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The transition from analogue to digital broadcasting in Norway

 

DTT in Norway

On September the 1st. 2007  Digital terrestrial television (DTT) was launched in Norway. The official kick-off was celebrated in Norways "petroleum capital", and the inhabitants of Stavanger and its county Rogaland were the first to enjoy terrestrial digital television in Norway. A few days later the capital Oslo followed, and by mid-November most of southern Norway had access to the digital terrestrial network. This means that 80 % of the permanent households (100 % is 2,14 mill.) were covered only a few months after the introduction.

In 2008 the roll-out expanded into northern Norway and the two most southern counties (Agder), covering the whole country by November 2008. The analogue network was shut down region by region and was completed late 2009. Each region had simulcast for 6 -12 months. The first analogue shutdown took take place the 4th of March 2008 in the county Rogaland, and the last last shutdown was in the northern counties Troms and Finnmark on december the 1st 2009.  

The roll-out

Norges Televisjon AS (NTV) was granted the DTT license by the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) on June 2nd 2006, for 15 years. The owners of NTV are the NRK and TV2 (National Public Service Broadcasters) and Telenor Broadcast Holding. NTV is the platform operator and therefore has the responsibility for implimentation of the digital network and maintenance of the DTT platform. In addition NTV is responsible for the information to the public about the transition from analogue to the digital TV reception.

Apart from running an information and coverage service on our webpage (http://www.ntv.no/), NTV also provides an information tour, visiting regions both during the introduction of the DTT services and also when  the analogue services shut down . Additional attention is given to media and municipals. All households receive a pamphlet in the mail when the regional transmitters are turned on.

More than 95 % coverage

The Government stated that the digital network must cover 95 % of the permanent households and 70 % of cottages and leisure homes. But the actual coverage exceeds these demands, and covers 98 % of all households and 87 % of cottages/leisure homes. No financial aid from the Government was granted for establishing the network. The pricetag of the network is estimated to be NOK 1, 5 billion.

To receive the signals, the viewers will need an UHF-aerial covering the frequency band between 470-790 MHz and a NTV-validated and approved setup box/digital decoder. The government has also stated the the maximum price of a basisdecoder should not exceed NOK 1500. Decoders bundled together with RiksTV subscription (pay TV subscription) were sold for NOK 1.- and NOK 0,50 when the net opened.

Both cable-TV and satellite viewing have a strong position in Norway, but  approximately 1/3  of the TV-viewers are expected to use the DTT -network .


MPEG-4

Norway was the first country to choose Mpeg-4 as the encoding (compression) standard for vision and sound. This means that the digital network in Norway is ready for High Definition Television (HDTV) services. So far only TV2 is offering programs in HD. NRK will follow in february 2010. One consequence of choosing the MPEG-4 standard for encoding, was that only one brand of decoders (Grundig) was available at launch. By April 2008, there were two. A year later the number was 12. By this time there were also two PVRs (Personal Video Recorder) and 340 TV models with integrated Mpeg-4 tuners available. All validated and approved by NTV for the Norwegian DTT network.

The Norwegian digital network consists of 430 transmitters covering the country. 43 are high-power and 310 are low-power stations. Single Frequency Network (SFN) are used in some regions. SFN is a broadcast network where several transmitters simultaneously broadcast the same signal over the same frequency channel. Each region will have a regional service from the NRK, as well as private local TV stations and 15 radio stations -mostly operated by NRK. (The northern islands of Svalbard are not covered by the digital network).


Satellite shadow network

In the digital license issued to NTV, the Parliament required a total network coverage of
95 %. Covering the last 5 % would cost the same as covering the first 95 percent, and was not seen economically feasible. Most Norwegians in this category already have a satellite dish. However, due to Norway`s topography of steep mountains, deep valleys and northern location (low angle to GEO), approximately 14.000 inhabitants, which means 6.000 households, can not receive signals from any satellite. They live in areas with satellite shadow, and where cable-TV or IPTV is not an option. The digital license therefore requires NTV to offer digital TV also for these people, but with only one multiplex (NRK services). This means 3 TV-channels and 12 radio channels. Most of these households had only one TV-channel (NRK 1) and one or two radio services before DTT.

Norkring, a subsidiary of Telenor Broadcast, is responsible for the installation of the main transmitter network. Norkring together with Paneda - a small private company - are commissioned by NTV to build satellite shadow networks. Norkring uses the same terrestrial technology as in the main network, while Paneda receive satellite signals and remodulates them before retransmitting terrestrially. The latter system requires a different type of decoder, but the cost for the end-user will be the same. In a few cases, transmitters are been set up for one person only.


Channels on offer

For those households covered by the main network; 3 multiplexes are available offering 25 TV- and 15 radio services. NRK operates one multiplex with 3 services (4 including the sign language service). All NRK services are "Free to Air" . The two other multiplexes are managed by the commercial pay-tv operator RiksTV including local -TV.

RiksTV offers a mix of Norwegian and international services with different content, all channels are encrypted. For the consumer a subscription fee comes in addition to the TV license fee. 
Local-TV, and a open community channel is free.
By december 2009, RiksTV had 435.000 subscribers. Another 100.000 viewers have not registered and can only watch NRK.
Two more commercial multiplexes are planned to be lauched in mid-2010, after analogue switch-off. 


 (Updated Dec. 2009)