Realising the Digital Dividend: A Win for Consumers as Government’s Restack of Digital Television Services Completed

20 Nov 2014

Broadcast Australia, a member of the BAI Group, has today successfully completed the process of clearing digital television services within the Spectrum Restack Program from the Digital Dividend band (694-820 MHz) on behalf of the Commonwealth.

Earlier this morning, as the sun rose over Canberra, ABC and SBS services at Black Mountain Tower were retuned and this afternoon all television services in Gunning changed frequency*. These retunes mark the completion of the entire Restack Program and conclude the final step in clearing the spectrum for new telecommunications services as contracted by the Commonwealth to Broadcast Australia.

Jim Hassell, Group CEO of BAI, said, “This was an incredibly complex project with numerous stakeholders and very tight timeframes. The original plan was for 180 sites to be retuned over three years, but it quickly expanded to 426 sites to be delivered in less than two years. Our world-leading team met this monumental challenge head on; I’m extraordinarily proud of them, and to have worked with the Commonwealth Government on a project of this magnitude, delivering the Restack both within budget and ahead of the official timeframe. I would like to acknowledge the financial and other support received from the Commonwealth along with the enormous support received from the commercial broadcast industry that made this possible.”

At each affected site, technicians have needed to replace, retune or otherwise modify transmission equipment to enable channel changes to occur. The work undertaken equated to 346,000 hours (or 192 man years), arguably the biggest change in the broadcast industry in this country ever; put another way it was the equivalent of delivering the 15 year DTV roll-out for all broadcasters in 3 years.

The successful conclusion of the Restack Program delivers the Government’s goal of freeing spectrum for use in the cellular network to provide capacity for the proliferation of data rich mobile devices, at the same time as enhancing the television experience with more channels offering greater choice and higher quality output both now with High Definition pictures and sound and for the future with technologies such as Ultra High Definition TV (also known as 4K TV).

Mr Hassell said, “While the completion of this project cements our engineering and delivery expertise, at its heart this was about creating new options and opportunities for consumers from as early as next year as the cleared spectrum allows for the release of the latest telecommunications technology to support the latest communication trends.”

Mr Hassell noted that this is yet another success for the company which manages diverse communications infrastructure projects in the United States, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong.

*At 5am at Black Mountain Tower the ABC was changed from channel 9A to 8 via a straight retune and SBS from 30 to 7 via a change of band and a new transmitter. At 3:30pm in Gunning, all television services changed.

Background

In June 2010, the Government announced that a digital dividend of 126 MHz of “700 MHz” band spectrum, comprised of UHF television channels 52 to 69, would be realised. Creating this digital dividend would be possible following the move to digital-only television broadcasting under the digital television switchover program (completed in December 2013).

In 2012, Broadcast Australia was appointed to be the Program Implementation Manager to plan and coordinate the implementation of the Restack. The Government’s 700 MHz spectrum Digital Dividend auction which took place in May 2013, netted approximately $1.9 billion from telecommunications companies Optus Mobile and Telstra.  At this auction, the spectrum was to be made available by 1 January 2015.  The Restack Program has completed their clearance works six weeks prior to this deadline.

The Restack Program of works has involved changing the frequencies of approximately 1,476 national and commercial digital television channels across Australia at 373 transmission sites. These changes caused consequential input changes at a further 53 sites bringing the total sites where work was required to 426.

Additionally, Broadcast Australia conducted safety training (to Federal Safety Commission standards), delivering Work, Health & Safety and Technical training to all workers involved in the project.

About 4K: 4K resolution, also called 4K2K, refers to a display device or content having horizontal resolution in the order of 4,000 pixels. This is roughly four times the number of pixels compared to today’s High Definition TV broadcast and provides the user with a much richer visual and audio experience. The use of width to characterize the overall resolution marks a switch from the previous generation, high definition television, which categorized media according to the vertical dimension instead, such as 720p or 1080p. Under the previous convention, a 4K UHDTV would be equivalent to 2160p.

ABOUT BAI

BAI designs, builds and operates communications infrastructure and services with an expertise founded on over 80 years’ experience as the owner and operator of one of the most extensive terrestrial transmission networks in the world. The company’s Australian businesses include Broadcast Australia, which provides fully managed transmission services for radio and television, site sharing, co-hosting and infrastructure services to the telecommunications, emergency services and broadcasting industries; Airwave Solutions Australia, which operates nationwide critical communication services for emergency & public safety authorities and private networks; Hostworks, a leading provider of critical application management and hosting services to online, digital media, enterprise and government; and TBN which specialises in the build of communications networks including in Defence applications. The company’s businesses in Hong Kong, RFE; Canada, BAI Canada; and the USA, Transit Wireless specialise in the design, installation and operation of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage in mass transit subway venues such as the New York MTA, Toronto Transit Commission and Hong Kong Metro.

Web site http://www.baigroup.com