China Anoints Digital TV Broadcast Standard

Chinese regulators announced Tuesday they had chosen a homegrown format for the nation’s digital television broadcasting standard, according to Chinese media reports.

The Standardization Administration of China (SAC) approved Digital Media Broadcasting Terrestrial (DMB-T), as developed by researchers of Beijing’s Tsinghua University. SAC gave its approval Aug. 18, and DMB-T will become the digital standard as of Aug. 1, 2007, according to Sina’s Sina.com website.

The system is different from the South Korean digital broadcasting technology that is also known by the abbreviation DMB-T.

The Chinese government estimates that the digital television market is worth 1 trillion renminbi (US$125 billion), and as such was unwilling to make the royalty payments that would have been required to use a foreign standard, according to the English-language China Daily website.

China expects 10 million households to have access to digital TV by the end of the year, China Daily said, adding that most households with television in China rely on terrestrial broadcasting, and therefore the new standard.

The choice of a domestic standard could indicate that China will make similar decisions regarding standards for third-generation (3G) telephony and IPTV, which supports both television and mobile broadcasting. Trials are under way throughout the country for both domestic and foreign standards.

Telecom regulators met Aug. 10 and 11 in Guilin to discuss their choice for the 3G standard, but made no announcement following the conference. China’s time division synchronous code division multiple access (CDMA) 3G format has strong government support, but faces competition from foreign standards CDMA2000 and wideband CDMA.

China has not yet issued 3G licenses to telecom operators, but is under pressure to do so quickly, as implementation of the mobile data system in time for use at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing is one of the government’s stated goals. With less than two years left before the games’ opening ceremonies, there is little margin for error for the licensing, buildout, testing and promotion processes.

-Steven Schwankert, IDG News Service (Beijing Bureau)

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