Rival bidders outline digital terrestrial TV services

THREE rival bidders have outlined how they will offer digital TV services here as an alternative to existing cable and satellite providers.

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) yesterday held a public hearing as part of its competition to decide who will be awarded the contract to provide Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services.

DTT is likely to be adopted by users of old-fashioned TV aerials who will see analogue signals for Irish channels such as RTÉ and TV3 switched off by 2012, while signals for British terrestrial stations are set to be switched off in autumn 2009.

The action will also affect subscribers to analogue cable providers — viewers who avail of the basic packages from UPC (Chorus and NTL brands).

The BCI will award three DTT multiplex licences as part of the competition. A separate multiplex licence has already been awarded to RTÉ which will continue to provide free-to-air services for Irish channels RTÉ1, RTÉ2, TV3, TG4, as well as other proposed stations such as Oireachtas TV and an Irish film channel.

The three DTT multiplex bidders are: Boxer, a joint venture between Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp Group and Swedish DTT operator, Boxer TV-Access; Easy TV, which comprises RTÉ and Liberty Global; and One Vision, a group incorporating TV3, Setanta, Eircom and DTT operator, Arqiva.

All three have submitted bids on condition contracts for all three multiplexes are awarded to the one successful applicant.

Boxer will provide a free set-top box and its starter package will offer six free-to-air and seven other channels for a monthly fee of €9.99. Its standard pack will provide the same free-to-air channel, plus 18 other stations for €22.99, and a package of four children’s channels for €4.99 per month.

RTÉ chief financial officer Conor Hayes said Easy TV customers would have to pay €99-€149 to buy a set-top box or rent for a €5 monthly fee.

Easy TV is offering an entry pack of 17 channels, including the main Irish and British terrestrial stations, for €8 per month. A package with an additional 13 channels will cost €16 per month.

One Vision will provide a package containing 10 free-to-air channels free of charge, while its basic service of 33 channels will cost €9.99 per month. Its service will included two new channels including TV3 Exposé, a station devoted to entertainment news based on the channel’s existing programme of the same name.

All three providers will also offer premium pay packages for sports and movies, including Sky and Setanta channels.

BCI chairman Conor Maguire said the board expected to announce its decision on the successful applicant by July 21.

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