Cable TV networks to go digital

By Chen Limin (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-23 09:22
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Cable TV networks to go digital

An international telecommunications exhibition in Beijing. A top regulator said the country is planning to set up a national-level cable television network company to consolidate all the separate cable television networks in the country into a single one. [Photo / China Daily] 

Plan aims to converge telecommunications, television and Internet, SARFT official says

BEIJING - China aims to digitalize all of its cable television networks above the county level by 2015, stepping up the pace to advance the convergence of cable television, telecommunications, and the Internet, said a government official.

The country's cable TV subscribers reached 187 million by the end of last year, of which digital TV users were 88 million.

"For cable TV operators, digitalization is the key to move on the three-network convergence," Tian Jin, vice-minister of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said at the conference of the China Content Broadcasting Network on Monday.

A digitalized cable TV network enables a much larger amount of content transmission and, together with other technologies, will make it possible for TV broadcasters, telecom carriers, and Internet companies to enter each other's fields and provide services.

China launched a pilot project in 12 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, for trials of the convergence last July, after the remained pending for years because of a lack of consensus among the different stakeholders in related industries.

Tian said the SARFT has drawn up a preliminary plan for setting up a nationwide cable television network company and "will send the plan for government examination as soon as possible". The company will be responsible for consolidating all the nation's separate cable television networks into a single one.

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Different from the telecom market, which has only three carriers, there are many cable television networks in China, all run by different operators at varied administrative levels. At the county level alone, there are about 3,000 networks. The lack of a nationwide unified network has become an obstacle to the three-network convergence.

This is also a reason why many industry experts say the progress of the convergence is slow in China.

"Compared with technical transformation, such as digitalization, to bring the cable TV networks together is a much greater challenge," said Horse Liu, an analyst with market research company IHS iSuppli.

The SARFT said last year that it aimed to consolidate all the cable TV networks in each province together, and thus having "one network for one province" by the end of 2010, but Tian said on Monday that the goal was not fully achieved and SARFT "should make more efforts" to achieve it this year.

"In actual practice, the convergence became extremely difficult in places where TV broadcasters and telecom carriers don't agree with each other," said Wei Leping, director of science and technology committee of China Telecom Corporation Ltd.

"The root of the difficulty lies in that the telecom and broadcasting industries are supervised by two different industry regulators," he said, adding that a unified regulator should be formed.