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ABS-CBN and PTV in Philippine push for all-digital TV

The Philippines is stepping up a nationwide shift to digital terrestrial broadcasting, stirring excitement about new business opportunities but also concern for families that cannot afford to upgrade their old TVs.

The plan is to go all digital by 2023 with support from Japan, which convinced the Philippine government to adopt its technology. ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ top commercial TV network, launched a digital service in 2015 and now national broadcaster People’s Television Network is rushing to catch up. 

An estimated 15 million households in the Philippines own TVs, but many are still old cathode-ray tube sets. Some players, including South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, have already released digital TVs and set-top boxes in the country, hoping to capture early replacement demand.

When analog broadcasting stops, the Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology expects that 5% of households will not have access to digital TV, according to local media. The department anticipates that the government will have to step in with financial support.

PTV has been broadcasting digitally in select areas around the presidential Malacanang Palace in the capital, and now it has widened the scope to cover all of Metro Manila, using Japanese electronics maker NEC’s 5kW digital transmitter. This is five times more powerful than the technology the broadcaster was using before. The number of residents covered has increased from around 6 million to 20 million.

At a ceremony for PTV’s digital rollout on Jan. 10, Martin Andanar, the secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, said the new technology will eventually connect more than 70 provinces and over 1,000 cities to the digital network — bringing the government closer to the people.