Digital TV in the U.S.

DTV overseas

Although "standard definition" (SD) is regarded as downmarket among some segments of the U.S. broadcast and viewing communities, lack of a high-definition picture did not discourage an estimated 100000 Britons from signing up for DTV service in the United Kingdom in its first two months of availability.

As in the United States, viewers in Great Britain have a choice between terrestrial and satellite DTV, but in terms of resolution, each equates to the interlaced SD format in the United States. High-definition with double the scanning lines (1250 versus 625 interlaced) and twice the number of pixels per line is possible under the digital video broadcasting (DVB) standard that has been adopted across Europe.

In fact, Australia has opted for the HD-DVB version, much to the disappointment of the Advanced Television Systems Committee camp in the United States, whose developers stand to benefit in the royalties pool when the standard adds sales overseas.

Although terrestrial DTV has yet to begin elsewhere in Europe at this writing, the DVB standard is in place and ready to compete with current digital satellite service. The economic models for the continent are not yet clear, but the UK's is an interesting example. Viewers there have a choice between free-to-air and subscription-based terrestrial DTV. As an incentive to the latter, the pay-TV services subsidize the cost of the receiving hardware, offering it for about half the $600 price of a typical set-top box.

Japan already has settled on an HDTV system comparable to the U.S. 1080-line interlaced format, but using a coded orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (COFDM) modulation scheme similar to Europe's DVB. Japanese broadcasters and manufacturers prefer that system, as it is more robust for mobile applications, including automotive and hand-held receivers.

So all eyes are on China now, and the lobbying is fierce for that huge market, where the ATSC contingent will demonstrate the system in conjunction with domestic TV giant Konka this fall. — S.A.B.