UK leads the way in digital TV conversion in Europe

MUMBAI: The UK is leading the race to switch-off its analogue TV signal. As European regulators consider imposing a universal switch-off date, new research from Informa Telecoms & Media shows that by the end of 2005 digital TV penetration in the UK will have increased to 66 per cent.

This compares with 58 per cent at the end of 2004, according to Informa's TV International Database. It forecasts that the number of digital homes in the UK will end this year at 16.4 million, up from 14.4 million at the end of 2004. The UK has a provisional target date of 2012 for full analogue switch-off, beginning with the Border region in 2008.

Sweden, which is expected to end 2005 with a digital TV penetration rate of almost 44 per cent is committed to make the switchover to digital in 2008. Ireland Norway and Finland are the only other countries which will have an end-2005 digital TV penetration rate above 30 per cent at the end of 2005. All these countries are looking to make the digital switchover before the end of 2010.

AHowever, plans for an early analogue switch-off for some European territories remain ambitious. France, which has a provisional date of 2010 will end 2005 with a digital TV penetration at slightly more than one quarter of its households. Italy, which has one of the region's most ambitious switchover timetables will end 2005 with a penetration rate below 20%.

According to TVI Database senior analyst Simon Dyson, "The prospects of an early switch-off of analogue signals in some European countries looks unlikely, given the slower than expected rate of shift to digital. Even the UK, which has Europe's highest digital penetration rate, could have some problems with resistance from later adopters."

However, despite a possible time lag in full conversion, digital TV has enjoyed a growing acceptance. The total number of digital homes in Europe reached 37 million at the end of 2004, equivalent to slightly less than 16 per cent of the region's TV households. This figure is forecast to increase to 44.1 million by the end of 2005, or 19 per cent of TV households.

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