Digital TV Standards

Digital TV is a reality in the US and many countries around the world. Actually FCC set May, 2006 as the deadline for all terrestrial TV broadcasting to be done 100% in digital format. Some countries don’t have digital TV broadcasting yet but have already decided which standard to follow. Oh, yes. Just like analog TV has its “standards war” (NTSC, PAL, SECAM, etc) so does have the digital TV.

There are three digital TV transmition standards in the world:

  • ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee), adopted by the USA, Canada, Mexico and South Korea;

  • ISDB-T (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting Terrestrial), adopted by Japan;

  • DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcast Terrestrial), adopted by the other countries that have already decided which digital television standard they will follow, like the countries located in Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

All three digital television transmiting system uses the MPEG-2 algorithm to encode the image, the same algorithm used by DVD. The differences between them are the video format before the encoding, the video format after encodin and the way audio in encoded. ATSC system uses a technique called 8-VSB while the other two systems use a technique called COFDM, which is less sensitive to noise.

Apparently the fact of ATSC being the standard most sesitive to noise does not bother the US market, where few people still watch terrestrial TV (i.e., using antennas). Which makes us think if the ATSC standard was the best choice for Mexico. On the other hand, Mexico is part of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Association), which makes the country one of the main product manufacturers and exporters to the United States. Thus, we believe that the adoption of the same standard as the US was more commercial wise than technical.

Interesting enough, from the top-developing countries in the so-called BRIC block (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Brazil is the only one that didn’t decided yet which digital television standard to adopt (Russia, India and China chose DVB-T), and is the only country in the world seriously thinking of adopting the japanese standard. But Brazil is a funny country and being a Brazilian I can tell you that. The government there loves to create their own solution; the Brazilian analog TV standard in unique and only exists there (is called PAL-M and is incompatible with both European PAL and NTSC) and the former Communications Minister, an ex-communist, was seriously thinking of developing an unique Brazilian digital TV standard, too, “to not give money in royalties to developed countries”. Then people doesn’t get why things delay a lot to happen in Brazil… Anyway, that’s another story.

Author: Gabriel Torres

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.

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