01 June 2013

Macedonia goes Digital

Starting from today, the Macedonian citizens will watch television program through a digital signal, which will enable a crystal clear picture, impeccable sound and new interactive services. The main difference from the analog broadcast, which will go down in history after six decades is the use of one frequency channel for the transmission of several television programs at the same time.

The digital signal of national and regional TV stations across the country was formally set into operation last night at Skopje square 'Macedonia'. Minister of Information Society and Administration Ivo Ivanovski, CEO of the telecommunication operator ONE Ciril Kafol,  Director of the Agency for Electronic Communications Robert Ordanoski and Broadcasting Council President Zoran Trajcevski addressed the ceremony.  

"Macedonia is the first country in the region to introduce the digital signal, which is a significant step to professionalization of media standards and great success for the country," Ivanovski said at the ceremony.

The shutdown of the analog signal will release a greater frequency range, which will enable a 16-time increase of television programs, from the present 49 to 400. The digitalization enables the introduction of 4G (fourth generation of broadband mobile networks) which will provide bigger Internet access speed. There will also be multi-channel sound i.e. additional services such as subtitles in several languages or options for selecting the desired language, electronic TV guide with broadcast time slots and program description up to seven days in advance, reception of the television services with other “smart” devices (PC, phone, laptop, tablets, etc.). The possibilities of new theme channels, faster teletext, 3D TV will be improved, as well as possibilities for interactive television through an Internet connection, information services (datacasting), buying and paying from the home, etc. With the digitalization, the weaknesses of the analog television such as the limited number of frequencies and the susceptibility to interferences and loss of signal or its doubling, which was characterized with so-called 'shadows and snow' will go down in history.
The telecommunication operator ONE has been chosen as operator through a public tender and it will emit the services of the commercial national and regional televisions through two multiplexes with a digital signal. Recently the parliament passed the changes and additions to the Broadcast Law, which will further specify the details about the permits of the TV stations and the agreements they should make with ONE prior to starting the digital signal. ONE reduced the prices about the fee it will charge for digital broadcast by 36% from the initial fee from the tender. That means that the national TV stations will pay ONE 99.840 euro per year and the regional TV stations – 13.056.
No program can be watched on the old TV sets without the installation of receivers.

Those households that have an older model of a TV set when the digitalization starts will only be able to watch television through a receiver of the digital signal, the so-called set-top-box. Their connection to the TV sets will perform a conversion of the analog into digital signal. Those who want to enjoy high resolution TV must have HD Ready or Full HD TV sets with an option for decompression of the digital TV signal from the MPEG-4 format.
Citizens that are watching TV through the cable operators, Boom TV, Max TV don't have to worry about anything as they will be able to watch TV as usual. If a new TV set with a built-in tuner, it is necessary that it supports DVB-T and MPEG-4 and it is desirable that it is HD Ready or Full HD.

According to the latest research of the Broadcast Council, 23% of the total population in Macedonia receives the signal through an analog TV antenna. They will have to purchase digital set-top-boxes in order to watch TV broadcast through a digital terrestrial TV network. The set-top-box can be bought in every store of the ONE operator and the TV and audio equipment stores. If it is bought from ONE, the end-user can choose whether he wants just a set-top-box to watch the home TV channels, or he will subscribe to one of the services that ONE is offering (with foreign TV channels included).
The digitalization process of the public TV services started at the beginning of last year through the public enterprise 'Macedonian broadcast', which was assigned with two multiplexes, built the infrastructure and is already distributing the DVB-T signal to the national TV services. The current public fee for the broadcasting tax is independent from the digitalization process and it remains in force.

The digitalization process has been completed, or is currently being implemented in most European countries. If Macedonia doesn't switch to digital television, it will not only technologically lag behind the other countries, but the digital signal from the neighboring countries will impede the current analog signal here.

The digital television standard is the European DVB-T standard, which is the most widespread in the world. There will be broadcast of analog and digital TV at the same time for a certain period. The release of the frequencies from the analog broadcast will enable the functioning of the other multiplexes until it is fully shut down by 2015.

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