The industry association, which represents broadcasters and equipment manufacturers, is adamant that the new DVB-T2 transmission standard which the regulator wants to adopt for DTT will not be ready in time.
Speaking to Broadcast ahead of the summit, DTG director general Dermot Nolan said: “DVB-T2 will not be ready commercially for two or three years - that is the bottom line.
"The set-top boxes and TVs wouldn't be ready because the system only exists as a paper standard. It hasn't been agreed yet. We really think it will be 2010 or 2011 before it will be good to go.”
Ofcom partner, spectrum policy group Philip Rutnam refuted the suggestion. “Consumer equipment embodying both MPEG-4 and DVB-T2 could be brought to market first towards the end of 2009 and then in larger volumes from 2010 onwards,” he said.
What is Ofcom's plan?
Ofcom plans to reorganise the channels on the DTT multiplexes in order to free up a multiplex which will then be upgraded with the MPEG-4 compression and DVB-T2 transmission standards. This will result in space being available for four free-to-air PSB HD channels by 2012.
The channels that will launch will be decided by a “beauty contest” in which each public service broadcaster sets out its proposals for how it will use the “blocks” of available spectrum. Ofcom will pick the winners.
Rutnam said that under Ofcom's proposal there could be three HD channels offered in the regions that are switching over from 2009 and 2010, with a fourth introduced from 2012. Improved compression technology could allow a fifth to be introduced “a few years after that”.
Nolan believes that the plan to have four HD channels on DTT by 2012 is not good enough. “Our consumer research said that the public was expecting the five main terrestrial channels.”
What happens next?
At its annual meeting on 7 March the DTG will discuss its own strategy for “ensuring that there is enough spectrum allocated for HD”. One suggestion is for Ofcom to hand over additional spectrum on a temporary basis to allow five PSB channels to be launched simultaneously.
Nolan said: “What we'd like is two frequencies from the digital dividend review spectrum and the space to provide additional national networks for national public services. We think that would be attractive. These channels could be given back after switchover.”
Ofcom will publish its decision about the reorganisation of the multiplexes in March. The winners of the “beauty contest” will be announced in July.
DVB-T2 is expected to deliver an increase of at least 30% in the capacity of a DTT multiplex. Approval as a standard should be agreed by the spring.
Any other business?
When asked what happens next in the process, Rutnam said:
“We are looking at all the responses we've received. We've got over 80 in all. There was a lot of support for most of the elements in the consultation. We are planning to make a decision and announce that by the end of March. And what we proposed is that we would assign the upgraded capacity on multiplex B to broadcasters by the end of July.”
The DTG, however, believes that more options should be investigated. “They [Ofcom] only considered this particular option,” said Nolan. “There are a number of other options that you could consider.”
He continued: [Taken from the DTG response] “The Regulatory Impact Assessment is incomplete. The RIA should have covered a much wider range of Options than the narrow focus on DVB-T2 and upgrading a single multiplex. Specifically Ofcom should have considered and analysed the following policy options:
Option 1: ‘Do nothing'
Option 2: ‘Ofcom plan' as per the document
Option 3: ‘Ofcom Plan + additional spectrum' to drive services (e.g. with either a proposed seventh MFN or two SFNs based on a spectrally efficient 2 x 8MHz pair using ‘lend-lease'spectrum from the DDR.)
Option 4: Alternatives to Options 2 and 3 but using DVB-T rather than DVB-T2 as proposed by others.
Option 5: Alternative plans
This analysis has not been completed and in our view the costs and benefits to broadcasters, consumers and citizens have not been properly appraised. As part of its statutory duties Ofcom is required to carry out a comprehensive RIA. This omission should be rectified in Ofcom's next phase of analysis.”
The DTG Annual Summit takes place on 7 March at Bafta.