French map out digital economy

L'auction d'analogue, et apres

The French government has published a report on how it intends to become a digital economy, starting with the auction of the analogue TV bands by the end of next year.

The report, entitled France Numérique 2012, covers the transition to digital TV and thus the disposal of the digital dividend - spectrum release by the more-efficient digital systems, as well as plans for the 2GHz spectrum and provision of mobile TV for all.

Analogue TV will be switched off nationally by the end of 2011, with Coulommiers being the first area to go, at the end of this year - residents have been able to enjoy digital transmissions since July. Kaysersberg will be next, towards the middle of 2009, quickly followed by Cherbourg.

Full details, including an online database where French residents can check when the lights go out in their region, is being created by the regulator (the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel, or CSA) and should be available at the end of this month.

PolicyTracker reckons that as of July this year 70.1 per cent of French households primarily watched analogue transmissions, with almost 30 per cent watching nothing else, despite digital being available to 82.2 per cent of the population.

The French government is planning 13 multiplexes by the end of 2011, which should cover 95 per cent of the population.They are also planning to reserve a couple of multiplexes for mobile TV - unsurprising as the regulator has already awarded DVB-H licences to 13 channels. Another chunk of spectrum will be reserved for digital radio, but selling spectrum for high-speed internet access is also on the agenda.

The report has its own site, for those who can read French.

France wants to sell off the spectrum by the end of 2009, and is also planning auctions for 2.1-2.6GHz over the next 12 months as well as some sort of white-space auction too - it's going to be a busy year on that side of the channel. Some of this haste is clearly driven by the UK's lead - no one wants to get left behind - but the aggressive timetable won't be easy to maintain, especially if the French public prove resistant to the transition to digital. ®

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