The long-awaited results from the Welsh Digital TV trial were published today.
The trial ran in the carefully chosen sites of Ferryside and Llansteffan, two Welsh villages either side of the River Towy (Google map, Geograph photo). The main reasons, it’s cut off as it’s surrounded by mountains and the sea.
The project started back in May 2004 with a roadshow that alerted the local residents to the intentions of the trial and to show them the range of equipment that they could choose.
Following the positive acceptance of the trial, the equipment was selected and installed and setup by residents. They were offered one of five Set Top Boxes and 2 PVR’s as replacements for their video recorders. The big difference between this trial and the full UK rollout, was that the equipment was supplied to them free of charge – something the UK government has refused to consider for the country at large.
The TV transmitter sat on the Ferryside of the River Towy serving the 475 homes and 1,200 residents that lived in both locations. The population was more elderly, retired and ill that the average UK population. Nearly 30% of the population of Ferryside were over 60.
The digital signal was switched on in November 2004, running simultaneously with current analogue for three month.
The big day of tension was on 30 March 2005 when the analogue signal was switched off. Digital-Lifestyles spoke to key members of the team during this time and learnt that it had gone remarkably smoothly, much to everyone’s delight.
The summary of the results from the 64 page document are as follows.
Transmission and Coverage – No one lost their TV service during the trial. Only three homes, which were previously in poor reception areas, could not receive the digital service and these were given a digital satellite service. Broadband was introduced during the trial and is seen as an alternative form of delivery to satellite.
Consumer Experience – Not everyone was able to install the equipment themselves but the majority of those who had trouble were able to fix problems with guidance over the phone.
Remote Control – The elderly hit problems handling additional remotes, especially those with many buttons – their preference being remotes with three functions – on/off, volume and channel change.
Aerials and Connectivity – This is where the majority of problems occurred. Digital TV needs a quality signal to work and nearly a quarter (22%) of the household had problems. Set-Top aerials (Do they still exist?) had problems, which wasn’t really a surprise.
Content – Having an EPG went down well with the residents, particular when they used it to record programs on their PVR. The trialists also enthused about the ability to receive extra TV channels – after all the major benefit to consumer if the expanded choice they will be given.
The total cost of the trial was a little short of 1 million pounds. The UK Government put up £565,000 and the broadcasters the rest, £300,000.
Many organisation worked hard to bring the trial to a successful outcome including Intellect, the trade association for the UK IT, Telecommunications and Electronics industries in the UK.
There’s going to be a lot of people letting out a sign of relief that this trial went well, and not just in the UK. Those involved feel there have been some real lessons learnt here. The harsh reality is that there a world of difference between a controlled trial in two villages in the Wales and a full scale rollout over the UK.