|Next technology transition in terrestrial television
|Ms. Krista Kiuru
|Minister of Education and Communications
Krista Kiuru is the Minister of Education and Communications, Finland since 4th April.2014
Ms Kiuru has been a Member of the Finnish Parliament since 2007; and was formerly the Minister
of Housing and Communications.
Ms. Kiuru is responsible for matters relating to education and research. She is also responsible for communication matters.
Before 2007, Ms Kiuru was a teacher of Philosophy, Religion and Expressive Arts and Study Counsellor at the University of Tampere.
Finland has long been a leader in electronic communications. This success is attributable in part to our forward-looking communications policy. In September 2012 the Finnish Government submitted to Parliament its Communications Policy Programme for Electronic Media. The programme describes the vision of the future of terrestrial television with special reference to the current operating licence system and future spectrum use.
Of all EU countries, Finland has the highest mobile broadband penetration. At the end of 2012, Finland, with its five million inhabitants, had over five million mobile broadband subscriptions. Due to the increasing use of smart phones and other wireless terminals, mobile communications has the highest demand for spectrum. Wireless broadband networks will continue to grow also globally and they require more frequencies particularly in low frequency bands. This is why Finland aims to direct frequencies primarily for mobile communications.
In the EU the 800 megahertz frequency band was allocated to high-speed mobile communications networks in 2008. It was a success. The 800 MHz frequency band is very well-suited for the expansion of broadband coverage, particularly in sparsely-populated areas. In Finland, for instance, telecom operators have announced that network cover is going to be 80 per cent by the end of 2014 and they are required to cover 99 per cent by 2019.
Next new mobile band is the 700 megahertz frequency band. In Finland, we strongly support the harmonisation of the 700 MHz band as swiftly as possible internationally as well as at the EU level. EU-wide harmonisation would speed up the introduction of the frequency band, lower the prices of network and terminal equipment, and thus promote the development of high-speed broadband connections in Europe.
Finland has long been a leader in electronic communications. This success is attributable in part to our forward-looking communications policy. In September 2012 the Finnish Government submitted to Parliament its Communications Policy Programme for Electronic Media. The programme describes the vision of the future of terrestrial television with special reference to the current operating licence system and future spectrum use. After this the Finnish government decided that the 700 MHz frequency band will be allocated to wireless broadband in 2017.
The re-allocation of 700 MHz band requires effective use of more advanced DVB-T2 –technology. As current broadcasting licences expire at the end of 2016, the plan is to convert the band to wireless broadband use from the beginning of 2017. This requires that television channels are moved to the 470-694 MHz spectrum band by the end of 2016 and new terrestrial TV licences are due to be issued this year. A gradual changeover to the DVB-T2 transmission standard will begin by 2017 at the latest, requiring viewers to buy new equipment that supports the new technology and HD reception. In television broadcasting the rollout of new DVB-T2 technology will enable increased capacity and more efficient frequency use, allowing for the continued distribution of both current and new television channels within a narrower frequency
These changes will affect around half of all households in Finland. Consumers will be affected by the changes in two different ways. On the one hand the 700 MHz spectrum band will be converted to a new use, which will bring changes to the frequencies currently used for television broadcasting and therefore require changes to television reception systems, although households will not need to invest in new television receivers. On the other hand the gradual changeover to new DVB-T2 transmission technology will require some consumers to replace their existing receivers in order to accommodate the new transmission technology. Every effort will be made to minimise the negative impacts of the frequency changes on consumers by way of careful and long-term spectrum planning.
Digital switchover was only completed in 2007, so it is not wise to oblige citizens to buy new devices. Viewers themselves can choose when to make the move to the reception of high-definition broadcasts. This is why action must be taken to ensure that free-to-air channels can continue to use current technology. During the step-by-step switchover process beginning in 2017, transmissions continue in their current format until 2026, unless an earlier date can be agreed before then. The use of the VHF band for DVB-T2 broadcasts makes it easier for viewers to make their decision as to when to they want to make the switchover. These broadcasts are already available to most people in Finland, and the switchover is possible as soon as the necessary
equipment is installed.
In switching over to a new transmission technology in terrestrial television, attention must be paid to implementing the process in a timely, efficient and coordinated way as soon as the necessary preparations have been completed. It is intended, first and foremost, to ensure that viewers and others stakeholders have all the relevant information well ahead of time so that they can prepare for the changes taking place from the beginning of 2017.
Our aim is that the switchover to more advanced transmission technology be based as far as possible on the needs of viewers, television companies and the audiovisual industry. In order to ensure a smooth and efficient switchover to new technology, the Ministry of Transport and Communications appointed on December 2012 a Working Group charged with preparing the next technology transition in terrestrial television. The Working Group prepared a clear and detailed plan for the needs of both television operators and television viewers regarding the use of the spectrum capacity allocated to terrestrial television from the beginning of 2017. The aim of the plan is to give special consideration to consumer behavior and to the provision of appropriate consumer information.
Cooperation with stakeholders is truly essential in order to achieve functional solutions. Effective implementation of any plan requires that all the parties commit themselves to the plan and put in place the required measures in a timely manner. Also this transition Working Group works closely with industry stakeholders.
Interim Report by the Working Group presents a multiplex-specific plan for the transition as well as an information and communications plan designed to ensure that consumers and other stakeholders receive timely and appropriate information about what this transition implies.
The Working Group proposes for example that all Government decision-making on operating licences reflect the new recommendations for greater flexibility in licensing regulation. Network licences shall be granted well ahead of time before the beginning of the next licensing period: this is crucial so that future changes can be properly anticipated and any necessary changes to antenna systems made at one and the same time.
The Working Group marked that it is increasingly difficult for consumers today to known what services are available, who provides them and what equipment is needed to receive them. That is why the stakeholders have commissioned a search tool that will help consumers make more informed choices of television services. It is hoped that this portal will help consumers to choose the right devices for their needs and help retailers to assist consumers when they make that choice.
We have already seen unbelievably rapid growth in wireless communications. We have devices, applications and services we did not have any clue few years back. I believe that future will offer us many more, but in order to make the most of these huge possibilities we have to be open minded and always ready to change our current way of doing things