians have been active in studies and development of technology for the introduction of digital terrestrial television broadcasting.
By 1996 two main terrestrial systems had emerged as contenders for terrestrial broadcasting. The DVB system was developed in Europe while an alternative ATSC system was adopted for North America. Both systems are founded on the MPEG-2 digital compression standards and thus have a high degree of commonality. The main difference lies in the chosen modulation systems. ATSC uses a single carrier vestigial sideband modulation (8VSB) while DVB uses multiple carrier modulation-coded orthogonal frequency division multiplex (COFDM).
During 1996 and 1997, Bruce Robertson as Chairman of the FACTS Specialist Group-Advanced Transmission, was instrumental in arranging for the testing of both systems in Australia on an objective comparative basis. These tests were the first direct side-by-side comparison of the two systems conducted in the world. The tests formed the basis for making the most appropriate choice to fit the Australian broadcast environment.
The tests demonstrated that both systems have the capacity to meet the main objectives for a digital television service for Australia. The Selection Panel determined a set of selection criteria which addressed those differences in performance which might provide the better outcome for Australian broadcasters and viewers.
From an initial list of some 50 separate items, a final set of 29 criteria was identified as addressing relevant differences between the two contending systems.
Close contact was maintained with both ATSC and DVB throughout the testing and evaluation process to ensure the validity of the tests and the other relevant information needed for the full evaluation. Both organisations were extremely cooperative and helpful in meeting the requests.
Among the criteria assessed, the greatest weight was given to the ability to match existing coverage and to provide satisfactory interoperability with both the present analogue and other digital broadcasting services. Consumer products, and the availability of receivers capable of receiving a high definition service were also important factors. After ratification of the decision by the Department, full development of the detailed standards for Australian DTTB will now be progressed through industry and Standards Australia committees. Draft standards are expected to be completed before the end of 1998.
The final decision was taken unanimously. The Selection Panel acknowledged that each system demonstrated advantages over the others in particular aspects. The Selection Panel recommendation was based on the best overall fit to the specific requirements of Australian television broadcasting.