Analogue television switch-off working target deferred to end 2015

     The Government announced today (June 22) that the working target for switching off analogue television services (analogue switch-off or ASO) would be deferred from end 2012 to end 2015.  This is a prudent and practicable step taken with regard to the actual implementation and market situation of digital terrestrial television (DTT) development in Hong Kong.

     "The revised ASO target is much more realistic and meaningful. It will give more time for the two licensees, namely, Asia Television Limited (ATV) and Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), to extend and optimise their DTT network with a view to achieving 'universal coverage', i.e. a coverage at least on par with that of analogue TV at about 98 per cent of the population, and for the viewers to switch to DTT," a Government spokesman said.

     ATV and TVB launched their respective DTT services at end 2007. After the completion of 20 DTT transmitting stations, ATV and TVB have been carrying out building-by-building coverage validation work since earlier this year. As of mid-May 2011, the verified DTT coverage is over 95 per cent of the population. The coverage will be further extended with the launch of nine more fill-in stations by the end of this year.

     As for DTT penetration, the percentage of households which had procured the necessary receivers to watch DTT services stood at about 63 per cent, according to a regular public survey conducted in March 2011.  Though the three-year penetration in Hong Kong since DTT rollout is quite satisfactory in comparison with overseas experience (for example it took Japan five years and Australia seven to reach a take-up rate of some 60 per cent), the increase of DTT take-up rate has gradually slowed down. It is unlikely that it could reach a sufficiently high percentage to warrant consideration of ASO by end 2012.

     If a mandatory ASO were to be imposed by end 2012, a significant percentage of households in Hong Kong - those that have not switched to DTT services - would be deprived of their existing free TV services through the analogue format.  The disruption to the viewing public would be serious.  By pushing back the ASO target for three years, the Government and the licensees would have more time to prepare the market for an eventual ASO, the spokesman said.

     The spokesman added that with a view to achieving a smooth switchover, the Government would continue to work with the two terrestrial free TV broadcasters to extend and optimise their DTT network coverage and to promote switching to DTT.  The Government will also work with the two broadcasters to find practicable and cost-effective ways to improve coverage in remote areas where there is currently no analogue TV reception or the reception quality is poor.

    In taking forward the ASO, the Government will keep in view market development and readiness.

     Subject to successful frequency co-ordination with the Mainland, ASO may release valuable radio spectrum (commonly referred as the "digital dividend") for broadcasting and telecommunications services which are of significant economic value to Hong Kong.

Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:10