Significant changes in television broadcasting in the near future

Starting from the beginning of 2017, the following significant changes in television broadcasting will be carried out: The 700 MHz frequency range used by the UHF terrestrial television network will be transferred from television broadcasting to the use of mobile broadband. This will reduce the frequency range allocated to television broadcasting, requiring frequencies to be reorganised. The UHF frequency range will slowly start using the new DVB-T2 broadcasting technology. This enables a more efficient use of frequencies and HD broadcasting.

Changes in frequencies and a new broadcasting technology

The UHF television network operated by Digita will face significant changes throughout the country in the next few years. Starting from the beginning of 2017, some of the broadcasting frequencies used currently in the TV network will be transferred to the use of mobile broadband, which responds to the increased demand for broadband capacity. The frequency capacity reserved for television broadcasting will reduce, requiring frequencies to be reorganised.

Regional modifications will be started in summer 2015 and completed by the end of 2016. The changes in frequencies in the terrestrial network concern nearly half of all Finnish households, meaning that this is a significant change for TV viewers.In addition to these changes, another significant change in the near future is the more extensive shift of the UHF frequency range towards the new DVB-T2 broadcasting technology. The technology is already in use in the VHF network operated by DNA. It enables a more efficient use of the decreasing frequency capacity. Moreover, it enables HD broadcasting or, alternatively, a higher number of basic SD channels.

The new broadcasting technology presents new requirements for TV receivers

The reception of SD and HD programmes broadcast using the new DVB-T2 technolo-gy requires that the TV set or digital receiver is equipped with the DVB-T2 tuner. The number of programmes broadcast using the old technology will be reduced starting from 2017. In the first phase, pay-TV channels will shift fully to the new broadcasting technology. Yle channels will be the last to adopt the technology in 2026. If the number of DVB-T2 receivers increases rapidly in households, the transition of Yle channels can be made earlier.Devices compatible with the new broadcasting technology and HD reception can be identified from the "Antenna Ready HD" label. Devices furnished with this label have been tested to be functional in Finnish markets. HD broadcasting is already available in the cable network where devices furnished with the "Cable Ready HD" label are needed to receive HD programmes.

Figure: Devices compatible with the new broadcasting technology can be identified from these labels.

Televisions equipped with an HD receiver have increased their popularity in Finland in recent years. According to Finnpanel's TV-taloudet Suomessa (TV households in Finland) survey, 32 per cent of households had a television or digital receiver equipped with an HD tuner in August 2014. Compared with February 2014, there was a growth of 14 per cent. More and more households are subscribers to paid HD channels, i.e. 220,000 households on estimate.

Changes in frequencies demand changes in general antenna systems

The changes in frequencies made in the UHF television network operated by Digita before 2017 affect housing companies and consumers. Housing companies with a joint antenna system require an antenna contractor to tune the main antenna system amplifier if the region's UHF frequencies are changed. As a result, residents of such housing companies need to perform a channel search on their television receivers. New receivers usually perform this automatically. In detached houses, no antenna modifications are needed if the current antenna works well. Residents of detached houses also need to perform a channel search after the frequency changes have been carried out in their regions.

Towards a smooth transition through consumer communications

The unproblematic execution of changes in frequencies and broadcasting requires that consumers are provided with sufficient information at the correct time. FICORA coordinates communications related to these changes in cooperation with network operators, television companies, device retailers, associations and other authorities. Consumer communications processes were started at the end of 2013, and was boosted in spring 2014 through announcements and advertisements. To facilitate purchase decisions of consumers, receiver shops distributed a leaflet which offers information about the purchase of the correct TV receiver. In all communications, consumers are guided to obtain information from hdtvopas.fi, which includes instructions on how to receive HD programmes in all broadcasting networks.

An advance communications process aimed at property managers and housing companies regarding the frequency changes were launched in autumn 2014. Communications processes will be continued this spring as soon as more detailed information about when and where the frequency changes will be started.

FICORA will monitor the impact of consumer communications through regular consumer surveys. FICORA ordered the first consumer survey from TNS Gallup in November–December 2014. The survey identified what Finnish people know of future changes in the terrestrial television network and how they have noticed communications related to HD broadcasting.

According to the survey, Finnish people are relatively poorly aware of the future changes in the terrestrial network. Of more than 3,000 respondents, merely one in five was well or quite well aware of what the changes mean in practice and what practical actions are needed from ordinary viewers.

Advertising related to HD broadcasting had been noticed better than informative messages. One-third of all respondents had seen HD broadcasting-related advertisements on television or the internet or in newspapers or magazines. Nearly as many were able to identify Antenna Ready HD and Cable Ready HD logos and knew what they mean.

Overall, the survey results indicate that consumers are not fully aware of the future changes in the terrestrial network. More investments in change-related communications are needed, requiring actions from all parties.

This article is a part of FICORA's Communications Sector Review 2014 (1/2015).


Key words: Spectrum, Television, Cable, TV coverage, Terrestrial, Articles, Reviews, Statistics


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