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Working target for analogue switch-off changed to 2020

The Government today (December 9) announced that the working target for switching off analogue television (TV) services (analogue switch-off or ASO) would be changed from the end of 2015 to the end of 2020, with a review of the target date be conducted in 2017-18.

"The revised target date will allow more time for the remaining analogue TV viewers to switch to digital terrestrial television (DTT) services. It is more realistic. It also allows the Government to optimise the utilisation of the vacated spectrum to yield the maximum economic benefits for Hong Kong through the co-ordination of frequency use with the Mainland authorities," a spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said.

DTT services were launched in Hong Kong at the end of 2007. As for DTT penetration, the percentage of households capable of receiving DTT services was slightly above 80 per cent as at September

.

"If we are to implement ASO in 2015, a considerable number of analogue TV viewers (about 20 per cent of the population or some 480,000 households) will not be able to receive the digital broadcasts. They would have to acquire a new digital TV set or install a DTT set-top box within the coming year to continue to watch free TV broadcasts," the spokesman said.

A crucial benefit arising from ASO is to follow the recommendation of the International Telecommunication Union to devote part of the spectrum allocated for TV broadcasting in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) 470-806 MHz band for high value-added mobile telecommunications services (such as mobile broadband services) (commonly referred to as the "digital dividend").

For the freed-up spectrum to be usable for mobile telecommunications services, it must be free from radio interference in the same frequency range. This requires co-ordination and harmonisation of the use of the spectrum in the UHF 470-806 MHz band with Hong Kong's neighbouring Mainland areas.

The spokesman noted that the Mainland authorities have all along been facilitating the frequency co-ordination between Hong Kong and the Mainland. The Mainland authorities have indicated that, for planning purposes, the earliest ASO timeframe for Guangdong Province would be the end of 2020.

"Prior to that, without technical co-ordination, unilateral implementation of ASO in Hong Kong will not yield any usable digital dividend.

"On balance, in view of the current DTT penetration rate and the arrangement for realisation of the digital dividend in Hong Kong, we should set the revised ASO target date as the end of 2020," he said.

In taking forward the ASO, the Government will continue to closely monitor the DTT take-up rate and continue its effort in frequency co-ordination with the Mainland authorities to optimise utilisation of spectrum.

Tuesday, December 9,