On December 2nd, 2007, the first official implementations of the Brazilian DTT system began commercial operations in the city of São Paulo and, by mid-2008, there were already 10 commercial broadcasters operating in this city. Although tests were already being conducted since May, 2007, the government chose the December date as the official date of the system launch.
According to the schedule established by the government, all analog TV broadcasters must also be transmitting digital until 2013. Furthermore, the switch-off of the analog systems is schedule to take place in 2016.However, in 2008, the actual deployment of DTT transmissions in Brazil was moving ahead of the schedule. Stimulated by the increasing interest in the new technology, many broadcasters have been investing earlier than required by law and have been starting digital transmissions sooner than expected. The accelerated implementation was also due to the tax-reduction incentives offered by the government, and to the new applications made possible by the DTT system, such as portable reception.
In the first six months after the official commercial launch, DTT transmissions in Brazil is a reality in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Goiânia, and 10 other cities were scheduled to get digital broadcasting yet in 2008. By the third quarter of this year, DTT signals already covered over 21 million people, and were expected to reach 30 major cities and state capitals by the end of 2009.
The robustness of DTT signals, as well as the superior video and audio quality provided by the technology, represents a big step forward in the technical quality on content access of lower income population. The market penetration of television devices in Brazil and its close relationship with the general population are clues to enable us to devise the huge market that DTT will offer in the next few years.
2.5.1 DTT market in 2008
In the third quarter of 2008, there were already over 30 different DTT receivers available in the market, with functionalities and designs aimed to different economic segments and user preferences. Among those models, there could be found portable reception devices (1-Seg), including portable TVs, computer USB tuners and cell phones. For fixed reception, consumers could choose between standard definition and high definition devices, although all broadcasters have been transmitting in high definition (1080i). There were already over 50 h a week of original HDTV programming, and a growing demand from viewers.
Since the commercial start of DTT in Brazil, consumers were able to see a significant fall in the prices of reception devices, with the proliferation of additional manufacturers and models. As an example, by the third quarter of 2008, portable one-seg receivers for computers could be found for prices around US$ 100, while high-definition fixed-reception set-top devices could be found in the US$ 180 to US$ 300 price range. It was not unusual to find special offers to lower income consumers that split the price of the receiver in up to 12 monthly payments.
By that same time, the industry had already provided many solutions for the high-end DTT market, such as full-HD displays with integrated digital tuners. Many manufacturers offered displays with integrated receivers, with sizes ranging from 32 to 52 inches, for a price to the consumer starting at around US$ 1.500.
Since the beginning of transmissions, market prices for DTT receivers have been falling gradually, as the market moves from the early adopters to the ordinary consumers. That expected movement has been regarded by broadcasters and industry as proof of the successful introduction of DTT. It’s a trend that is expected to intensify with the beginning of transmissions in other cities. As of mid-2008, manufacturers have been preparing for Christmas, when a surge in demand for reception devices is expected. The general expectations are that the demand for DTT receivers and integrated TVs will grow steadily over the following years.
The opinion of the majority of the concerned entities is that the introduction of digital TV in Brazil has been very successful. The better images and sound quality, the portable TV with in-band “one-seg” technology, the future interactivity with the user and the digital convergence are the most evident benefits of the new technology. Nonetheless, keeping terrestrial television a free and open service, providing ways for the social inclusion of a growing number of citizens, as well as offering them an important mean of entertainment, education and cultural integration, at local, regional, and national levels, are not less important objectives for system that has been prepared to serve a vast country such as Brazil, both in territorial and demographic senses.
One of the first steps on the transition process was the development of the Digital Television Channel Plan, that has been conducted by the National Telecommunications Agency (Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações - Anatel) since 1999. At the end of the channel planning process, not later than 2013, it is expected that more than 6 100 digital channels have been assigned. In the full “simulcast” period, from 2013 to 2016, more than 12 200 analogue and digital channels are supposed to be in operation. This fact illustrates the magnitude of the task that has been assigned to Anatel, and that has been so far successfully executed by the Agency.
An important cornerstone of the successful introduction of the digital terrestrial TV in Brazil was the creation of the Brazilian Digital Television System Forum, or SBTVD Forum, in 2006. The Forum, whose members are TV network operators, equipment manufacturers, the software industry, education and research institutions, plus some other invited institutions and individuals, has had an important role in supporting and fostering the development and implementation of digital television in the country. It is also responsible for defining the best practices for the deployment of the system. By working close with the Japanese experts on the ISDB-T standards, the Forum has created a vast knowledge base about the implementation of DTT, and has contributed to the formation of a large number of professionals with competence on the subject.