Chile has adopted the Japanese digital-television standard known as ISDB-T, in line with neighbors Argentina, Peru and Brazil, and several other countries who will likely follow.
Chile chose the Japanese norm over the North American ATSC standard and the European DVB-T norm after considering the benefits of each . The Japanese standard "allows for better quality digital-television reception, given the characteristics of our country," President Michelle Bachelet said.
Brazil was the first country in Latin America to choose the Japanese standard in 2006 and now uses a version of the norm adapted to its local market. Argentina and Peru have followed suit, creating a bloc of South American countries using the Japanese standard. Venezuela has just annoynced similar plans (anything not American for them!).
Chile chose the Japanese norm because of technical and economic factors. "The new element that allowed us to make the decision, is that prices for this standard, that were very high, have converged with the other norms," Subtel's Pablo Bello said.
As for the technology, "It's a proven technology that is suited to Chile's mountainous terrain...now we have to see how the purchasing power of South American countries could impact prices," said Lucas Sierra, a researcher at the independent think-tank Centro de Estudios Publicos. Other important factors are lower prices, and the capability of the Japanese standard to broadcast television to mobile devices. Chile has more than 15 million mobile phones, almost one per inhabitant.
The North American and European norms also offer mobile reception and high-definition quality, but the Japanese government - in partnership with Brazil - stepped up its lobbying efforts in recent months with diplomatic visits and high-level meetings.
Japan has offered to help Chile to ensure "the correct and successful implementation of ISDB-T as the Chilean standard," Chile's Japanese embassy said.
For broadcasters, digital TV offers the possibility of transmitting four standard channels - or one high-definition channel - in the bandwidth currently required for just one standard channel, freeing up spectrum space for other uses.
The extra spectrum room, the "digital dividend", can be used by regional television channels to reach a more viewers than they can currently access though cable.