“New digital channels” for UAE

The United Arab Emirates will switch to digital terrestrial television by 2013 offering new opportunities to operators and broadcasters and diversifying TV content, the country’s telecoms regulator said April 26th.  The move from analogue broadcasting will smooth the path for new TV channels, including video-on-demand, home cinema and other pay-per-view models, telecoms director general Mohammed Al Ghanim said.  “It will open huge opportunities for operators,” he said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi. “There will be more [TV networks] than we see with the analogue channels.”

The move would bring the UAE in line with more mature media markets such as those in the US, UK and Canada, some of which have offered digital broadcasting for several years. In addition to offering better picture and sound, the switch to digital will allow broadcasters to offer video and interactive data services that were unavailable under the analog system.

Licensing of new TV operators will begin once the move to digital is complete, Al Ghanim said. “It is premature to talk about the number of licences,” he said, but added the regulator was unlikely to license hundreds of new channels.

Fixed line television services will move to digital in 2013 but mobile TV services could be introduced as early as 2012, Al Ghanim said.  “The process is a complex process and includes many stakeholders. We have thoroughly studied the process and the benefit and impact on end users,” he said.

Bahrain’s government said last year the kingdom would move to digital television by December 2011 after the cabinet approved a four-phase national plan. Prior to the civil unrest that has engulfed the island state, the cabinet instructed the ministry to allocate the necessary budget to carry out the plan.

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