Digital Television in Australi

  What is digital television?


Digital television is a replacement technology for existing free-to-air analog services. It will provide better picture quality and reception, plus a variety of new features that enhance the viewing   experience.
 The digital television industry in Australia will use the DVB (Digital Video   Broadcasting) standard, first developed in Europe, rather than the   American-developed ATSC standard. DVB is proving to be a very high quality   system and is being used in many countries around the world. In Australia it   will replace the analog PAL system


 When does free-to-air digital television commence?


Digital television commenced on 1 January 2001. Digital transmissions became   available in Australia's five major capital cities - Sydney, Melbourne,   Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth - from that date.
 Testing in those cities began in late 2000. Testing of metropolitan repeaters   and in regional markets will take place during 2001.
 Outside of the major metropolitan areas, regional broadcasters must begin   digital transmissions by no later than 1 January 2004. Digital broadcasting   in some regional centres may start on 1 January 2001 or soon after. Proposed   commencement dates will be advised when they come to hand.
 A timetable for the commencement of digital broadcasting in remote parts of   Australia has not yet been settled.


 What benefits will digital television provide?


Digital television is a far more efficient and flexible transmission   system than the current analog system. It allows broadcasters to offer   viewers a range of new and different services.
 Australian digital television features will include


Much improved reception capability, including the elimination of   ghosting and other transmission errors

A 16 x 9 aspect ratio, or screen shape. This is also known as   widescreen. It is similar to the aspect ratio that is widely used in the   cinema.

Standard Definition television (SDTV)

High Definition television (HDTV

High quality audio


Electronic Program Guides (EPGs). A basic EPG can be used by viewers   to navigate between channels, identify the currently screening program and   the next program ('now and next') on each channel. More sophisticated EPGs   can be used to set reminders for program viewing, provide a short synopsis of   the content of programs, identify programming in advance for several days,   search for programs by genre, and provide access to some enhancements

 Multichannel programs on the ABC and SBS

 Radio programs on the ABC and SBS

 Program enhancements on separate channels to the primary program, eg, additional   camera angles on a sports match, statistics about a player, or additional   information about a segment in a lifestyle or magazine program.

 Broadcasters will be allowed to broadcast more than one channel when   certain events, such as sporting matches, extend beyond time due to   circumstances beyond the broadcasters' control, and overlap a regularly   scheduled news program. This will allow viewers the option of continuing to   watch the end of the event or the news bulletin.

Closed captioning of programming for hearing impaired viewers will be   done for all English language news and current affairs programs as well as   for all prime time programs (6.00pm to 10.30pm).


Over time, interactive television services and services, including   selected Internet services, home shopping, computer games, etc will be   provided by broadcasters and datacasters


 What happens to my existing analog TV set?


Free-to-air broadcasters will simulcast (ie, broadcast both analog and   digital signals) for at least eight years, so viewers will continue to be   able to use current analog television sets to receive broadcasts until at   least the end of 2008.
 And, beyond the end of simulcasting, the addition of a digital-to-analog   converter in the form of a set-top box will allow viewers to continue to   receive digital transmissions with their analog sets.
 Viewers using set top boxes will be able to receive other features of digital,   such as additional program streams. Because most existing analog sets have a   4x3 screen format (shape), using a digital set top box with a 4x3 analog   television set may affect the way widescreen transmissions are displayed.
 Use of a widescreen analog display will enhance the digital experience. The   full picture quality benefits of digital television, including High   Definition television (HDTV), will require a widescreen digital receiver that   is capable of receiving and displaying a HDTV signal.


 Will my Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) still work?


Yes. During and after the simulcast period, you will be able to record   the digital channel on view - provided that your set-top box or digital   television has an analog output - and VCRs will also continue to play back   pre-recorded tapes. Many will find the picture quality of recorded digital   programs is better than that of analog programs.
 However, VCRs will not be able to record a separate digital broadcast from   that being viewed, although during the simulcast period they will be able to   record any analog program while a different digital program is being viewed.
 Current VHS video recorders will still only record VHS-quality pictures, even   when an HDTV program is being recorded. In some cases, as the channel used by   the video output may be the same as that used by a digital channel in the   area, the video output on your VCR may need retuning or require the use of   the audio-visual connection.


 Will I need to upgrade my antenna?


The channels being allocated to digital television in the capital cities   are mainly adjacent to existing analog channels. If your existing antenna is   in reasonable condition and is presently providing good reception, it should   provide an ideal signal reception point for the new digital television   services in most capital city areas.
 Outside capital cities, digital channel allocations are expected to be within   the same UHF band, so reception should generally be possible using existing   UHF antennas.
 Viewers in areas of poor analog reception may need specialist advice about antenna   requirements for digital reception in their area.


  How expensive will digital set-top boxes and television sets be?


Retail prices for integrated digital television sets are not yet   known. The first known set-top box will retail for $699.00. Prices can be   expected to reduce over time.
 And prices will vary depending upon the type and capabilities of receivers.
 Information about the products of DBA members will be provided as soon as it   becomes available.


  When will digital set-top boxes and television sets become available?


Some digital television reception equipment, in the form of digital   set-top box decoders, was available in Australia when digital broadcasting   began on 1 January 2001.
 The availability and range of digital reception equipment will increase   during 2001, with a wider range of options becoming available during 2002.


  What if I want to buy now?


There are currently no digital television sets on the market in Australia.   Some digital set-top box decoders will become available very early in the   year. The best current option is to buy a good quality analog television set,   ideally in a 16x9 widescreen format.
 A digital converter set top box can be added later to any analog television   set to receive digital transmissions.


  What is a digital television set-top box?


A set-top box for digital television receives and decodes digital transmissions   into a form suitable for display on analog television sets or other display   devices, eg computer monitors or projection screens.
 Analog television sets currently in use in Australia cannot display digital   transmissions on their screens without being connected to such a set-top box   converter.


 What does a set top box do?


The capability of a set top box will depend upon its specifications.
 A set top box, when connected to an analog television set, will usually give   viewers an improved signal, SDTV-equivalent picture quality and   multichannelling. Some set top boxes may also provide viewers with   datacasting services and video, audio and data enhancements (see What are   program enhancements?).
 Set top boxes capable of receiving and displaying a HDTV signal may not be   available initially.
 Set top boxes can provide a picture output to either analog or digital screen   displays.


  What is an integrated digital television receiver?


This is a television set which contains all the components necessary   to receive and display digital transmissions.
 Integrated digital television receivers will generally be distinguished by   wide screens, high level audio capability and high resolution displays. They   will not require a set top box


  What is Standard Definition television (SDTV)?


Standard Definition television (SDTV) is digital television with   improved reception capability when compared to the existing analog service.
 SDTV will be in widescreen format, provide enhancements and multichannelling,   and eliminate ghosting and other errors found in analog transmissions.
 The Federal Government requires broadcasters to provide a digital SDTV signal   at all times, even when HDTV services are being broadcast. This is to ensure   that viewers will always be able to receive a digital transmission - without   this requirement some viewers with a digital receiver capable only of   receiving and displaying a SDTV signal would not be able to view the SDTV   version of the program when the higher quality HDTV signal is transmitted.
 SDTV-only integrated receivers and set top boxes are expected to be cheaper   than integrated receivers and set top boxes that can display both SDTV and   HDTV.


  What is High Definition television (HDTV)?


High Definition television (HDTV) provides image resolution which is   superior to SDTV and to the existing analog, with up to six times the   improvement in detail.
 This means that the benefits of HDTV are particularly noticeable on larger   screen sets and when using projection equipment.
 HDTV will be in widescreen format and provide cinema-quality viewing with   Dolby surround sound.
 Within two years of the commencement of digital broadcasting in an area, and   in addition to their analog and Standard Definition transmissions, commercial   television broadcasters and the ABC and SBS will be required to provide at   least 20 hours per week of programs in HDTV.
 HDTV integrated receivers and set top boxes are expected to cost more than   SDTV integrated receivers and set top boxes.


What is Multichannelling?


Because a digital signal can carry much more data than an analog   signal, more than one channel of television programs can be broadcast in SDTV   at the same time. This is known as multichannelling.
 The Federal Government has decided that commercial broadcasters will not be   allowed to multichannel, but that the ABC and SBS may do so.
 The ABC and SBS will be allowed to broadcast, in addition to their main   services, a wide range of programs including educational programs, regional   news and current affairs, science and arts programs, children's programs,   subtitled foreign programs, foreign language news and occasional dramas.
 The ABC and SBS will also be able to transmit their radio services through   their television channels, extending the reach of these services.


  What are program enhancements?


Viewers of digital television will have a wide choice of   'enhancements' to regular programming. Enhancements are separate channels of   video, data or audio, which are related to the program on the primary   channel.
 Sporting events will offer the choice of different camera angles, action   replays, player profiles or other information. Across a range of programming,   digital viewers will have a choice to select more information related to the   regular program - product information, recipes, news background and much   more.
 In addition, if a sports event overlaps with the news, digital viewers may be   offered the opportunity to watch the regularly scheduled news bulletin or the   completion of the event on a separate channel.


  What is Datacasting?


Because a digital signal can carry much more data than an analog   signal, broadcasters and other licence holders will have the option to   provide information services to viewers, in addition to regular program   channels. This is known as datacasting.
 Datacasting services can be provided both by broadcasters and by a new class   of service providers known as datacasters. Datacasting services will be   different from traditional commercial broadcasting services.
 Datacasters will be able to provide services such as information programs,   interactive home shopping, banking and bill paying, education programs and   interactive games.
 Datacasters will also be able to provide their customers with access to   selected Internet services and electronic mail.
 Datacasters will be able to provide news and current affairs programs,   programs on business and financial information, and weather bulletins. These   may be provided in the form of short broadcast bulletins, and through the   interactive selection of stories on individual news items or topics.
 Aspirant datacasters who are not broadcasters will be eligible to apply for   datacasting licences from Australian regulatory authorities when they are   made available for allocation.
 Datacasting services are expected to commence in 2002.


  What is Closed Captioning?


Closed captioning provides deaf and hearing-impaired viewers with the   text of what is being spoken on television. The text is usually shown in a   black box at the bottom of the picture. Hearing-impaired viewers will be   familiar with current analog captioning which can be received on analog   receivers with teletext capability. Captioning is normally 'closed' to   viewers but can be accessed by those who need it.
 Closed captioning does not interfere with normal viewing. All digital television   reception equipment is expected to have closed captioning capability.



This Document was issued by DBICG Education Subgroup