agreement was signed today at the conclusion of ITU’s Regional
Radiocommunication Conference (RRC-06) in Geneva, heralding the development of
‘all-digital’ terrestrial broadcast services for sound and television. The
digitalization of broadcasting in Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Islamic
Republic of Iran by 2015 represents a major landmark towards establishing a more
equitable, just and people-centred Information Society. The digital switchover
will leapfrog existing technologies to connect the unconnected in underserved
and remote communities and close the digital divide.
"The most important achievement of the Conference," remarked Mr Yoshio Utsumi,
Secretary-General of ITU, "is that the new digital Plan provides not only new
possibilities for structured development of digital terrestrial broadcasting but
also sufficient flexibilities for adaptation to the changing telecommunication
The agreement reached at RRC-06 paves the way for utilizing the full
potential of information and communication technologies to achieve the
internationally recognized development goals. The date of transition to digital
terrestrial broadcasting in the year 2015 is intended to coincide with the
targets set by the Millennium Development Goals.
The regional agreement for digital services has been reached in the frequency
bands 174 - 230 MHz and 470 - 862 MHz. It marks the beginning of the end of
The Conference agreed that the transition period from analogue to digital
broadcasting, which begins at 0001 UTC 17 June 2006, should end on 17 June 2015,
but some countries preferred an additional five-year extension for the VHF band
The Regional Radiocommunication Conference was chaired and brought to a
successful conclusion by Mr Kavouss Arasteh of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The digital dividend
The switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting will create new
distribution networks and expand the potential for wireless innovation and
services. The digital dividend accruing from efficiencies in spectrum usage will
allow more channels to be carried across fewer airwaves and lead to greater
convergence of services.
The inherent flexibility offered by digital terrestrial broadcasting will
support mobile reception of video, internet and multimedia data, making
applications, services and information accessible and usable anywhere and at any
time. It opens the door to new innovations such as Handheld TV Broadcast (DVB-H)
along with High-Definition Television (HDTV) while providing greater bandwidth
to existing mobile, fixed and radionavigation services. Services ancillary to
broadcasting (wireless microphones, talk back links) are also planned on a
national basis and need to be extended.
The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07), which will meet in the
autumn of 2007, will deal with the regulatory aspects of the usage of the
spectrum for these services.
Terrestrial digital broadcasting carries many advantages over the analogue
Higher quality video and audio
Greater variety and faster rates of data
Consistency of data flows over long distances
More spectrum efficiency means more channels
This important agreement, which paves the way for a new paradigm of wireless
digital communication technologies, is expected to be extrapolated by other
regions and countries and influence a global shift away from the analogue system
that has been in place for the past 45 years.
During the five weeks of deliberations which began on 15 May, RRC-06 took
decisions to allow iteration of the complex software tools used by the ITU
secretariat as a basis to generate the draft plan that will facilitate the
coordinated and timely introduction of digital broadcasting. The Plan assures
that an outstanding 70’500 digital broadcasting requirements, including
stations, will become a reality within the planned area. It succeeded in
creating a level playing field as a new basis for competition.
The first session of this Conference (RRC-04) took place in May 2004 and
established a solid, comprehensive and technical basis for the agreement,
including the framework for the intersessional studies. It has already resulted
in the accelerated introduction of digital terrestrial broadcasting in many
countries. "Digital technologies are now transmitting high-resolution images of
the Soccer World Cup from Germany to fans around the world who are watching the
matches with excitement," said Mr Utsumi. "Digital terrestrial broadcasting is
now a reality with a bright future."
Conference Chairman Mr Kavouss Arasteh said that RRC-06 was a technically
complex process comprising voluminous computational calculations and data
processing tasks, electronic document handling and the use of five working
languages. He added that ITU, although facing these challenges for the first
time, could provide the Conference with adequate technical and regulatory
expertise and support for the full satisfaction of the participating
More than 1000 delegates representing 104 countries met in Geneva to adopt
the treaty agreement that will replace the analogue broadcasting plans existing
since 1961 for Europe and since 1989 for Africa. The new digital Plan, based on
broadcasting standards known as T-DAB (for sound) and DVB-T (for TV), covers a
wide area of the world including Europe, countries of the CIS, Africa, Middle
East and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
A major challenge faced by the conference was to find ways for digital and
analogue broadcasting to co-exist on the radio-frequency spectrum during the
transition period without causing interference.
A key ingredient for the success of the Conference was the unprecedented
level of cooperation between ITU, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the
European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
The complex planning activities conducted at this conference and during the
intersessional period were based on the software developed by EBU, which
includes hundreds of thousands of programme lines. In preparing the Plan for
digital terrestrial broadcasting, ITU experts performed meticulous calculations
within a limited timeframe using two independent infrastructures: the ITU
distributed system with 100 PCs; and the CERN Grid infrastructure that is based
on a few hundred dedicated CPUs from several European institutions.
For more information, please contact:
Mr Pham Nhu Hai
International Telecommunication Union
Tel: +41 22 730 6136