This might also signal an end of future DAB radio.
How soon will TV aerials become redundant? The Swiss government has paved the way for the country to become the first nation in Europe to ditch digital terrestrial TV (DTT). In a new concession, or charter, the government has provided public broadcaster consent to switch off DTT by the end of 2019. And more countries will follow.
DTT replaced traditional analogue TV signals received via a rooftop or indoor aerial as part of a digital switchover across Europe during the last decade. Switzerland completed its switchover in 2008.
Swiss authorities say only a "few" households still used DTT. For the most part, only the public service broadcaster SRG's channels have been available, with limited signal overspill from neighbouring countries in border territories. Most Swiss have high speed broadband internet connections and cable networks in their homes, so the move is unlikely to affect many citizens. Only 1.9% of the population, about 64.000 people, reportedly take advantage of the service that’s being discontinued.
Facilitating IPTV growth, Swisscom aims to make high-speed fibre optic broadband available to every municipality by 2021. As an alternative option, householders can continue to opt to receive their TV service via the Hot Bird satellite by applying for a Swiss TV "sat access card".
Increasingly, countries are either deciding to switch their terrestrial TV networks to the newer DVB-T2 standard with a switch to all-HD broadcasting or just to move straight to an internet and cable-dominated service, although this has raised concerns over free-to-air, unmetered access to public service television.
Other European nations are expected to follow Switzerland’s lead in the next 10 to 15 years. Within the industry, it's anticipated the UK's DTT service will be axed around 2030. Belgium and the Netherlands are seen as the next likely candidates for a DTT switch-off, due to the prominence of high speed broadband and cable TV services, with satellite as a back-up option. In fact, Belgian Dutch language public broadcaster VRT is pulling the plug out off its three main channels on DVB-T already on December 1, citing “changing media consumption usage”.
In Sweden and Finland with high penetration of fixed and mobile broadband 4G LTE a high degree of radio listening and television viewing is moving from DTT to handy devices as smartphones and tablets. It is estimated that only 18% of the households in Sweden watch television via DTT.
Southern Europe is set to rely on terrestrial distribution for a much longer period. The average penetration for DTT on the main set for the EU27 is 27.7%, with Croatia, Greece, Italy and Spain all having rates above 50%.
And while many Americans believe the right to free, over-the-air broadcasts are protected, that’s not quite as cut and dry as it might seem. 17% of U.S. households still watch terrestrial television. The networks are free to distribute their programs on other platforms than DTT. The FCC is only issuing permits for individual radio and television DTT transmitter stations local or network owned and operated.
While Switzerland is busy turning its back on DTT, the same is not true for digital terrestrial radio DAB+: the country is still on-track to switch-off its FM signals in the next few years, following the course of Norway, which became the first country to switch-off national FM 2017. However, very few countries are expected to follow on the Norwegian and Swiss track.
In a near future we can expect that millions of TV antennas will disappear from rooftops all over Europe. A decrease in terrestrial broadcasting will hit broadcast providers as the government owned Norkring in Norway and Teracom in Sweden. These companies have invested heavily in digital radio and television distribution also in Belgium and Denmark.
Switchoff: Swiss to ditch digital terrestrial TV (a516digital)
Switzerland Is Doing Away With Over-the-Air TV. Could the U.S. Do the Same? (Fortune)
Belgian pubcaster VRT terminates DTT broadcasts (Broadband TV News)
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The Impossible Mission: A Global Future for DAB Radio