The Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced on April 24th that the digital transmission pilot phase will be completed by the end of the month. After this date, TV channels will end terrestrial analogue transmission and adopt digital broadcasting on the national level.
The transition plan was announced last year, and involved several phases, starting with this pilot phase. The overall investment in the project will reach around $40 million.
Imad Hobballah, the acting chairman of the TRA and Chairman of the National Digital Committee constituted to handle this transition, said that the final digital transition plan will be kicked off once they get the Cabinet’s approval.
“We will submit our report to both Ministers of Telecommunication and Information, who will present it to the Cabinet,” he said. A bid will be held afterwards, and within a period of 45-60 days, to choose the final company which will prepare the infrastructure.
The Digital Committee had earlier called specialized companies in digital transmission to participate in the trial phase by offering required equipment. Nine companies have participated in the trial phase offering transmission equipment, antennas, and signal packaging and combining systems, among other specialized equipment. These companies are: Tradecom, Skykom, Netcom, ISIS Logiciels et Systèmes, Elettronika, Huawei, International Gateway Infrastructure, Glocom, and Fiberwaves.
Former Minister of Telecommunications Nicolas Sehnaoui had announced that by June 2015, all forms of audio-visual broadcasts must adopt digital transmission, according to signed international treaties.
Hobballah said that the pilot phase helped identifying the required equipment compatible with the country’s topography. “The trial phase ran smoothly and the digital transmission was successful,” he said.
All local TV stations were involved with the pilot phase. “We have broadcasted using both Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) for channels capable of using this technology,” said Mohamad Ayoub, Spectrum Manager at the TRA.
Ayoub said that the Cabinet decree requests using the infrastructure stations of Télé Liban and the National Radio, in order to cut down expenses and renovate these stations. “But we have collaborated with all TV stations whose infrastructure is compatible with our plan.”
Ayoub said that the finalized digital transmission scheme involves more than 40 broadcasting stations, which will cover all the regions. “It is not necessary that these same trial stations will be adopted as final ones.”
Traditional analogue broadcast is limited to one channel per frequency. Digital broadcasting allows the transmission of up to eight channels through each frequency. Each station can have several sub-channels broadcasting over the same frequency.
This technology allows local networks to offer advanced services to domestic users such as video on demand, and interactive programs.
For end users, set top boxes will be required at a later stage to be able to view digitally broadcasted channels. “Most available TVs are analogue. That’s why set top boxes are mandatory,” Ayoub said. According to him, this equipment might become subsidized.