My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Road to Damascus experience needed to make Broadcasters see DSO Benefits

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Road to Damascus experience needed to make Broadcasters see DSO Benefits

It seems that on the proverbial DSO (Digital Switch Over) road to Damascus, the Broadcast Commission Steering Committee is yet to reach the part in the Bible story that I love.

This I where the Light, supposedly from God, is supposed to shine upon the wayward travelers, bringing a message of change, whose conversion should spread the Good Word of DSO and let everyone in Jamaica realize that it is not only a technological innovation that will ring increased spectral efficiency.

It is also good for the country and the financial bottom line of the Broadcasters. Indeed, they have met since March 2009 with concerned Telecoms Providers, Broadcasters (Radio and Television), Cable TV and other interested private and public groups interested in broadcasting.

But they have only decided to do research into the feasibility of Broadcast Television going Digital, as opposed to both Radio and Television as stated in the article “Slow road to digital switch-over  - Cable groups mum; Flow ahead but network coverage behind”, published: Saturday  August 15, 2009 by Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner.

But what is the reason for their delay in going DSO?

They already have decided on the process, which the learned John Public can quite easily discern from visiting the Broadcast Commission’s website as “technology selection, digital switch-on and analogue switch-off” but are still stuck at the Technology section stage.

But this article was written back in 2009, the year in which the entire United States of America switch to Digital Television Broadcast and around the rest of the world, Analog Broadcast (for Television at least) has already come to an end.

Specifically in EU bloc countries such as European countries such as Germany, Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium Austria have already built out their digital with the United Kingdom is now doing a region-by-region switch over, scheduled to be completed by 2012.

Apparently there are possibly concerns being raised by the Broadcasters as to how they will fund such a venture and how they will recoup their expenditure.

This as advertising revenues are projected to decrease with the coming of 3G from Telecom Provider CLARO and Telecom Provider LIME and WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) from Telecom Provider Digicel which will make on-demand Television a reality.

Making them appear to be entrenched Management, interested only in continuity of profitability and not in actual spectral efficiency and thus financial gain from the resale of spectrum and “white spaces”, the unused spectrum both in-between the Television frequencies as well as in geographic locations.

Thus economics and not technical considerations may be the cause of the delay, as it seems that there should be no delay, as with the current decision by Telecom Provider Digicel to go into Digital Television Broadcasting by launching their thus far successful DigiTV Wireless Subscriber Television Station based on DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcast – Terrestrial) in Tonga, Vanatu.

And now (hopefully!!) in Jamaica as suggested in the article 'DigiTV launch for 2009 - Mobile Provider branches into TV”, published Friday, November 14, 2008 by Ross Sheil, Online Co-ordinator, The Jamaica Observer.

The whisperings within the Telecoms Sector that suggest that Telecom Provider LIME has also purchased an all island Wireless Subscriber Television license with the intention to rebroadcast Direct TV!

This must make the traditional free-to-air Broadcasters, both Radio and Television aware that the competition is not only coming cheaper and with a product offering that Customers like, but there is the possibility that the Telecoms Providers will begin to eat away at their bread and butter, which is their advertising revenue.

This, the learned John Public reasons, should be reason enough to accelerate the conversion to Digital, both for free-to-air Television and Radio, with assistance from Telecom Provider Digicel’s soon to be launched WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) to carry the signals, which would be decoded by a free receiver box given to Customers and subscribers so that they would not have to purchase a HDTV complaint Television.

This receiver box would not only decode WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) and then decode the IP address carrying the HDTV signal and down convert it to older NTSC standard Television sets.

But it would also rebroadcast all radio stations on their original frequencies so that older Radios would be able to receive the signal, thus enabling Customers and subscribers to experience Digital Broadcast without having to change their radios or Televisions.

Best of all, by using Telecom Provider Digicel’s WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d), the Broadcasters can resell the Telecom Provider’s Internet service to the customer, much as Time Warner Cable is currently doing as alluded in the article Time Warner Cable to resell WiMax Service”, published July 30, 2009 11:55 AM PDT, by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News – Wireless.

Allowing the Television set to double as a computer a well as provide various VAS (Value Added Services) such as:

  1. VOIP (Voice over IP), Data Backup and File Transfer Services using Telecom Provider Digicel’s DataCenter as stated in the article “Digicel diversifies - US$500 Data Center opens November”, published Friday August 28, 2009 by Mark Titus, Business Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.
  2. Video Calling, most likely using Skype with the Telecoms Providers acting as a “dumb pipe” as alluded to in the “Skype on TV: Will the videophone finally be reality?” published March 2, 2010 4:00 AM PST by Erica Ogg CNET News - Circuit Breaker
  3. Instant Messaging via Television
  4. Interactive Television Programming as suggested in the article Cable TV: Pushing to Become more Web-Like”, published by April 16, 2009, 5:00PM EST by Tom Lowry, BusinessWeek Strategies, BusinessWeek
  5. Paid-Per-View Programming
  6. Online Voting for scientific statistic polls
  7. Election Voting for Government of Jamaica
  8. Personalized Targeted Advertising
  9. Geo-Location Services and Personal Tracking Services
  10. Augmented Viewing Services
  11. Phone Directory Services
  12. Market Surveys
  13. Channel slots for other broadcasters

This is also to be included among other “Red Button” service offerings.

Even more possible is the provisioning of Web TV, which is cheaper and requires only that the user have a modem and subscribe to the service, allowing password and login access to a Web TV site that allows for the customer or subscriber to watch TV shows on demand.

As is the case with Hulu or the deal inked by Time Warner and Google’s YouTube as stated in the article Time Warner, YouTube ink distributuion pact” published August 19, 2009 12:34 PM PDT by Larry Dignan CNET News - Digital Media.

The Government of Jamaica via the Broadcast Commission can also implement a Radio and Television Tax to subsidize the cost of the receiver box and thus get Jamaicans to register their ownership of their Television sets, critical to the provision of the above VAS services, similar to those that can be offered by a Telecoms Provider.

Thus the benefits outweigh any possible perceived fallout that the broadcasters suspect will result from DSO as not only will it result in the modernization of the Broadcasters.

It also will be a financial windfall in terms of VAS and the resale of the spectrum and “white spaces” to the Telecoms Providers to be used to provide high speed data services that are unencumbered by metallic or steel structures that normally absorb higher frequency radio waves as alluded to in the article “TV white space networks tested”, published February 24, 2010 4:06 PM PST by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - Signal Strength.

Even to the Newspapers, allowing for the transition also of the newspaper companies into a cheaper paperless form on the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony Reader or the recently launched Apple iPad, set to launch in the summer of 2010.

Possibly by then, the Light will dawn upon the people in Broadcasting and by extension the Newspapers and result in the transformation that will make them realize that their ill-placed fears about the transition to Digital are a hindrance to the greater riches that await them on the other side of the Digital Divide.

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