Minister announces digital TV spectrum sale

Broadcast spectrum suitable for the transmission of Digital Terrestrial Television(DTT) will be auctioned off next year. Communications minister Maurice Williamson says the government will seek to help consumers in the transition to digital delivery by reserving enough spectrum for existing free-to-air broadcasts can be 'simulcast' in digital format for a transitional period. The announcement comes as major players try to firm up their digital TV plans.

Broadcast spectrum suitable for the transmission of Digital Terrestrial Television will be auctioned off next year.

In announcing the sale of the spectrum yesterday, Communications minister Maurice Williamson confirmed that the government will seek to help consumers in the transition to digital delivery by reserving enough spectrum for existing free-to-air broadcasts can be "simulcast" in digital format for a transitional period.

"This will enable broadcasters to provide existing free to air programmes in digital format, while allowing the public to continue to receive these services in the

current analogue format throughout the transition period" said the

minister.

The announcement comes as TVNZ examines its DTT options, and as its subsidiary, BCL, continues trials of its microwave DTT technology. Sky Television, which is installing 1300 Pace Micro digital decoders a day, has so far declined to go terrestrial with its satellite-only Sky Digital service. BCL currently transmits Sky's analogue service, and has been in discussions with the Internet Group (Ihug), whose digital TV service, based on its StarNet technology, launches soon.

The spectrum licences, in the UHF television band, will be auctioned by the Ministry of Commerce by August 1999.

While noting "complex issues" in any move to new broadcast technologies, the minister's statement says the Government has taken a "firm decision" to facilitate access to spectrum at an early stage, in order assist broadcasters in planning for the introduction of existing analogue television services based on digital technology.

The minister also announced the auction of 32 management rights 1600 licences in the 2 GHz band of radio spectrum, which spans the frequencies 1710-2300 MHz. The rights to be auctioned are expected to support a range of technologies associated with the next generation of digital cellular mobile services, collectively known as Personal Communications Services (PCS).

The minister's statement says One such technology expected to be implemented in New Zealand is the "IMT 2000" system, which is suitable for the implementation of global digital cellular telephones and mobile data applications. The rights are also suitable for supporting various fixed service applications used for

microwave distribution systems.

The auction date for the 2GHz licences is likely to be the end of March or early April next year, and is expected to attract interest from a wide range of telecommunication operators. The actual auction date will be advised early in the New Year.

The government says the necessary infrastructure using these frequencies may be in place in time to provide enhanced global communications services for APEC and the America's Cup, which take place in late 1999.

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