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June 22, 2011
To Buy or Not to Buy a New TV set? Armenian TV Viewers will Not Stay Away from Digitalization Process
By Gayane Mirzoyan
JNews reporter
To Buy or Not to Buy a New TV set? Armenian TV Viewers will Not Stay Away from Digitalization Process
Decoder helps change digital signal into an analog one

According to International Telecommunication Union's treaty of 2006, starting from January 2015 Armenia must transfer from analog broadcasting of radio and TV programs to digital broadcasting.

Unlimited broadcasting and HD sound and picture are not the only advantages of digital TV. It gives the chance to broadcast several programs on the same frequency and creates new technical opportunities for broadcasters and viewers. Today, three cable and IP TV operators in Yerevan allow their subscribers to enjoy the advantages of the digital TV.

According to official sources, full digitalization in Armenia will cost around $30 million. Simon Aghajanyan, head of the working group on technical issues of the committee supervising digitalization, says that the money will be given partially, and adds that funding sources are unnkown yet.

It is expected that the project will be financed by donor organizations through interest-free credits. To repay the loans, the government can possibly privatize a part of the digital broadcasting network.

"The project of the input of digital broadcasting in Armenia has been presented to the government," says Aghajanyan.

The digitalization will start from Yerevan and Ararat valley where 50% of the population of Armenia lives. Besides, the expert says, that favorable relied and infrastructure in this area will be less expensive.

Programs included in 4 multiplexers (3 for the capital, 1 republican) will be out of charge. Each of the 3 capital multiplexers include 6 TV and 4 radio programs, and the republican multiplexer includes 9 TV (8 Yerevan and 1 local) and 4 radio programs.

"After analog broadcast is turned off, free frequencies will be sold to private operators, through which they can use multiplexers, and the broadcast programs will be decided by the market," says Aghajanyan. The view of this programs will probably be paid.

Also the taxes for TV companies will change. Thus, according to amendments in the State Taxes Law, after digitalization TV companies broadcasting through 3 multiplexers in Yerevan will have to pay 10 million AMD as taxes yearly and 20 milllion AMD if they want to broadcast in regions through state multiplexer. Regional TV companies will pay 1 million AMD yearly.

According to Aghajanyan, in the course of construction of the digital broadcasting network (2011-2014) analog and digital broadcasts will be implemented parallely, and since January 1, 2015, analog broadcasting will be turned off.

Meanwhile, according to the expert of the working group of the Committee to protect freedom of speech studying the digitalization Martin Ayvazyan, the analog broadcasting must be taken off naturally. "There is some kind of obligation in this. If we compare this with the transition of black and white broadcasting to colored, both formats existed parallely until the population obtained colored TV sets," says the expert.

To receive new quality in broadcasting, the consumer must have his contribution. If you don't have a new TV set you are going to need a decoder which will convert digital signal into analog. In the international market a decoder costs $15-$120. 

100.000 socially disadvantaged families will receive a free decoder and antenna-cable system. "The TV sets produced after 2006 have a digital decoder in them, so there will be no need to buy a new one," says Aghajanyan.

Considering the potential of Armenia in the field of microelectroncs, decoders can be produced in Armeni either which will cost less expensive for the population.

"Decoders are produced with simple technology, and Armenia can produce them easily. And even if their cost does not appear cheaper, they will be profitable for the domestic producers," says Ayvazyan.

Though the full digitalization will take place in 4 years today we can buy widescreen HD TV sets in the stores.

"We started selling HD TV's since 2006. At that time it was possible to view digital broadcasting only through 5 satellite channels," says consultant of "AG Electronics" store network Hayk Manucharyan.

Today HD TV sets in Armenia can be used only to watch movies on DVD and view several satellite and cable channels. "We warn our customers that while viewing analog broadcasting the picture may not be ideal. Very often customers want to see the most expensive TVs without even knowing the opportunities they give," says the consultant.

According to Manucharyan, widescreen broadcasting (16:9) will turn the picture on old screen into square (4:3), and in that case some space around the image will be lost.

This "effect" can be noticed viewing Russian First Channel which has widescreen broadcasting since June 1. In short, it is impossible to receive HD image quality without new TV sets. In Armenia, widescreen HD TV sets cost around 300.000 AMD ($800). Though since 2015 these prices may get lower.


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