Abertis rejects Astra’s charges on DTT

From David Del Valle in Madrid

Spain’s broadcasting agency Abertis Telecom, shareholder in satellites Hispasat and Eutelsat, has rejected SES Astra’s charges of favouritism in the Spanish DTT market before the European Union.

In a letter to the European Competition and to the Spanish Ministry of Industry, the company has defended the Spain’s DTT model denying that the Administration has given it preferential treatment in the extension of DTT as SES Astra says it has and to its detriment. Recently, the Government approved a new legislation relying more on terrestrial distribution to extend DTT 100 per cent although counting as well on satellite to complete DTT coverage. Currently, DTT reaches 92.3 per cent of the population and the Technical Plan obliges public TV networks and private television to cover 98 per cent and 96 per cent, respectively.

Astra accused the Administration of “lack of technology neutrality” and breaking competition rules and took the case to the Spanish and European competition authorities. At the same time, the company appealed against several DTT public tenders.

In its letter Abertis claims that DTT technology is cheaper to extend DTT and that all DTT awards have been granted in a transparent way. The company claims that it has invested more than E400 million to deploy DTT and that “neither the Administration nor tax payers’ resources are financing the deployment”. As for public tenders to complete DTT coverage by satellite, the company argues that they are open to all potential bidders and that in any case they mean a significant change in the market share of both Astra and Hispasat. Abertis estimates that the investment to complete the DTT coverage through satellite will be around E75 million.

Telecommunications State Secretary, Francisco Ros, estimated that the total investment to migrate to digital will amount to E12 billion up to 2010 and will generate 36,000 jobs.

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