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Digital TV standard selected in Philippines based on Emergency Warning Broadcast System feature

A few palm trees remain standing amid the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the city of Tacloban, Philippines (Image credit: DFID - UK Department for International Development/ Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

Earlier this week, on 14-15 February 2017, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in the Philippines launched the Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) Migration Plan. Over 14 million Filipino TV households will switch from the 1953 analog TV broadcasting technology to digital TV.

The move to digital transmission is expected to provide a number of benefits. It will pave the way for a better TV viewing experience. Migration from digital from analog will free very high frequencies (VHF) that can be maximized for future broadband deployment for the Internet.

But it is not just about crisper visuals and audio. There was one more factor driving the migration to digital and that was the key to the choice of the Digital TV standard selected for the DTTB. It is the capacity to provide a more efficient and richer information dissemination in times of disasters.

The Japanese Standard Digital TV has an Emergency Warning Broadcast System (EWBS) feature that allows the system to send early warnings for disaster preparedness and disseminate advisories and guidance on evacuation, food provisions, and medical assistance in times of disasters. Users would be able to receive early warnings and real-time information during earthquakes, typhoons, and other calamities. It can improve disaster response and act as a decision support platform. Philippines is highly vulnerable to natural disasters. The country is placed third in the World Risk Index of 2016. It is subjected to an average of 20 tropical cyclones per year and is highly vulnerable to disasters resulting from extreme natural events like tropical cyclones, monsoon rains, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. During the past 20 years, tropical cyclones have claimed 17,119 lives, injured 51,068, with 5,198 still missing and causing damages to agriculture, infrastructure, and private properties worth PHP 354.7 billion (USD 7.1 billion).

The selected standard, Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting – Terrestrial (ISDB-T) has proven its capability to transmit emergency warning data for faster response in another natural disaster-prone country, Japan, where it was adopted for commercial transmissions in December 2003.

Engr. James Rodney P. Santiago, Consultant of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on the DTTB Migration Plan said,“The bottomline is that the government will have the facility now to deliver this kind of urgent and pressing information to the people.”

Moreover, the switch to DTTB will foster a competitive environment for the broadcasters to offer new services through datacasting and Broadcast Markup Language (BML).

The DTTB Migration Plan consists of comprehensive policies and regulations to ensure a smooth countrywide transition to digital TV broadcasting. It factors in technical and fiscal considerations There are plans for a complete Analog Switch Off (ASO) at a later stage.

DICT will collaborate with various other government agencies, such as  as the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for implementation and regulation, Department of Finance (DOF) for funding, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for giving incentives to small scale broadcasters, Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) for e-waste management, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for economic impact, and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for financial subsidy in purchasing digital set top boxes.

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