Will digital terrestrial TV happen in time?


MYTV faces challenges with current set top-boxes

AS the nation inches closer toward the migration from analog to digital in the beaming of terrestrial TV signals, all eyes are on MYTV Broadcasting Sdn Bhd.

MYTV had been selected back in 2014 to spearhead the national digital terrestrial television (DTT) rollout.

Its role was to be the infrastructure developer and sole provider of myFreeview for a 30-year period. myFreeview is the name given to Malaysia’s new DTT service.

To be sure the work is not done yet. MYTV, say industry observers, had its fair share of initial challenges and there are believed to be some delays.

But things have been put on fast track early this year when industry veteran Michael Chan, who was previously the CEO of Bloomberg TV Malaysia, was made the company’s chief executive officer.

MYTV has already rolled out most of the network infrastructure covering most of the country. It has also dished out around 500,000 decoders or set-top boxes.

The Government has said that a total of 4.2 million BR1M (1Malaysia People’s Aid) households will receive free MYTV decoders.

MYTV will pay for two million units while the Government, via the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, will foot the rest of the bill.

The MYTV decoder allows viewers to get myFreeview, a broadcast service offering free-to-air channels in Malaysia in digital quality.

There are close to seven million TV households in the country and with DTT, the number of TV households is expected to grow as more people in the rural areas will have access to more channels.

However certain technological developments are having on impact on the roll out, industry experts say.

For one, it is understood that the content providers namely the TV companies that will be relying on the digital terrestrial network for their content to be delivered to household TV sets, today want the ability to garner audience viewership data.

This means that the set top boxes or decoders must be able to relay messages back to the network, providing such data. In other words, those boxes will need to be Internet enabled such as having a WiFi module.

Industry sources say that the boxes that had been delivered by MYTV so far do not display such an ability.

This was confirmed by Datuk Mizal Zaini, the CEO of DNF Sdn Bhd, a company which holds a content applications service provider or CASP licence from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

DNF will be using MYTV to relay its TV content to viewers. “It is critical to our business model that the set top boxes on Malaysia’s DTT platform are able to collect viewership data, like they do in many parts of the world.

“Our concern is if they don’t. Viewership data is an essential marketing tool for channel operators like ourselves,” says Mizal, who is more popularly known now as AC Mizal in the local entertainment scene.

Similarly, another major development in the TV industry is the rise of over-the-top (OTT) video streaming, the term used for the delivery of film and TV content via the internet and provided by various parties, including the existing traditional TV content companies. OTT is experiencing explosive growth in many parts of the world, including Malaysia.

Hence MYTV’s set top boxes will have to support OTT providers.

“The point it, since the country is making this one big move into DTT (digital terrestrial tv), the network and set top boxes should be with the latest technology,” says one industry player.

Yet another worrying development about MYTV’s current set-top boxes is the fact that it is using a chipset from a maker who is facing a legal suit.

In March this year, California-based semiconductor designer Broadcom Ltd filed a series of lawsuits in the US alleging the infringement of a series of patents covering semiconductor technologies.

Among the companies it was pursuing action against was Taiwanese chipmaker MStar Semiconductor Inc.

It is understood that MStar chips are being used in the current MYTV set-top boxes.

Malaysia will make the switch to DTT by June next year.

Most of the western world have made the switch years ago.

Asean member countries have aimed for a collective analog switch in phases between 2015 to 2020. However to ensure “signal harmonisation”, countries with inter-connected borders including Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei have agreed to a 2018 target, MYTV’s website states.

The move is also part of the national agenda to transform Malaysia’s broadcasting industry through digitisation with the aim of improving the living standards of Malaysians as the country gears up towards a developed nation status by 2020.

It is also one of the key initiatives in the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP).

Another key aspect of the analogy migration is the freeing up of the very valuable 700Mhz spectrum.

This is a much awaited for spectrum which will be refarmed to local telco players, potentially giving the Malaysian government billions of ringgit from the sales proceeds.

Telcos using the 700Mhz spectrum will also become more efficient in their network operations, thus being able to reduce the cost of their offerings over time, experts say.

 

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