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Broadcasting restack. Presentation by Chris Hose, Executive Manager, Technical Planning and Evaluation Branch, ACMA

Broadcasting restack. Presentation by Chris Hose, Executive Manager, Technical Planning and Evaluation Branch, ACMA



Radcomms Restack - Chris Hose presentation

Radcomms Restack - Chris Hose presentation



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  • Thanks and good morning. I am very pleased to be once again speaking on the topic of restack today. Much has happened over the past 6 months or so since I last spoke on this topic at the 700 MHz Tune-up last year. As Chris Chapman mentioned in his opening words yesterday, I am happy to report that this progress has been overwhelming positive and now puts, the government, the ACMA and industry, in a good position to make real progress towards our collective goal of clearing the digital dividend of broadcasting services while maintaining the high quality free-to-air television service enjoyed by Australians. These decisions where only very recently made by the Authority and were only formally released on the ACMA website yesterday afternoon. The key decision made of interest to many of you here today is the innovative choice of a ‘block’ approach to restack channel planning. This approach was first proposed by the commercial broadcasting industry and subsequently assessed and codified by the ACMA. I will of course speak more about this decision as I explain where we’ve been and where we are going with restack.
  • Today I will provide a very brief background to restack including: the key government decisions and directions on the task; and what restack practically means and what are some of the key choices. I will then focus on the ACMA restack consultative process, proposals, and ultimately decisions on key issues required to commence detailed restack channel planning. These matters being: the determination of a set of high level restack objectives to guide the restack activity; the decision on the overall restack channel planning approach to be used to guide the development of detailed area-by-area restack channel plans; and decisions on a set of detailed restack planning principles These decisions are a key milestone in realising the digital dividend. With the restack planning principles finalised the ACMA, in conjunction with industry, can progress the development of the detailed channels plans necessary for the implementation of restack and the clearing of the digital dividend for reallocation. I will therefore conclude my talk today with a brief summary of what’s next in the world of restack.
  • I’m sure to many of you restack is a well known issue, but for completeness I will quickly go through the fundamentals of restack, and why, and on what basis, we are doing it. Put very simply, RESTACK is the clearance of broadcasting services from the top 126 MHz of the existing UHF broadcasting bands representing channels 52 to 69. This therefore requires the repacking of television services within the revised broadcasting bands suitable for television services. I should also note that restack does not only affect television broadcasters. The radio broadcasting industry is also a major stakeholder in the process. Digital radio using the DAB+ standard has been rolled out in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth since 2009. While the specifics of any further rollout out of digital radio into regional areas remains an issue for government consideration, the Minister in his Direction to the ACMA specified a requirement to retain 14 MHz (or 2 TV channels) of VHF spectrum for digital radio. Two key pieces of government direction have been provided to the ACMA to guide the restack process: Firstly, in June 2010 the government decided on the size and location of the Digital Dividend. As discussed previously, this set the high level parameters of the Dividend – 126 MHz between 694 and 820 MHz. This decision was followed in July 2010 by a formal Direction to the ACMA by the Minister giving effect to the Government's policy objective of realising the digital dividend. This direction included a number of key decisions relevant to the restack activity.
  • Of course no explanation of restack is complete without diagrams. These slides which represent much of Queensland are indicative only and somewhat stylised. Television channels are listed from left to right in columns and each geographical area listed from top to bottom in rows. This slide shows the simulcast situation consisting of ANALOG + DIGITAL Television plus DIGITAL RADIO in the 5 metros. ANALOG and DIGITAL TV channels are indicated by red and green blocks respectively. While the Grey bars indicate a potential option for the 14 MHz of VHF spectrum for DIGITAL RADIO. The area shaded yellow shows the Digital Dividend.
  • In this slide we see the situation post simulcast with only the green Digital channels remaining. Of most relevance to the restack process is the substantial number of green blocks remaining in the yellow area signifying the part of the spectrum that will ultimately be the digital dividend.
  • This final slide shows Restack – clearance of channels above 51. The exact structure of the restacked services inside the new broadcasting services band will be determined by the overall channel planning approach to be followed. This has been a key point of consideration by the ACMA over recent months. Various different channel planning approaches have been considered.
  • The first of these approaches is ‘block’ planning shown here that is the television broadcasting industry's proposal for restack. As illustrated, the plan uses 5 blocks of 6 channels as the core unit of the restack plan. Each site is allocated a block which is then reused across the country. This proposal essentially does away with legacy planning constraints and seeks a ‘green fields’ approach to television planning.
  • An alternative approach known as minimum moves planning shown here seeks to minimise the number of site and channel changes required to restack. In achieving this it seeks to work new channel assignments around pre-existing, legacy arrangements. As you would expect, each planning approach has different costs and benefits. Identifying and then analysing these costs and benefits and determining the optimal planning approach has been a key task for the ACMA over recent months.
  • So that was the background to restack and what we are trying to achieve. This slide shows a high level summary of how we are going about the task. Those of you who attended the 700 MHz Tune-up last year would recognise this diagram that I used to describe what I saw as the steps that needed to be achieved to make restack a reality. I am pleased to say that we have made important progress on this list of steps: PRESS KEYBOARD We have progressed through the first two blue boxes representing the key preliminary work necessary for detailed restack channel planning and ultimately implementation to take place. This has seen consultation, proposals and ultimately decisions having been made by the ACMA on the key issues of restack objectives, preferred planning approach and planning principles. We are now in a position to begin the substance of restack by developing restack channel plans and schedules. I will speak more on these next steps in a little while, but first I would like to take you through the process we’ve followed to get to where we are now.
  • Given the importance to government, broadcasters and the community at large, and the fact there where multiple options available for the ACMA’s restack channel planning task, the ACMA was of the view that a comprehensive, consultative and evidenced basis process was necessary to allow valid conclusions to be made. A key part of this process was the development of a discussion paper and associated detailed engineering reports. Released in late February this year, this ACMA work proposed a set of high level restack objectives, analysed in depth the costs and benefits of the two key candidate planning approaches and proposed a set of restack planning principles. Key to these proposals was the ACMA’s preliminary view that a block channel planning approach should be adopted. Since it was not possible in the time available to undertake a detailed nationwide study, this preliminary view was informed by a comparative restack cost and timing analysis using Queensland as a case study. Queensland was chosen as it is the most challenging broadcast spectrum planning environment in Australia and is large enough to enable reasonable conclusions to be drawn on a national basis. In coming to its preliminary view, the ACMA evaluated each planning approach against the proposed restack planning objectives and, in particular, the key issues of: cost (including cost to broadcasters and costs to viewers), viewer disruption, timing implications for completion of the restack and long-term benefits. The ACMA found that there was little difference between planning approaches in terms of viewer and broadcaster costs, the likely time required to implement restack or the resulting disruption to viewers. The ACMA also found that there were modest, but real, long term benefits to block planning. These benefits included: coverage of services being the most equal possible with all services at a location operating in the same band and over a smaller range of channels. (This means viewers who are able to receive one service should be able to receive all services in that area using a single receive antenna) new viewer antennas can be simpler and smaller master antenna TV systems can be simpler and cheaper the addition of future gap filler sites will be more cost effective as off-air inputs should be more readily available some benefits for non-broadcast use of the ‘white space’ between television services. The key purpose of the discussion paper was to test some of the ACMA’s assumptions underlying its preliminary view on the choice of the channel planning approach to be used and consequently the planning principles proposed.
  • Submissions to the discussion paper formally closed on 4 April.T he ACMA received 17 submissions, including one commercial-in-confidence. Feedback was generally supportive of the proposed objectives, planning approach and principles. While there was a range of important feedback provided on all of these issues, the key learning from the consultation process was information on some expected limitations on the practical ability to retune some broadcast infrastructure, specifically combiners, in situ in the time available for restack. This was important feedback since in the original analysis it was clear that the implementation method used for restack (ie. How it will be physically done) had important implications on the cost and timing comparison of channel planning approaches. I will speak more on this point in a moment when I discuss the ACMA’s decision on channel planning approach.
  • Now to the decisions recently made by the ACMA. After considering the feedback received, the ACMA has now decided on the 10 restack planning objectives listed here. These objectives identify the high-level outcomes expected from restack. In addition to those objectives derived from the minister’s direction (indicated by an asterix) a number of other objectives have been included that were either implicit in the restack task or otherwise desirable. While including a few relatively minor changes from those originally proposed, these objectives are essentially those put out for consultation earlier this year.
  • Given what we learnt during the consultation process, we thought it prudent to reassess our previous analysis of planning approaches and resulting conclusions taking into account the new information we gained regarding implementation constraints. This involved updating the previous Queensland case study using a new implementation method that replaces, rather than retunes, combiners therefore addressing the constraint identified during consultation. This analysis showed little changed in the cost comparison between planning approaches but indicated there now might be minor differences in the modelled time to implement the different planning approaches. However these differences were not considered to be substantial enough to differentiate between approaches. There was also little change to other conclusions on the comparative merits of planning approaches with regards to viewer disruption and long term benefits.
  • Overall, the ACMA found that in comparing the channel planning approaches there was little to distinguish between block and minimum moves planning in terms of: Cost and timing implications; and Potential viewer disruption While there were modest, but real long term benefits in block planning. This led the ACMA to decide to adopt a block planning approach to restack.
  • Using this decision to adopt block planning as a key basis and taking into account other feedback received, the ACMA has decided on a set of eleven planning principles which will be used as guidelines by the ACMA’s planners in preparing restack channel plans. Other key decisions influencing the planning principles include: the identification of channels 9 and 9A as a digital radio sub-band (as originally proposed by the ACMA), the retention of existing minimum median field strengths and protection ratios for planning (a change from the original ACMA proposal) and the intention to break up wide area single frequency networks wherever possible (as originally proposed by the ACMA). ACMA planners will follow these planning principles as closely as possible, while also taking into account the specifics of each planning option. If principles conflict or the situation otherwise warrants it, a case-by-case judgement will be made.
  • Decisions on the restack planning principles represent the basis for the ongoing retack channel planning work. Now that these foundations are set, the ACMA in conjunction with industry can progress a range of further activities necessary for restack. These include development of: a nationwide channel plan for the 50 to 60 key high and selected medium power sites around which most of the rest of the country is planned a high level channel planning & implementation schedule a technical restack policy document that will consolidate the planning principles with associated background and context Non-metro WA channel plan variation Area-by-area channel planning With SA, Victoria and Queensland being first given switchover either has already happened or soon will in these areas.
  • In conclusion I’ll reiterate a view points: First is that much genuine progress has been made on restack. The time and energy put into robustly developing the restack planning principles is a sound investment which I am confident will prove its worth into the future. Secondly, I will stress what I said last year, that achieving restack is truly a collaborative public / private activity. Restack in the desired timeframe will not be achievable without the continuation of the extensive and enduring collaboration between government and industry evident during the development of the restack planning principles. Related to this point is that timing remains critical. While substantial progress has been made – by necessity the ongoing tempo of the restack task will remain high. Finally, I’d like to thank those of you in the ACMA and industry who have contributed to this process so far. The last 6 months or so have been challenging but rewarding, in no small part to the collaborative and genuine efforts made by many in the ACMA and industry. I look forward to continuing to work closely with many of you over the coming months and years. Thanks

Broadcasting restack. Presentation by Chris Hose, Executive Manager, Technical Planning and Evaluation Branch, ACMA Broadcasting restack. Presentation by Chris Hose, Executive Manager, Technical Planning and Evaluation Branch, ACMA Presentation Transcript

  • Update on the Restack of Digital Television Services Chris Hose Executive Manager, Technical Planning and Evaluation Branch, ACMA
  • Overview
    • Background
    • Restack Objectives, Planning Approaches and Principles,
      • Proposals and consultation
      • Decisions
    • Next steps
  • Background to Restack
    • Clearance of 126 MHz (694-820 MHz)
    • Repacking of television services within the remaining broadcasting spectrum while retaining a high quality broadcasting service
    • Restack objectives and guidance:
      • Government Decision
      • Ministerial Direction
  • ‘ Current’ – Analog/digital simulcast
  • Post switchover – Digital only
  • Post restack TBD
  • Example Block Plan
  • Example Minimum Moves Plan
  • Indicative Restack Process Channel planning Channel Planning Implementation Implementation Implementation Implementation Implementation Time ? Implementation Region 2 Region 1 ? Region 3 ? Region 4 ? Region 5 ? Region 6 Channel planning Channel planning Channel planning Channel planning ?
  • Consultation Process
    • ACMA Restack Discussion paper included proposals on:
      • Restack Objectives
      • Restack Channel Planning Approach
      • Restack Planning Principles
    • Queensland case study
    • The ACMA’s preliminary view on block channel planning was influenced by a number of cost/timing comparisons which were dependent on the implementation method assumed
    • Key purpose of the discussion paper was to test some of the ACMA’s assumptions prior to a final decision
  • Consultation Process
    • 16 + 1 submissions received
    • Generally supportive of objectives and principles
    • Key learning:
      • Implementation Method
        • Retuning combiners on site not practical in the time available
      • Impact on cost and timing analysis comparing planning approaches
  • Decision on Restack Objectives
    • clear the digital dividend band of broadcasting services as soon as practicable*
    • plan for six digital channels at each transmission site*
    • plan for six VHF channels at all metropolitan main station sites*
    • plan such that coverage of all six channels is similar
    • maintain or improve digital television coverage
    • simplify viewer reception of terrestrial digital television
    • establish spectrum planning arrangements that support future needs
    • retain 14 MHz of spectrum in VHF Band III for possible expansion of digital radio*
    • comply with the legislated framework
    • consistent with the minister’s direction, the ACMA should wherever possible:*
      • minimise viewer costs and disruption
      • minimise commercial and national broadcaster costs.
  • Restack Planning Approach
    • Update to QLD case study cost/timing analysis comparison
    • New implementation method:
      • Hybrid temporary retune unit (TRU) - replacement of combiners, retuning of transmitters
    • Case study analysis of hybrid TRU method:
      • Little change in the modelled relative costs between planning approaches
      • Minor change in modelled time to implement between planning approaches – however not enough to vary broad conclusions
    • Little change to other conclusions re: viewer impact & block benefits
  • Restack Planning Approach
    • In summary the ACMA :
      • found little difference between planning approaches in terms of broadcaster costs and time to implement implications;
      • found little difference between planning approaches in terms of viewer costs and disruption;
      • found that the block planning approach has strong support from commercial broadcasters; and
      • concluded the block planning approach has modest but real long-term benefits when compared to the minimum moves planning approach.
    • The ACMA has therefore decided to adopt the block channel planning approach
  • Restack Principles
    • 11 principles identified addressing:
      • the core requirements of restack
      • a digital radio (DAB+) sub-band
      • the block planning approach
      • channel assignment and block selection guidance
      • future use of SFNs
      • technical planning parameters
      • transmission equalisation
      • channel availability timing constraints
  • What’s next?
    • Nationwide channel plan for key sites
    • High level channel planning & implementation schedule
    • Technical restack policy document
    • Non-metro WA channel plan variation
    • Area-by-area channel planning
      • SA, Victoria, Queensland
  • Conclusion
    • Major progress on restack channel planning:
      • ‘ block’ channel planning approach decided
      • restack planning principles determined
    • Detailed channel planning has commenced
    • Success continues to require a highly collaborative public/private approach
    • Time remains of the essence
    • Stay tuned for further developments