The Chinese government finally released its digital TV terrestrial transmission standard yesterday, but time is needed for digital terrestrial broadcasting to become a significant business in the world's largest TV market.
The Standardization Administration of China's website carried the proposal for the transmission standard, which was approved on August 18 as the compulsory national standard, coming into effect from August 1 next year.
Along with 3G mobile communications, the digitalization of China's broadcasting is regarded as a lucrative market, which could be worth over 1 trillion yuan (US$125 billion). Therefore, it will form a key area in which a Chinese standard will cut royalty payments and assume an advantageous position in the global industry.
Digital TV broadcasting takes place in three ways -- cable, satellite and terrestrial, with China mainly following international standards in the first two areas.
Cable broadcasting is the only major transmission format currently used in China, as the terrestrial standard was not decided until August 18 and satellites for direct broadcasting have yet to be launched.
At the end of last year, only 4 million households across the nation had access to digital cable TV broadcasting, with the number expected to reach 10 million this year.
However, more than 400 million households with TV sets and only 128 million had access to cable TV at the end of last year, meaning that the majority of digital TV transmissions are expected to rely on the terrestrial method.
China began to develop its own terrestrial transmission standard in 2001. Proposals made by Tsinghua University and Shanghai Jiaotong University were later merged into a final draft proposal.
The Shanghai version borrowed some principles from the US standard and is suitable for transmission in sparsely populated remote areas, while the Tsinghua proposal is based on the same modulation method as current and future mobile communication standards and has its own patents, cutting royalty costs.
Zeng Huiming, editor of the Radio and TV Information magazine, said the standard came out late because of the compromise process, but this delay does not pose a problem since China has just started to promote the terrestrial transmission model.
He believed that an essentially Chinese version of the standard would not pose a serious threat to foreign equipment manufacturers, as many of them were already involved in the Chinese proposals and time remains for them to adapt to the new standard.
Sun Min, vice president and board secretary of Tsinghua Tongfang Co Ltd, agreed: "This is just a beginning with this standard. The real commercial benefits still depend on future development."
Sun's company, a flagship enterprise of Tsinghua University, is believed to be a major beneficiary of the Tsinghua standard. He said his firm had been working on some transmission and network construction trials, but these remain in their infancy.
(China Daily August 31, 2006)