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Hong Kong sets digital TV standard

Choice largely driven by TVB, ATV

HONG KONG — Hong Kong has set up a national standard for its digital terrestrial television service.

The choice was largely driven by the two free-to-air broadcasters –Television Broadcasts (TVB) and Asia Television (ATV) — which ran tests and field trials before proposing the standard.

“This will make Hong Kong the country’s first to formally adopt a national standard,” said Kwong Hoi-ying, senior veep of corporate development and external affairs for ATV.

ATV gave a HK$900 million ($115.2 million) investment figure, but that included moving facilities to Tai Po Industrial Park to prepare for the digital rollout, Kwong said. The new site will include 12 studies, some of which will be used for high-definition, he added.

TVB is investing $38.4 million to build transmission stations and $51.2 million for programming, said Cheong Shin-keong, general manager of broadcasting for TVB.

The government is expected to publish technical specifications for manufacturers of set-top boxes and integrated TV sets by the end of the month.

The public will have two options: a basic tier, which will give viewers the existing four channels from the two stations plus standard-definition services, and a higher tier, which will enable high-definition programming and interactive functions. The basic set-top box is expected to cost around $40, while the higher tier will put viewers back more than $130.

No start date has been set yet because the transmission stations are still under construction. The first station should be completed by the end of this year and will cover 40% to 50% of Hong Kong. Four more stations will be built by the end of 2008, bringing coverage to 75%. A further 23 stations are expected through 2011.

Analog is targeted to be switched off by 2012 at the earliest, but the government said that date depends on the level of digital penetration in the territory.

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