Chapter 3
Country by country status report of the state of developments in Europe and other parts of the world

This chapter aims to provide an overview of the state of development of digital communications technologies that may be of relevance to education and training. It includes both digital broadcasting technologies and other competitive technologies. It includes both organisations that are running learning services and organisations that are planning services.

3.1 Developments in Europe

Another European Commission funded study into the "Development of digital TV in Europe: 1998", managed by IDATE provides an in depth country by country status report of the state of development of digital TV. This IDATE (42) study has identified the existing European Union TV market as a "fragmented economy" with "strong national peculiarities". EU countries differ in regard to: -

This has a distinctive impact on the development of digital broadcasting technologies. More detail is given in the IDATE Reports of the types of reception platforms used and the state of the market in each country.

Figure 3.1 Existence of Digital Services (beginning of 1999)

Country

Satellite

Cable

Terrestrial

Austria

x

x

 

Belgium

*

x

 

Denmark

x

x

 

Finland

x

 

 

France

x

x

 

Germany

x

x

 

Greece

 

 

 

Ireland

x

 

 

Italy

x

x

 

Luxembourg

*

 

 

Netherlands

x

 

 

Portugal

x

 

 

Spain

x

x

 

Sweden

x

x

x

United Kingdom

x

 

x

Updated version of table provided by IDATE

In general, the situation can be summarised in the following table. Note that for digital satellite services, a country is included if either digital satellite services are broadcast from that country or there is an agreement to broadcast over that country from another country. For example, in Luxembourg and Belgium there are no broadcasts but satellite services can be received from neighbouring countries.

This study has attempted to categorise each EU country according to the prospects for the development of interactive TV services, based on the limited information publicly available.

The qualitative analysis has taken the following factors into consideration before deciding the prospect levels for each EU country: -

Figure 3.2 Prospects for development of interactive digital TV
learning services with EU Countries
(shaded area indicates the level of prospect)

Country

 

Prospects

 

 

High

Medium

Low

Austria

 

 

x

Belgium

 

 

x

Denmark

 

 

x

Finland

 

x

 

France

 

x

 

Germany

 

x

 

Greece

 

 

x

Ireland

 

x

 

Italy

x

 

 

Luxembourg

 

 

x

Netherlands

 

x

 

Portugal

 

 

x

Spain

 

x

 

Sweden

x

 

 

United Kingdom

x

 

 

 

The following country by country overview tries to capture the situation as it stood in spring 1999. However, the situation is changing very rapidly as organisations start to roll out new communication services, sometimes integrated with other offerings, which raise new possibilities for education and training. Where possible, reference is also made to small-scale pilot projects if they have the potential for scaling up into sustainable services.

The countries of Europe are treated in alphabetical order.

Austria

There do not appear to be any plans by any organisations in Austria to offer digital interactive learning broadcasting services. The dominant public service broadcaster ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) is not currently offering any interactive digital broadcasting services; however, they do have what they claim to be a very successful internet news channel (43). Despite this, they currently do not have any plans for interactive education and training services (44). There are no Austrian-originated commercial TV broadcasters, but a large number of German satellite channels are available to households with a satellite dish. This includes digital channels offered by the merged providers DF1 and Premiere.

Of the 3.18 million households in Austria there were about 20,000 subscribers to digital services as of mid 1998. The digital strategy of the public service broadcaster ORF is to digitise the transmission of its existing programmes via satellite and to enter new (interactive) markets in areas other than television, for instance Internet access provision. ORF have launched "TW1" - a weather and satellite channel - as a free digital satellite channel across Europe and as a cable service to Austrian and Swiss households. They also have plans to offer a digital bouquet by satellite (45).

Plans for the development of digital terrestrial TV services are still being discussed at government level.

About 1.075 million homes in Austria are connected to analogue cable TV networks. However, the cable TV network providers tend to operate on a regional or local basis making it a highly fragmented market. In total, there are about 300 networks, but only about 100 of them have more than 500 subscribers. Decisions on whether to upgrade their networks to enable them to offer digital services will depend on the market strategies of individual network operators. There is one cable operator offering analogue pay-TV services - Telekabel Wien - with a subscriber base of 435,000 in the whole of Austria including 375,000 in Vienna. It is also offering access to the Internet via a cable modem offering in Vienna. Some other cable TV operators are also offering Internet access using cable modems at up to 10 Mbit/sec at a flat monthly rate of 43 euro (46).

Alcatel Austria and Post & Telekom Austria AG (PTA) are co-operating in a field trial to use ADSL technology for upgrading existing copper twisted pair infrastructure to support interactive video and high-speed internet access. However this is a small trial, only involving 100 households in Vienna and 12 households in Upper Austria (47).

The slow development of digital interactive TV services and the relatively small population seems to suggest that TV-based interactive learning services will develop very slowly within Austria. Decisions about Digital Terrestrial TV developments have yet to be taken by government, which has not acted as a stimulus for launching a separate learning channel - as has been the case in Sweden, for example. Some interactive learning services may eventually be on offer by satellite from Germany, in particular IQTV from SWF when it is launched.

In conclusion, it seems most likely that the Internet will provide the most effective means for offering interactive learning services particularly as higher-speed access could be available via cable modems and from ADSL technologies using existing telephone lines. European-wide solutions via satellite are also available in more remote areas.

Belgium

Analogue cable TV networks reach every household in Belgium and a wide choice of TV programmes is available. This has tended to act as a disincentive for operators to offer digital TV services, as one of the main reasons for doing so is to offer a wider choice of channels. Another factor has been the need to upgrade the analogue networks to digital using hybrid fibre coax (HFC) - for other reasons such as telephony rather than for TV. This has now resulted in some cable networks offering "foreign" digital bouquets as no national offer exists in Belgium.

High-speed access to the Internet has acted as an incentive to upgrade the cable network to digital but this seems to be done by companies mainly interested in telephony. For example the new phone company - Telenet - is offering telephone, Internet and (soon) multimedia services, but it is not able to offer broadcasting services - the associated cable operators handle these. Such a telephone/Internet service was launched in February 1999 in the Brussels and Leuven areas under the brand name of Chello (48).

Discussions concerning the development of terrestrial TV in Belgium are still at a very early stage. There are no digital TV satellite offerings originating from Belgium, although householders with an appropriate satellite dish and receiver can pick up offerings from other parts of Europe.

The small markets of the two main linguistic communities seem to make the emergence of sustainable interactive TV services rather uncertain. However, the Flemish community is trying to promote the development of a local digital thematic channel through The Narrow Casting Company (TNCC) (49) - this might stimulate some interactive services.

The University of Leuven (KUL) also has a special arrangement with a local cable company to provide Internet access to their students' homes in the area. In addition KUL is offering "Computer Campus TV" (CCTV) which enables TV programmes to be multicast to students' computers which are linked to the university network. This includes links to student residences. In the near future there are plans to multicast TV to students' homes via the commercial cable network (50).

In conclusion, some form of interactive TV services may develop through local initiatives like the Leuven one, particularly if they are able to increase the participation of learning. These could spread to some kind of low cost (but high profile in terms of reaching the home) services mounted in conjunction with local or regional educational institutions. Widespread interactive broadcasting learning services seem unlikely to emerge.

Denmark

Direct to home digital satellite TV started in Denmark in June 1998 with the launch of Canal Digital's subscription service, although there are over 400,000 households receiving analogue services from various operators. The major analogue satellite operator - VIASAT - which also operates throughout Scandinavia, does not appear to have any plans to move to digital TV. Tele Danmark also launched its digital cable TV service but as of October 1998 had only about 35000 subscribers. Decisions concerning the development of digital terrestrial TV are in the process of being made by the Danish government (51).

There do not appear to be any interactive TV services operating in Denmark at present and the prospects for the development of interactive TV learning services appear to be very uncertain and probably not likely to develop at all. This is because the digital TV market is still very immature and the small population of the country is likely to make it difficult to sustain such a development. However a dominant deterring factor is the high penetration of computers in Danish households which would make it more realistic to offer interactive learning services via the Internet.

Finland

Digital satellite pay-TV service provision in Finland started in the autumn of 1997 with the launch of Canal Digital's digital satellite services - TV Finland is included in Canal Digital's service. As yet, digital cable TV has not been introduced in Finland - although at the end of 1997, 38% of households were subscribers to analogue cable TV.

Terrestrial TV plays a major role in Finland as over half of the population watch TV by this method. Therefore there are plans to make digital terrestrial TV available to 70% of the population by the year 2000. It is proposed that the digital terrestrial television will consist of 12 television services, eight of which will be totally new services. Plans include an educational and cultural channel provided by YLE, the public service broadcaster. Interactive services are also planned including teletext and Internet services which will be broadcast as integrated parts of the television signal (52). It is not known if these will apply to the planned education and cultural channel but this is most likely to be the way that any interactive TV learning services will develop. No doubt this will build upon the existing experience of offering educational broadcasting via YLE's TV1 channel. YLE already broadcast programmes for schools, language programmes, vocational training and an open university service that was launched in January 1996 (53).

In conclusion, Finland seems a promising country for the development of interactive TV learning services.

France

France has been an early adopter of digital TV services mainly via satellite. The country also has the highest number of households subscribing to such services compared to other countries within Europe. The first digital TV service was launched in 1996 by Canal Satellite, a subsidiary of Canal+. Now, with close to a million subscribers, it is twice as big as its national rival, TPS (Television Par Satellite). TPS is a joint venture between the free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters, France Télécom (the dominant telecommunications operator and one of the leading cable operators) and Lyonnaise Câble which is also a major cable operator. A third satellite operator is AB Sat - a service operated by AB Production, an independent television production company.

Canal Satellite transmits from the SES/Astra satellite and can be received using a digital set-top box with Mediaguard conditional access and Media Highway API technology developed within the company. TPS transmits from Eutelsat's Hotbird satellite and uses the conditional access - Viaccess - developed by France Télécom and the API technology from OpenTV. Two different versions of AB Sat are broadcast, both on Eutelsat and Astra using Viaccess conditional access. In addition Simulcrypt agreements have been negotiated with its two competitors.

Despite appearing to lead Europe, the overall number of subscribers is still very small. Canal+ estimates that it has penetrated only 5% of the French market and its competitors considerably less. Therefore some people are suggesting that there will be a trend that each European country will ultimately gravitate toward one dominant player (54).

Interactive services have been launched or are planned by both Canal Satellite and TPS. For example Canal Satellite proposes enhanced interactive TV through its pay-per-view service, enabling TV viewers to choose, in real time, what view they wish to watch for a particular event. They will also have the option to watch the action of several events happening at the same time. TPS is testing out the use of interactive advertising. There are also teletext-like interactive services giving sports results, detailed weather forecasts, ordering goods directly from several teleshopping channels. TPS launched a banking services in December 1998 (55).

However, currently there do not appear to be any interactive learning services planned. The focus of these commercial operators seems to be on interactive services that are likely to generate enough revenue to become at least sustainable and ideally make a good profit. Should there be a good "political" or marketing reason for developing interactive learning services, TPS has shown that it is capable of developing a new service within six months of its conception (56). In fact TPS are providing an experimental service called SAT&CLIC for high schools which will offer access to the Internet via satellite specially focused towards educational materials and information about what educational programmes are on offer via the TPS bouquet of channels. (See 4.5 Case study 5)

France Télécom has also been experimenting with a high-speed satellite Internet service in the cities of Lannion and Issy-les-Moulineaux during the fourth quarter of 1998 (57) and has just begun commercial trials from March 1999 in Beauvais, Compiègne, Quimper, Vannes and 70 schools across France. It is based on their commercial Internet service Wanadoo but provides high-speed Internet access via satellite at up to 400 kbit/sec for the downlink. It also offers a specific service designed for business users employing "push" technology to deliver theme channel packages of web content directly to subscribers' computers. The service will cost 46 euro per month (58). This service could include interactive learning offerings although there do not appear to be any such application being utilised at present.

This new satellite Internet experiment is part of France Telecom's strategy to provide online access via all types of telecommunications networks, including PSTN, Numéris (the French name for ISDN) and cable. In addition to the satellite Internet trials, France Telecom is testing ADSL high-speed Internet access in Bourges, Le Mans, Nice, Noisy-le-Grand and Rennes.

Since February 1997 "La Cinquième", the French TV channel, has been testing the BPS service (Banque de Programmes et Services) that allows schools and training centres to download video-on-demand, via satellite (59). The user views or searches a catalogue of offerings on a web site and requests a video via the web site. The user is then automatically informed when the video will be downloaded via satellite to the user's computer where it can be decompressed and viewed on the computer or on a television screen (60).

All three major cable operators - France Télécom Cable (a subsidiary of the dominant telecommunications operator), NC Numéricâble (a subsidiary of Canal+) and Lyonnaise Câble - have started to implement digital offerings to their subscribers, each following different strategies. France Télécom and NC Numéricâble maintain a cheap analogue service with digital options, whereas Lyonnaise Câble is aiming for an all-digital strategy attempting to equip each subscriber with a digital set-top box. Most of the major cable networks will propose digital services; however, the cost of digitisation has forced France Télécom to announce the sale of its small networks and Vidéopole (a subsidiary of Electricité de France) to announce the sale of all its interests in cable. Heavy reinvestments have also proven to be necessary for certain cable networks (61).

Planning towards digital terrestrial TV is still in its early stages. A two-year project was launched in April 1999, where France Television and France Télécom are working together on a trial in Rennes (Brittany), with the aim of assessing the role of the public broadcaster in the digital multi-channel world. France Television intends to offer a basic package of programmes for free, and to offer space to other broadcasters. France Télécom will supply the transmission and reception infrastructure (62).

It is planned that a 30 to 36 digital channel service could be available to 70% to 80% of French households by the end of 2000 or the beginning of 2001 - as both free-to-air and subscription based services.

VDL, in Lyon, is planning a project about training using a digital audio broadcasting (DAB) network (63).

Eurosport Enterprises - who are based in Paris but broadcast all over Europe - are currently developing new services for digital distributors - satellite platforms, cable and ADSL. These services will be highly interactive, consisting of many games concepts and e-commerce applications. The company also plans to introduce various kinds of sports services that will augment their European sports portal. They have some initial plans to educate and train people in sports through interactive lessons (for example to practice skiing and tennis) and also to deliver sports rules via e-mail (64).

In conclusion, the prospects for the development of digital interactive learning services to the home in France seem to be rather better than some other European countries.

Germany

The development of the digital TV market in Germany appears to be lagging behind that of the United Kingdom, France and Italy despite there being a large German-speaking population, and therefore a large market. The reasons for this appear to be fourfold:

By the end of 1998 two German digital TV satellite services were being broadcast - DF1 with 110,000 subscribers, and Premiere digital with 80,000 subscribers. The total number of subscribers, including cable was 385,000. DF1 and Premiere merged during early 1999.

The situation concerning the development of digital cable TV is rather complex. Germany does have the most widespread cable TV network in Europe with 89% of all German TV households passed by cable - about 50% actually subscribe to a cable network (18 million homes). However, most of this cable is still analogue and mainly owned by the largest cable TV provider, Deutsche Telekom - also the dominant telecom operator. Since 1995 Deutsche Telekom has been updating and digitising the existing network according to international standards for DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) but its plans are behind schedule. Although Deutsche Telekom owns the underlying technical network for about 88 % of German cable households it only reaches about 30% of all cable TV customers directly - small cable operators that provide the final connection between the Deutsche Telekom basic backbone and residential users serve the other 70%. As a result, Deutsche Telekom only receives a small part of the cable subscription revenues (66). In addition it is likely that Deutsche Telekom will also have to sell off its cable network due to deregulation of the telecoms industry (67).

However, a number of TV operators do broadcast digital services, including DF1, Premiere 1, ARD, ZDF and various foreign and regional channels.

The types of decoder a consumer can buy further complicate the situation. This relates to the dominance of one set-top box - the "d-box" developed by Beta Research (a subsidiary of the Kirch Group) - and the demand for open standards by the public service broadcasters (68). This has resulted in confusion for the consumer who is already showing some resistance to moving to digital TV as there is already access to many free-to-air channels. Plans for DF1 and Premiere to merge were also blocked by the regulatory authorities - this delayed developments in one respect but also stimulated the emergence of two new service broadcasters - Digital TV Hamburg and Deutsche Telekom.

The German government has already declared that it wants to switch to all-digital broadcasts by 2010. This may stimulate further development of the market. Currently there are a number of trials in various parts of Germany testing out what technical problems may exist prior to the introduction of digital terrestrial broadcasting.

Although some interactive services are starting to emerge, it appears that new developments may come from converging technologies. Both public broadcasters ARD and ZDF are currently pilot testing services that bring the Internet onto the television screen or vice versa. ZDF is co-operating with Intel Intercast push technology to offer selected TV content as regular news-flashes on the computer screen, while ARD is working on a concept that combines the content of its online website with programmes on television. ARD Online Kanal offers selected Internet pages and multimedia content to be viewed on the television screen (69). The launch of the new version of the "d-box" set-top box will also enable enhanced interactive applications including home shopping via the web and the ability to manage a stock market portfolio as well as providing email (70).

As in many other countries of Europe, ADSL trials are being conducted in Germany. Deutsche Telekom has been running a pilot project in North-Rhine Westphalia which has enabled 450 private households and companies to get high speed access to the Internet and provide data networks working at speeds of up to 1.5 Mbit/sec on the downstream (towards the customer) and 128 kbit/sec on the upstream. One educational application involves the virtual training and information centre "Virtuelles Bildungs- und Informationszentrum VBIZ" of the Macronet company which allows teaching videos to be loaded and run by trainees (71).

Despite the many difficulties relating to the development of the digital TV market in Germany a new digital educational channel - IQ TV (Interactive Qualifications TV) is being implemented by the public service broadcaster SWR (Sudwestrundfunk in Baden-Baden, part of the ARD network). It is one of the few TV channels that has been broadcasting educational programmes since the 1960s. (See 4.9 Case study 9). IQ-TV is planned to be a platform for programmes produced for universities, industries and SMEs, as well as being utilised by public service and commercial educational providers. The development of IQ TV towards a sustainable service will be watched very closely in Germany and other parts of Europe. If successful, other service providers may be encouraged to develop similar services.

Greece

There are no digital satellite, cable or terrestrial broadcasters in Greece at present. However, the Nova Consortium and Antenna have shown an interest in broadcasting via satellite and there are some experimental cable networks in Athens (two districts), Komotini, Volos and the island of Mykonos. The Nova consortium also intends to offer some form of interactive services.

There appears to be little interest in the development of digital terrestrial networks as the key players are more interested in satellite broadcasting and there is limited spectrum that is available (72). However, many households can receive "foreign" digital satellite services.

A data broadcasting system was deployed in 2000 Greek schools at the beginning of May 1999 but not using digital techniques. Instead, it used the vertical blanking interval (VBI) of analogue terrestrial broadcasts. Applications include encrypted broadcasts of exam papers and, in time, subject-related material. Bocom International has developed the system for the Ministry of Education (73). (See 4.6 Case study 6)

Ireland

Digital satellite TV broadcasting services are available to Ireland through the Sky Digital service that was launched in the United Kingdom on 1 October 1998. In addition to the UK-based services, two Irish channels are also broadcast - Tara and Setanta. It is therefore possible for Irish households to receive the new interactive services due to be launched by Sky Digital in Spring 1999 if they are given permission to do so through the conditional access system on the set-top box. However, it is still unclear as to whether the Irish government will allow such services to be made available.

Ireland is one of the more cabled countries in Europe with over 450,000 cable homes connected, from a national population of just below 1.2 million TV households. Most of the cabled homes are in the urban areas. In the rural areas, with low population density or a mountainous terrain, MMDS (Microwave Multipoint Distribution System) is offered instead. Most of the cable network has needed upgrading to enable digital services. However, the launch of digital TV in the United Kingdom has stimulated this upgrading.

In addition it has also been found that there is also a demand for high-speed access to the Internet. According to a recent sample survey carried out by CMI (Cable Management Ireland) across its cable systems, PC ownership was as high as 33% (74) thus potentially generating quite a high demand for high-speed access to the Internet. Therefore CMI have started to offer CableNet which provides a broadband network, using high-speed cable modems to connect via the existing cable television system (used to transmit digital TV). The company claims that interactive learning from the home along with telecommuting, home banking and shopping and video conferencing are some of the possibilities for usage. But as yet, it appears that no interactive services are operational as the new service is still being rolled out (75).

The national digital terrestrial TV platform (DIGICO) is due to be launched in Ireland in September 2000 (76). An education channel is included in the RTE (public service broadcaster) proposals for digital terrestrial TV within the planned DIGICO Consortium. However, no mention is made of interactive services (77).

Services to home and office users will soon benefit from some experience of data broadcasting through the EdCast system planned to be launched to Irish schools.

Bocom International, who have recently completed a pilot project of their EdCast for the Ministry of Education, are hoping to offer a fully operational data broadcasting service to 3000 primary schools throughout Ireland in 2000. They have developed a low-cost means of delivering curriculum-based learning material for schools, teacher training material, and distance learning material using the vertical blanking interval (VBI) of analogue terrestrial broadcast over RTE, the public service broadcaster. Bocom plans to release digital TV and digital radio (DVB and DAB) versions over the next 18 months or so. Planned applications, as well as education, include real-time financial services and business Intranets (78).

A new company with apparently European-wide ambitions - FutureTV - appears to be working in conjunction with cable TV and telephony operators in Ireland. It has plans to offer a proprietary integrated network solution based around the idea of personalised TV and other systems enabling each member of the household to access their own individualised service when they insert their smartcard. It is claimed that the complete delivery system enables network operators to dramatically increase the range of interactive TV and Internet services they provide to consumers, simultaneously through the television and a PC. The system enables subscribers to access video-on-demand and audio-on-demand, receive an unlimited number of live digital TV and radio channels, send and receive email, browse the Internet, telephone everywhere and shop for goods and services. They are also interested in offering education and training services.

The FutureTV system could operate over a cable, telecommunications or private network. The home consumer would have a Media Access Station (MAS) that allows the subscriber to communicate with the full service network. This device converts digital signals into the composite video signal required by television and delivers audio, data and video from a variety of servers. It provides subscriber identification to the network operator as well as system controls, alarms and payment processing. The device connects to the physical network and to television, hi-fidelity audio and computer systems (79).

In summary, the prospects for the development of interactive TV learning services in Ireland appear to be better than some other European countries particularly as there will be opportunities to also link in the with larger English speaking market of the United Kingdom. There is also the potential for reselling services to the larger US market once interactive services start to develop there.

Italy

Digital TV was introduced in Italy in March 1996 with Telepiù providing a digital bouquet - called D+ - broadcast on Eutelsat's Hot Bird II satellite. A second digital pay-TV operator in Italy - Stream - started to offer a digital package over cable in September 1996 and since September 1998 Stream has also broadcast its bouquet from Hot Bird II. In September 1997 the public broadcaster RAI launched a free-to-air digital offer of three channels also on Hot Bird II (80).

Before 1996 Italy did not have any cable networks but since that time Telecom Italia has been developing a network across various parts of Italy. Stream's digital TV package has been utilizing this network and by about August 1998 it had 70,000 subscribers. Up till 27 April 1999 Stream was a wholly owned subsidiary of Telecom Italia.

Discussions concerning the launch of digital terrestrial broadcasting are still on going but a possible timetable is for 1 January 2002 as the deadline for all kinds of pay-TV broadcasters (terrestrial, cable and satellite) to shift to digital transmission and being to abandon the analogue technology. It is also proposed that by the end of 2010 all terrestrial TV will be in a digital format (81).

The early development of digital satellite TV has resulted in a number of interactive services become available including those for learning purposes. Stream, a commercial pay TV operator, offers as part of its subscription bouquet a language learning channel, and a separate interactive language learning channel to reinforce what has been learnt on the main TV channel. (Chapter 4 Case study 7) There is also a university learning channel - Consorzio Nettuno. (Chapter 4 Case study 4) The public service broadcaster RAI is also offering a so-called near video on demand service for schools. (Chapter 4 Case study 1). Telespazio (82), with its data broadcasting solutions -IPerSPACE and FullSat - is leading under the EC TEN-Telecom Programme, a European consortium - Genesis - which is involved in extensive adaptation of existing multimedia educational and training materials for delivery via data broadcasting systems. In parallel with this activity, extensive market research and market development studies are taking place with the view to ensuring a sustainable market niche.

In conclusion, the prospects for more advanced interactive TV learning services in Italy appear to be greater than most other European countries.

Luxembourg

Most households in Luxembourg have access to TV via cable but there are no plans to offer digital TV services in the country (83). However it would be possible to receive services through "foreign" digital satellite broadcasters should they wish to overcome copyright issues.

The Netherlands

There is currently only one digital TV broadcaster - Canal+ - who are offering a service via satellite. The slow pace of development in The Netherlands has been many due to the country having one of the highest cable penetration rates in Europe with about 30 channels broadcast (84). There has tended to be little incentive to move to a digital platform purely for TV since its main advantage is more channels.

However, this situation is likely to change in the near future. Many cable operators are now seeing themselves as integrated service providers and are being encouraged to upgrade to digital networks. They appear to want to diversify towards becoming full service providers rather than just technical network providers. Demand for high-speed access to the Internet seems to be one of the driving forces. But cable operators are also developing plans to offer their own digital bouquet, as is the case with MediaKabel (a consortium of ten cable operators).

Developments are also taking place concerning digital terrestrial broadcasting with the formation of the DIGITENNE consortium consisting of a mixture of public service and commercial broadcasters. They are hoping that digital terrestrial broadcasting will be operational in the main parts of the Netherlands by January 2000.

There has in fact been some experience of interactive learning services - in Amsterdam through the EC-funded pilot project DOMITEL. 168 new citizens were offered "social orientation" lessons broadcast as a near-video-on-demand service on a dedicated pay-per-view channel. After the broadcast the participants could answer multiple choice and open questions via interactive teletext on the TV and with a modem (85).

In summary, the prospects for the development of interactive TV learning services in the home seem reasonable once the cable network infrastructure has been updated.

Norway

Canal Digital - partially owned by Canal Plus and Telenor (the Norwegian telecom company) - started digital broadcasting via satellite to all the Nordic countries in October 1998. In July 1998 NRK (the public service broadcaster) came to an agreement with Canal Digital to be on the satellite and have a common electronic programme guide (EPG) (86). NRK is investigating the possibilities of starting a digital channel for education and training.

The existing TV companies are very interested in utilising space frequencies for terrestrial TV but still await a government decision later during 1999.

Portugal

The only digital TV service operating in Portugal is a satellite service launched towards the end of 1998 by TV Cabo Portugal, primarily a cable operator (and wholly owned by Portugal Telecom). The service is aimed at households that are not reached by its analogue cable network. They were hoping for about 35,000 subscribers. TV Cabo's analogue cable network has 500,000 subscribers.

Two other cable operators Cabovisao and Bragetel each have around 50,000 subscribers (87). However there do not appear to be any plans to offer digital services.

Nor do there appear to be any plans to launch a digital TV terrestrial service. Therefore it seems highly unlikely that interactive digital TV learning services are likely to develop in Portugal.

Spain

As of the end of 1998 there were over 1 million subscribers to digital satellite TV through two providers - Canal Satélite Digital launched in February 1997 and Distribuidora de Televisión Digital (Vía Digital) launched in September 1997. Some interactive services are now being offered.

Digital cable services are only now starting to be launched during 1999 after many companies were awarded licences during 1998. Initially they will offer telephony and TV, although at least one company - ONO (the brand name of Cableuropa) - has stated that it will offer digital TV with interactive broadband services and Internet access to telephony. It will be conducting pilots in Valencia during mid 1999.

Other cable operators - Telecable in Asturias, Retecal in Castilla Leon and Supercable in Sevilla - will also be starting to offer high speed access to the Internet via cable modems during 1999.

It should be noted that Telefónica - the dominant telecom operator in Spain - is also involved in both the cable and satellite through partly owning Vía Digital and Telefónica de Cable. The later has a direct licence to operate in every market and has deployed the infrastructure required to offer cable services in all the country but only 24 months after the first cable operator has obtained its licence in a particular area (88).

The government is in the process of agreeing a plan for the roll out of a digital terrestrial network across the whole country, reaching about 80% of the population within four years and 95% of the population within ten years. The first digital terrestrial services should be available sometime during 1999. The plan is to allocate two channels of terrestrial digital TV to the public broadcaster RTVE and one for each national private TV broadcaster - Antena3, Telecinco and Canal+.

No digital TV interactive learning services appear to have yet emerged in Spain. However, some companies do have some initial plans. Antena3 plans to offer thematic channels including an educational channel. Cable i Televisió de Catalunya (based in Barcelona) also has plans to offer interactive services on education and training in the near future (89).

As competition starts to increase in Spain over the next few years with the development of digital cable networks and digital terrestrial broadcasting, it seems highly likely that some interactive TV learning services of various types will start to emerge. A number of market factors would seem to favour this prediction. Market analyst Datamonitor considers that interactive services will have their strongest growth in Spain and Italy, compared to the rest of Europe and the United States, over the next four years (90). Commercial broadcasting companies will increasingly want households to buy their subscription packages. Therefore some type of learning service could be an attractive component.

There is also a long tradition in Spain of distance learning through UNED - the Spanish open university - who broadcast many hours of television programmes. In recent years other regional institutions have entered this field. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya - the Open University of Catalunya, based in Barcelona - has started to offer distance learning courses and has plans to broadcast some aspects of its courses, co-operating with regional cable operators or satellite broadcasters.

There is also the competitive advantage that any interactive learning services produced in Spanish could also be exported to other parts of the Spanish-speaking world.

Sweden

There is a low penetration of digital satellite TV in Sweden. It started in June 1998 with the launch of Canal Digital's services. From the beginning of 1999 SVT, the public service broadcaster, will also make its digital terrestrial services available over satellite. The channels that will be considered in the first phase are SVT1, SVT2 and the new digital-only News channel, SVT 24 (91).

Telia launched digital cable TV in Sweden in 1997 as Telia Infomedia TeleVision. This is today the major cable TV operator and a very important actor in the process of introduction of digital TV in Sweden. Their set-top box is called "Digital TV Box" - it is a Eurobox from SAGEM with Viaccess Conditional Access system and Open TV API. This system is also used in Denmark.

Stjern TV also provides digital TV services via cable. There are also analogue cable TV operators, one of which has plans to offer digital services during 1999.

Digital terrestrial TV started in Sweden in April 1999 making it the second country in Europe to offer an operational service. Amongst twelve companies offering digital TV, there are two educational broadcasters - UR (see 4.7 Case study 7), owned by the public service broadcaster, and the new commercial company Knowledge Network (Knet) with KunskapsTV (Knowledge TV). The government has just allowed UR to continue as a public educational broadcaster for another three years (1999-2001) using the digital channels of SVT1 and SVT2. Knet prefers to describe itself as a provider of learning services with a TV channel. It has plans to offer interactive services (see 4.8 Case study 8).

A local television channel - Landskrona Vision - in the south of Sweden also has received approval to start terrestrial digital broadcasting from April 1999. They aim to use digital broadcasting to widen local and regional television activities and also to develop interactive communication between institutions and citizens. This includes distance education towards the end of 1999 with an experimental course in "youth culture" with the University of Lund and the Highschool in Kristianstad.

In summary, the prospects for digital interactive TV learning services in Sweden look promising.

United Kingdom

Despite digital TV starting rather later in the UK than in some other European countries, rapid developments during the latter part of 1998 and into 1999 have made it perhaps the most dynamic country in Europe for interactive digital services.

The UK's first commercial digital television service commenced in October 1998 with the launch of Sky Digital - the digital satellite service from British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) - beamed directly to homes from the Astra satellite (92). Based on the provision of set-top boxes at a price of around £200 (around 300 euros) per unit, the BSkyB service saw steady growth throughout the first quarter of 1999. In May 1999, the company began an offer of free set-top boxes, initially for a month. The uptake of the free set-top boxes to access BSkyB's 140-channel digital television service in the first week was estimated by analysts (93) to have run at about 10,000 per day - following 40,000 requests during the first two days of the free offer. Sky Digital customers were also offered cheap online access to the Internet as well as having discounted telephone services. Sky Digital had attracted 551,000 subscribers by 3 May 1999.

BSkyB's main rival, OnDigital, which broadcasts 30 digital channels through digital terrestrial to roof-top aerials, followed by also offering free set-top boxes for new customers buying access to its service.

BSkyB's moves in establishing its digital service, and encouraging the uptake by customers through discounts and free provision of hardware, demonstrates that it has committed to its digital future. It has announced plans to switch off its analogue service by 31 December 2002.

Sky Digital has attracted content providers such as British Interactive Broadcasting (BIB), which plans to launch its services under the title of "Open" (94) during the Autumn of 1999 (95). BIB was formed in May 1997 to deliver digital interactive television services and is owned jointly by BSkyB (32.5%), BT (32.5%), Midland Bank (20%) and Matsushita (15%). BIB's service partners include well-known retail companies such as Great Universal Stores, Iceland, Kingfisher and Woolworth, as well as companies such as Midland Bank, Ford, Unilever and Coca-Cola. Reflecting the trend to offer integrated digital services into the UK market, subscribers to "Open" will also be provided with a free e-mail account, access to free interactive games, weather and travel reports and other information services.

The Sky Digital service will not offer integrated Web-based information services. The BSkyB group does, however, have a separate entity called Sky Online, which will develop a range of Internet-based digital interactive services linked to sports, documentary, quiz and other entertainment programmes. They are starting to think about offering some form of learning service.

The digital cable landscape in the UK is currently more complex than the digital satellite landscape. Generally, the installation of cable throughout the UK got underway later than in most of the neighbouring European countries. One advantage of this late start was that the advanced cable networks put in place were generally more capable of supporting digital services.

The cable market in the UK has experienced considerable consolidation in the period 1996-98, with the number of significant providers falling from 24 to just five. The current leaders of the cable industry in volume terms are Telewest Communications, Cable & Wireless Communications and NTL. In May 1999 Telewest services passed 4.2 million UK homes and had 800,000 dual telephone and television subscribers. NTL services passed 3.945 million UK homes and had 764,000 dual telephone and television subscribers. Cable & Wireless Communications services passed 4.286 million UK homes and had 660,000 dual telephone and television subscribers (96).

Telewest and NTL are US-backed companies whereas Cable & Wireless is a UK-based company which has an international asset base of which Hong Kong Telecom is the most significant component.

An important development in the development of digital services via cable networks took place in May 1999 when Microsoft, the world's largest computer software company, took significant stakes in both NTL and Telewest. As part of its alliance with AT&T, Microsoft announced in that it was committed to buy the 29.9% stake in Telewest then held by MediaOne, the US cable operator. Microsoft already holds a 5% stake in NTL. Industry analysts suggest that the UK cable industry will finally consolidate with only one provider, although the industry regulator and consumer protection groups may prohibit this.

Microsoft's investments in the UK cable industry are seen as allowing the cable industry to compete more effectively with the satellite broadcasters. It is suggested that Microsoft may also buy the mobile telephone operator, One-2-One (currently jointly owned MediaOne and Cable & Wireless). Microsoft's entry into the UK cable market will provide it with a channel for the rich media content it already delivers through its Web and through its set-top boxes in the USA. It may also help the UK cable industry overcome one of its most significant problems, that of reaching agreement on the specifications of set-top box technology. The main strategy pursued by the cable companies to this time has been to provide Internet capability with their set-top boxes. This has brought them closer together in terms of technical specifications but there is no agreement on a unified platform. The history of rivalry within the UK cable sector has continued to delay its growth (97). It may be that Microsoft's entry will help solve this problem quickly.

Cable & Wireless Communications has announced plans for digital interactive consumer services (98) during 1999. It is creating its "TV Mall", which will carry a wide range of entertainment, information and transactional services. Companies such as Barclays Bank, British Airways, Littlewoods Home Shopping Group, and the television group ITN are working to develop content and services for "TV Mall". In 1998 Cable & Wireless Communications bought a controlling share in Two Way TV (99), a media company that will provide interactive games shows as part of its "TV Mall" offering.

NTL are planning to launch an interactive knowledge channel during the latter part of 1999 (100). NTL plans to carry Elmsdale Media's "Yes Television", a range of digital cable interactive services using Elmsdale's own video-on-demand platform. This service will include movies, television programmes, home shopping, music, news, education and travel services. Initial commercial trials are to be carried out over part of NTL's Cardiff cable network. Yes Television will combine Internet technologies, broadband networking and digital video delivery. MPEG-2 video compression and copy protection systems from Macrovision will be used to provide cinema-quality viewing. Interactivity is provided through a hand-held TV-style remote control device. Dorling Kindersley, the leading publisher of educational books, videos and CD-ROMS will provide educational programming for this service.

The third major UK cable company, Telewest, plans to launch its digital package during the fourth quarter of 1999 (101).

The digital terrestrial television (DTT) landscape is just emerging in the UK. Apart from OnDigital, the BBC and other free-to-air analogue terrestrial broadcasters have all planned or launched digital services, having been allocated the three digital multiplexes with the highest national coverage (90%) by the regulators. A further three multiplexes, with lower national coverage of around 80% have been allocated to new pay TV services. The BBC is carrying BBC1, BBC2, BBC News24 and BBC Choice on its multiplex. The ITV group and Channel 4 group have also announced digital offerings from their shared multiplex. Other regional free-to-air broadcasters, including the Welsh channel S4C and some Gaelic services, have taken up their entitlement on the third largest coverage terrestrial multiplex.

Education is likely to have a significant role in the development of digital television (102). The UK has developed a national curriculum for schools only in recent years, but this has now stimulated the demand for national institutions of learning. The BBC launched its BBC Knowledge (formerly known as BBC Learning) channel on 1 June 1999. BBC Knowledge encompasses a range of programmes for children, parents, teachers and other learners at home. User interaction with BBC Knowledge is through the web initially, but ultimately via the TV screen itself. The Wales Digital College is also due to start a number of innovative interactive TV trials leading to a full service in Wales in conjunction with the Welsh Medium Channel S4C. (see Chapter Case study 12)

The Open University, which has a long television history, is expected to expand its programming. Their Business School has recently been experimenting with a Business Café Project (103) involving a series of up-to-day Business programmes aimed at attracting people not on existing courses. An associated web site (104) provided interactivity for people to get further information, download additional papers and take part in an online discussion group.

The UK Government has also launched the National Grid for Learning on the Internet, aimed at supplementing the school curriculum. It plans soon to offer funds to a number of commercial operators to develop a number of pilot interactive learning services of various types focused on GCSE level learning resources (GCSE are the exams taken by most school leavers), which could be utilised by children at school and independent learners at home. The UK government is very keen to enhance the quality of learning and sees increasing the options for learning in the home as a key area which it can do something about.

Cable & Wireless Communications plan to launch a home interactive services channel in late 1999 that will be aimed at families with children and which will broadcast programmes for children in elementary, primary and secondary education. It is planned to link the programmes to the National Grid for Learning. Organisations such as Anglia Campus and BBC Online would provide the content.

A range of competitive technologies is also being tested for the provision of interactive television services in the UK. The US-based WebTV Networks Inc. (a subsidiary of Microsoft) has been working with BT since March 1998 to trial the delivery of interactive services through Pace Micro Technology's set-top boxes, over copper wire, to standard analogue televisions. Internet and multimedia e-mail access is part of this package. The use of VideoFlash™ technology, allowing the downloading of full-screen, full-motion, high-quality video, graphics, voice and music to standard televisions is also included in this package.

In 1998, Kingston, a small telecom company based in Kingston-upon-Hull, launched the country's first commercial ADSL service (105). BT also ran an ADSL trial to deliver interactive services to consumers over copper wire in London (106) during the latter part of 1998 and the first quarter of 1999. The BT trial system could support video streaming - delivered to a set-top box - and high-speed access to the Internet.

BT is also planning to deploy other high-speed broadband networks to compete with the cable companies. Its BeTaNet is an advanced Internet/multimedia system based on terrestrial fibre networks. BT is also collaborating with other European Telecom companies to create the largest pan-European high-speed network Both BeTaNet and the European network are based on SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) and DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplexing). When integrated with ASDL, BeTaNet will bring interactive digital broadband communications within reach of most residential telephone customers in the UK.

Central and Eastern Europe

With the exception of Poland, generally Central and Eastern Europe appears to be lagging behind the EU. This survey just covers the key features related to the development of digital TV.

Poland appears to have approximately 6% of households subscribing to digital TV services mainly through Wizja TV. This is owned by London based company @Entertainment (107) and broadcast via satellite and the cable network run by its own subsidiary Poland Communications (108). Canal+Polska also entered the digital satellite market in October 1998 (109).

The cable industry is the largest in Central and Eastern Europe dominated by Polska Telewizja Kablowa (PTK) which is owned by its US founders Chase Enterprises, Advent International - a private equity firm and several smaller companies (110). It supplies around 540,000 subscribers in eight cities and at least 20 other smaller locations. It is currently actively involved in acquiring other cable networks. No doubt the Wizja digital TV developments will stimulate PTK to offer digital services.

Slovenia appears to be leading developments towards comprehensive digitisation. Currently cable operators are experimenting with pay TV, value added services and with the introduction of new innovative technologies on their networks. There are future plans to interconnect 80 per cent of the Slovenian cable networks with fibre optic cable with installation starting as soon as the financing of the project is in place (111).

In Hungary there are plans to provide digital cable services and Antenna Hungaria, Hungary's national broadcasting company provides a digital satellite channel.

Czech television is already broadcasting in digital from the Kopernicus satellite though few are taking the service (112). Czech cable networks seem to be moving towards digitisation with some offering telephony services (113).

There do not appear to be any developments towards digital terrestrial TV in Central and Eastern Europe.

At present there do not appear to be any plans for the development of interactive digital TV learning services. However, Poland is likely to be the first country to offer such services if they develop at all.

Europe-wide Developments

A number of Europe-wide commercial data broadcasting services have become available over the last few years. The services involve transmitting multimedia data from a satellite direct to a computer. The same type of satellite dish used for TV programmes can also be used for receiving the data broadcast. It is connected up to a PC card that is installed within a computer. The PC card needs to follow the DVB/MEG-2 standard that is now being used all over Europe.

Essentially the systems all offer similar services:

The technology is better utilised for multicasting - one to many - rather than point to point which can be rather expensive using this kind of service. Companies offering such services include:

The US experience with DirecPC suggests that in Europe also there is likely to be increased demand for a satellite direct to computer service. It is likely that a number of different data broadcasting services will start to emerge offering different speeds of delivery. Professional users, whether at home or in the office, may be prepared to pay for a premium express service, whereas others may only be prepared to pay for a "tourist class" cheaper bulk rate service (114). How widespread these developments will be will depend on how rapidly the main competitive technology of ADSL will roll out.

New satellite developments like Europe*Star (115) and EuroSkyway (116) are likely to emerge over the next few years, some offering two-way links via satellite. However, for the home user, cost will be the critical factor that will determine whether they are used. Currently it seems that they may be too expensive for home users for some time.

3.2 Outside Europe

USA

This section aims to give a flavour of the key developments that are taking place in USA rather than being a detailed overview.

In some respects the US has been lagging behind the leading countries of Europe with regard to digital interactive TV deployment - however there are clear signs of rapid developments, which started at the beginning of 1999. It is very likely that the US will become the leader in this area by the beginning of 2000.

The transition from analogue to digital

In the USA there is a multi-pronged approach to the rollout of digital TV. Fibre optic cable is widespread and growing and some consortia are building digital TV network operations based on digital fibre. Others are deploying digital satellite networks. Still others are investing in terrestrial wireless, xDSL and other technologies. The US Government's rollout timetable for digital television (described below) has put all broadcasters in the position of developing plans for digital television broadcast in some form or another.

In December 1996, the US Government's Federal Communications Commission approved the US standard for digital television. The FCC is the controlling body for communications in the country.

In April 1997 the FCC published the timetable for the transition to the new system. Overall, the transition period that the FCC has set is very short. The largest commercial Network TV broadcasters were obliged to have a DTV signal on air by May 1999. The remaining commercial stations in the top 30 markets must be on air in digital format by May 2000. All other commercial stations must complete their facilities by May 2002. Public television broadcasters, with their more limited funding sources, are obliged to be on air by May 2003.

Every television broadcaster has been allocated an additional channel to enable them to provide a dual service, both analogue and digital, during the transition. In 2006 all the analogue transmitters must be shut down and only digital television transmission will be licensed from that date. The closure date for analogue transmission can be extended only if 15% or more of the audience does not have access to a digital signal by that time.

One of the key issues that the digital television industry must address is the fact that none of the new digital television standards is completely compatible with existing televisions. Thus, to take advantage of all the features of digital TV, new digital TVs will have to be purchased by consumers, or set-top boxes purchased to augment current analogue consumer television sets. The set-top converter boxes enable the digital transmissions to be received by analogue TVs, but users will not be able to utilise the wide screen pictures, high quality sound and interactive features available to users with digital TVs. Although large number of set-top boxes have been deployed in the USA, most providers are developing their services on the basis that consumers will purchase digital TVs over time.

Digital Cable

Digital cable rollout has been taking place on a large scale in the USA. Two good examples of the implementation of digital cable are ICTV's broadband Internet service for TV, and Source Media and Insight Communications' two-way interactive range of digital services.

ICTV's Broadband Internet Service for TV

ICTV launched its Broadband Internet Service for the TV in February 1999 (117). This service integrates high-speed Internet access (including e-mail) through cable-connected television sets. The ICTV service was the first of its kind in the USA. It includes an extensive cable-delivered CD-ROM library featuring a selection of popular games and software. The service is delivered via an infrared receiver that sits on the TV and links to a wireless keyboard. The initial response to this ICTV service has been very positive. The CD-ROM library consists of CD-ROM games and software from companies such as Broderbund, MacMillan, SegaSoft, Acclaim, The Learning Company and many others. This facility, combined with the provision of Internet access through an easy-to-use system through a television set, has proved appealing to customers without PCs.

ICTV's broadband Internet access is 100 times faster than ordinary dial-up services such as WebTV, delivering Internet speeds up to 10 Mbit/sec per user. Additionally, ICTV features a wireless keyboard with point-and-click navigation and full joystick capabilities.

The service is being made available in two packages: Complete, which includes five hours of high-speed Internet and e-mail services and access to CD-ROM games and software titles for $9.95 a month; and Arcade, which offers access to CD-ROM games, education and reference titles for $5.95 a month. This price includes three hours of use. Additional time for both packages is charged at $1.95 an hour for peak periods (7am to 11pm) and at 95 cents an hour in off-peak periods (11 pm to 7 am).

Source Media and Insight Communications' two-way interactive digital services

In March 1999, Source Media, Inc. and Insight Communications, Inc. completed installation of the US cable industry's first fully operational two-way interactive digital cable system, in Illinois. Insight Communications will initially offer its subscribers a package that includes a server-based on-demand service bundled as the SourceGuide navigator and the LocalSource programming package (a suite of localised digital programming services such as restaurant and entertainment guides, local news and weather, local legal and medical services). Also included is an electronic program guide (EPG). SourceGuide provides features and functions such as personalised menus, the ability to surf channel listings without leaving the current channel, instant pay-per-view ordering, parental control options, and a digital suite of services, controlled through standard remotes handsets. The companies intend to phase in other applications including Internet-source content and a portal to instant "on demand" Video-On-Demand ordering from Interactive Channel's family of digital applications branded as SourceSuite. The systems run on General Instrument's platform of DCT digital set-top terminals, to which The Interactive Channel has added real-time, two-way interactive capability.

Digital Terrestrial

The FCC's April 1997 decision that all broadcasters must have digital signals on air by May 2003 has meant that every terrestrial broadcaster in the USA has plans to rollout digital terrestrial television.

The first digital terrestrial broadcasts went to air on 2 November 1998, although the first public TV station to broadcast in the FCC's digital transmission standard, KCTS in Seattle, turned on its experimental transmitter in January 1997. 35 terrestrial TV stations agreed to initially broadcast digital terrestrial in line with a voluntary deadline agreed within the industry ahead of the FCC's mandatory requirements. Although, theoretically, 60 million Americans in 30 cities could watch digital terrestrial television broadcast by these 35 stations, in reality very few people have purchased the digital receivers needed to view it. The cost of the digital equipment (some US$5000 - US$7000) is a barrier to mass-market penetration in the early stages of digital terrestrial rollout.

Since many higher education institutions in the USA own and operate public television stations, developments in digital television will inevitably have an impact on them, and the change to DTV will probably influence how distance education is accomplished. The DTV standard also provides for the use of ancillary data, including control data, conditional access control data, data associated with program audio and video services such as closed captioning, and independent program services, all of relevance to educational broadcasting.

Digital Satellite Television

Organisations in the USA such as the Hughes Electronics Corporation and Lockheed Martin are investing heavily in the development of digital satellite infrastructure.

Lockheed Martin Astrolink

In early May 1999, Lockheed Martin and collaborating companies, as part of the Astrolink joint venture, announced a US$3.6 billion plan for the deployment of four high-orbit satellites to provide high-speed Internet access and broadband services. Astrolink services will be available not only in the USA, but also across the rest of the Americas, Europe and into Asia. The four satellites will be able to reach approximately 92% of the world's telecommunications market. This service is expected to come online in 2003. One of the key issues the consortium will have to overcome is how to price this service. Lockheed Martin's current plans are for a "by use" charge rather than a flat rate access charge. By the time the service is deployed, however, this pricing model may not be acceptable to consumers.

DirectPC

The Hughes Electronics Corporation, which owns DirectTV, the leading digital television entertainment service in the USA, is also still investing heavily in digital satellite. DirectTV provides more than 4.6 million subscribers with access to over 185 channels of programming, including popular television networks, commercial-free audio channels in digital-quality picture and sound, and more sports than any other direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service or cable provider. Hughes is involved in a number of initiatives, including linking DirectPC, its high-speed satellite Internet service, to Broadcast.com's multicast events - Broadcast.Com is the leading Internet broadcaster of live sporting events in the USA. This link-up will allow Broadcast.com's IP-based content to be multicast via satellite in high-quality digital format. Broadcast.com and DirecPC have already worked together on numerous IP multicast events, such as the Internet movie premiere of Francis Ford Coppola's "Koyaanisqatsi". These developments open up a range of possibilities for the integration of digital Internet-based content reception with simultaneous digital television reception. The Hughes DirecDuo satellite dish allows simultaneous reception of both satellite TV and satellite Internet services (118).

On-demand video via the web

@Home is the leading provider of broadband Internet services via the cable infrastructure within the USA. The company has partnered with RealNetworks (119) - who produce high-quality streaming products - to merge broadband cable Internet access with multimedia. This combination of broadband cable access and audio/video streaming will compete with digital TV offerings for on-demand video and other multimedia. @Home reported its end-of-year subscriber figures for 1998 at 330,000, up from 210,000 at the beginning of Q4 of 1998. @Home has incorporated an interactive television department, and has partnered with content companies such as Bertlesmann's BOD Nederland, Segasoft, Liquid Audio, and Bloomberg. @Home's initial Internet backbone, due for deployment by AT&T in mid-1999, will support 5 million broadband users. AT&T will switch on two OC-48 (2.5 Gbit/sec) channels for @Home. Each of these channels will be available over a route of 15,000 miles of a DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplexing) optical network.

AT&T is also participating in the delivery of interactive content to both analogue and digital television customers through its subsidiary LibertyMedia (120) that, in turn, part-owns the interactive television company ACTV along with the company TCI (Tele-Communications Inc.). ACTV has deployed its HyperTV technology, which allows the viewer to select camera angles, commercial content, and sequence programming for live music interactive television. ACTV has also trialled its "eSchools Online" application, based on video and audio streaming of content from various Smithsonian Institutions and other museums. The Apple Corporation, Cox Communications and the US Department of Education are sponsoring this deployment.

Integration/Convergence with other digital technologies

In the USA, because the FCC has mandated the total conversion to digital, it appears that there will be pressure for consumers to replace their analogue televisions with digital sets, rather than install set-top boxes. However, the cost of digital television sets is still high at around US$5000, so there is considerable consumer resistance. There are also considerable problems with the standardisation of set-top box components, especially for cable-delivered DTV. This is inhibiting rollout of what is seen as an interim technological solution. There is some consumer confusion as to whether a digital set-top box is the same as a cable modem (121) or whether the two technologies will merge in the near future. Despite this, millions of satellite set-top boxes have been deployed, although cable set-top box deployment is still to occur in numbers. It may be that in the US cable modems - where the market grew 130% in 1998 (122) - will integrate DTV set-top box functions as the technologies converge.

Other technologies are also in the frame with DTV. The deployment of xDSL technologies in the USA, with AT&T and many of the Baby Bells having rolled out ADSL, will also provide offerings of alternative technologies for consumers seeking on-demand television and video services. In addition Cisco Systems, one of the world's major network companies, announced in January 1999 that it is developing for AT&T a seamless end-to-end IP solution that will allow AT&T to offer data, voice and video services over the hybrid fibre-coaxial network being deployed by AT&T and TCI (123).

Japan

Digital TV is currently available via a number of pay TV satellite operators DirecTV, Sky PerfecTV but subscribers of these services amount to a very small percentage compared to the public service broadcaster NHK's (Japanese Broadcasting Corporation) 9.46 million (124) analogue satellite subscribers. However, digital TV is not really likely to take off in Japan until the end of 2000 when NHK plans to launch digital satellite broadcasting (125). This will eventually include Hi-Vision (HDTV) and datacasting (126). A group of 40 Japanese investors has launched BS Japan, a joint venture specialised in digital satellite broadcasting, which would start to provide programming free of charge to build a initial consumer basis. This would comprise one high-definition channel and three conventional channels (127).

The start of terrestrial digital TV has been delayed by one to two years, to 2001 or 2002 (128) with the start of regular broadcasts in 2003 in three large cities: Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Full-scale deployment is due to be finished by 2006 and it is planned to switch off analogue broadcasts by 2010. There may be some further delays as Digital TV Japan, an association representing Japanese television networks, have asked the government to help foot the estimated 5.25 billion euro it is going to cost them to switch to digital terrestrial broadcasting over the next 10 years (129). Limited bandwidth is also likely to create problems for the launch of terrestrial digital TV. It appears that nearly a quarter of households will have to adjust their TV sets to receive the existing analogue broadcasting signal once terrestrial digital broadcasting starts (130).

Digital TV via cable should progressively start at the end of 1999 (131). However, Japan, also has a "Fiber To The Home" project that is due to be completed by 2005. This would enable any home to benefit from the 100 or perhaps 150 Mbps network (132).

As would be expected there is little evidence of any developments towards interactive digital TV learning services. Currently NHK's Educational Channel is thinking of interactivity in terms of equipping new studios with video telephones and with computers with Internet access (133). However, as digital TV develops they may consider the development of interactive services as they have a mission to create the new distance learning systems in "the Digital Era" (134).

3.3 Comparisons between Europe and the rest of the World

Technologies

The European Union is more diverse than the United States with developments towards digital TV However, Japan seems to be following a similar pattern to the EU but is lagging behind in digital TV developments. The digital TV market in the EU is currently more developed than the US. But the focus of developments in the US has tended to be on more on high definition TV (HDTV). However, there are clear nation-wide target dates for implementation of digital terrestrial systems. This is likely to stimulate a more rapid development of digital TV overall. There is then a strong likely hood that the US will take the lead in digital TV development and associated interactive services.

Generally Central and Eastern Europe is clearly lacking behind the EU however, but uptake of satellite digital TV is higher in a few countries compared to those in the EU.

Interactive TV Learning Services

Currently, the EU may just have the edge on the United States by leading developments. But, strategies in the US will lead to continent-wide developments and could enable the US to take the lead if digital TV uptake is rapid. However, the higher percentage of people in the US who use the Internet could restrict this type of development particular if ADSL technologies are rolled out rapidly.

There is little evidence of much activity in Japan or Central and Eastern Europe.

Footnotes

  1. "Development of digital TV in Europe: Reference report 1998", IDATE Draft December 1998
  2. Web site: http://www.orf.at
  3. Information provided via email by Renate Rbl, Business Development, Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, March 1999
  4. "Development of Digital TV in Austria 1998 Report", Techno Z p3-4
  5. "Development of Digital TV in Austria 1998 Report", Techno Z pp6-7
  6. "Development of Digital TV in Austria 1998 Report", Techno Z p8
  7. Based on information provided by email from Paul Van der Spiegel Chief Executive Officer, 12 March 1999 and off the Telenet web site at http://www.telenet.be
  8. "Development of Digital TV in Belgium 1998 Report", Lentic p5
  9. Information provided via a telephone conversation with Professor George van der Perre, 12 April 1999
  10. "Development of Digital TV in Denmark 1998 Report", CTI
  11. "Development of Digital TV in Finland 1998 Report", CTI
  12. "The Future of Educational Television", Dr Paul Bacsich, January 1996.
  13. Bracken, Mike "Fuzzy Reception for Euro DigiTV", Wired News 14 September 1998
  14. TPS Press Release "TPS launches on-screen banking via OpenTV", 14 December 1998
  15. Based on discussion with Sophie Dingreville, TPS during meeting on 23 April 1999
  16. Press Release France Telecom "France Telecom presents new solutions to connect schools to the Internet via Numéris ISDN", 24 June 1998
  17. Press Release "France Telecom begins commercial trials of high-speed satellite Internet service" France Telecom Paris, 1 April, 1999
  18. Information provided via email by Thierry Jacq, Marketing Product Manager, Edixa, France 22 March 1999
  19. Based on information found on web site at www.aupelf.fr/hanoi97/initiat/colloque/brunet.htm
  20. "Development of Digital TV in France 1998 Report" IDATE P3
  21. News item - "France to run Digital Terrestrial Trials", Inside Cable and Telecoms Europe, 15 February 1999
  22. Information provided via email by Thierry Jacq, Marketing Product Manager, Edixa, France 22 March 1999
  23. Information provided via email by Rmi Tereszkiewicz, Eurosport Enterprises Deputy Director Head of Interactive Services & Licensing, 17 March 1999
  24. "Development of Digital TV in Germany 1998 Report", Techno-Z P2
  25. "Development of Digital TV in Germany 1998 Report", Techno-Z pp3-5
  26. "Deutsche Telecom to spin off cable interests", article in Broadcast Journal, 25 September 1998
  27. A detailed account of the debate surrounding the set-top box can be found in "Development of Digital TV in Germany 1998 Report", Techno-Z pp17-19
  28. "Development of Digital TV in Germany 1998 Report", Techno-Z p10
  29. "Germany's Next d-Box to use c-cube systems", article in Inside Cable & Telecoms Europe 26 March 1999
  30. Deutsche Telekom Press Release "Deutsche Telekom launches ADSL project in North-Rhine Westphalia", 15 June 1998
  31. "Development of Digital TV in Greece 1998 Report", Databank
  32. John T. Clancy, Sales & Marketing Director, Bocom International, email received March 1999
  33. Press Release by "Cable Management (Ireland) ltd. - Announce: the first two-way cable Internet service in Ireland the company's intention to participate in the public bidding process for the acquisition of Cablelink Ltd", 28 May 1998
  34. According to information provided by John Mc Laughlin, Cablenet via email 31 March 1999
  35. 'Ireland's DTT Platform, Digico, to launch in Sept 2000' Digitag Newsletter Feb/March 99. P.2
  36. From RTE Online web site at http://www.rte.ie/aboutrte/policydigital.html#intro Last updated Tuesday 22 December 1998
  37. John T. Clancy, Sales & Marketing Director, Bocom International, email received March 1999
  38. Based on a discussion with Dennis Garrison, Director, Future TV on 30 April 1999
  39. "Development of Digital TV in Italy 1998 Report", Databank
  40. "Development of Digital TV in Italy 1998 Report", Databank p5
  41. Telespazio web site: http://www.telespazio.it
  42. "Development of Digital TV in Luxembourg 1998 Report", Lentic
  43. "Development of Digital TV in The Netherlands 1998 Report", Lentic
  44. "Review of research and development in technologies for education and training: 1994-98", Education and Training Sector, Telematics Application Programme, European Commission
  45. "Digital TV and public service in the Nordic countries" by Rolf Branderud, to appear as a contribution to the anthology "Television of the Future - or the Future of Television?" edited by Jens F. Jensen and Cathy Toscan
  46. "Development of Digital TV in Portugal 1998 Report", Databank
  47. "Development of Digital TV in Spain 1998 Report", Databank
  48. Email from Jaume Salvat, Tecnologia Cable i Televisió de Catalunya, 6 April 1999
  49. Datamonitor Press Release "Interactive digital television services in Europe and the US in 2003", 10 May 1999 referring to report "Interactive TV markets in Europe and the US, 1998-2003"
  50. "Development of Digital TV in Sweden 1998 Report", CTI
  51. "Development of Digital TV in United Kingdom 1998 Report", CDG
  52. "Rush for free digital TV boxes", Financial Times, 17 May 1999
  53. Inside Cable and Telecoms Europe, 15 November 1998
  54. Stated in promotional video broadcast on Sky Digital.
  55. Financial Times, 7 May 1999
  56. "Development of Digital TV in United Kingdom 1998 Report", CDG
  57. Broadcast Journal 8 January 1999
  58. Silicon News, 7 June 1998.
  59. NTL press release "NTL's interactive Knowledge Channel: the gateway to interactive learning at home", 20 May 1999
  60. Broadcast Journal, 12 February 1999.
  61. "Development of Digital TV in United Kingdom 1998 Report", CDG
  62. "The Business Café Project" by Dr Gilly Salmon, Open University Business School May 1999 - see http://oubs.open.ac.uk/gilly
  63. Web site: http://www.open.ac.uk/businesscafe
  64. Inside Cable and Telecoms Europe, 14 December 1998
  65. Inside Cable and Telecoms Europe, 22 December 1998
  66. "Wizja TV leads with Digital Subscribers" 1 February 1999 found at http://www.inside-cable.co.uk/n99q1auk.htm
  67. "Poland's Digital Competition Heats up" 21 September 1998 http://www.inside-cable.co.uk
  68. "Poles Tune in to Digital TV" by Joe Nickell, Wired News 28 October 1998
  69. http://www.inside-cable.co.uk/c_pola.htm
  70. Central Europe Cable Industry Report found at http://www.inside-cable.co.uk/c_snia.htm
  71. Central Europe Cable Industry Report found - Czech Republic http://www.inside-cable.co.uk/c_czec.htm
  72. Central Europe Cable Industry Report found - Czech Republic http://www.inside-cable.co.uk/c_czec.htm
  73. "High Speed Internet access for every home. Using satellites to make the link", interview with Dr Clausen in "Multimedia Broadcast", published by ACTS Multimedia Information Window 1998
  74. Inside Cable and Telecoms Europe, 31 December 1998
  75. Web site: http://www.euroskyway.alespazio.it
  76. ICTV Press Release "ICTV launches Broadband Internet service for the TV" 22 February 1999 http://www.ictv.com/press/pr1999/pr_022299.htm
  77. Hughes Network Systems: http://www.hns.com
  78. www.realnetworks.com (report source: CNET newswire)
  79. Interactive TV Today, 15 April 1999, Issue 1.91
  80. Wired News, 1 April 1999
  81. Dataquest, March 1999
  82. Wired news Report, 11 January 1999
  83. Japanese Broadcasting Data http://www.nhk.or.jp/bunken/
  84. NHK web site http://www.nhk.or.jp/pr/update/u55-2.htm
  85. http://www.nhk.or.jp/pr/update/u55-7.htm
  86. Information Society Trends Issue number: 87 - (16.11.1998 - 20.12.1998)
  87. Wired News 25 March 1999
  88. EETimes 5 July 1999 http://www.techweb.com/se/directlink.cgi?EET19990705S0030
  89. Terrestrial DTV In Japan May Cloud Analog By Yoshiko Hara, EE Times 4 February 1999 http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19990204S0010
  90. "Development of DTV in Europe Reference report/ 1998" Draft December 1998, IDATE
  91. http://www.wwvi.org/~hiyama/docs/position.htm
  92. http://www.nhk.or.jp/pr/update/u55-3.htm
  93. http://www.nhk-grp.co.jp/n-gaku/e-fbf.html