Costa Rica has launched a new plan to help low-income families migrate to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

The Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social (IMAS) – Costa Rican Social Assistance Mixed Institute – the same people who bring us the duty free shops at the San Jose airport – says it will invest some US$507 million dollars to acquire set-top-boxes for 7,500 homes and a further US$191 million dollars to make sure the families can access the DTT system.

According to the IMAS, the initiative is focused on family groups that do not have any pay TV services or a TV set able to receive the DTT network, or that live in areas where the analog blackout will take place.

According to Francisco Delgado, IMAS Vice Minister, on July 15th it will deliver one set-top box (STB) – also called a decoder – per family at a cost of US$25 dollars per unit.

The analog blackout in Costa Rica will be developed in two stages: the first will start on August 14th, date in which it was originally set, and the second stage will be developed on the same date in 2020.

 

A Set-Top Box (STB), also called a decoder, which is a device that will decode the digital signal to enable
the channels to be displayed on your TV set. Image for illustrative purposes only.

On August 14th, 2019, the analog blackout will start in the so-called ‘Region 1’, which includes broadcasts from the Irazu Volcano National Park. According to the Costa Rican Statistics and Census National Institute (INEC), it covers around 80% of the country’s population.

 

On August 14th, 2020, will begin the second stage of the process, named as the ‘Region 2’, with the remaining 20% of the country’s inhabitants.

Luis Adrián Salazar, Minister Science, Technology and Telecommunications (MITT), expressed that, because of the advanced state of the project, it is expected that the country has migrated to DTT before the August 2020 date.

What is DTT?

Digital terrestrial television (DTT) is a technology for broadcast television in which land-based (terrestrial) television stations broadcast television content by radio waves to televisions in consumers’ residences in a digital format.

DTT  is a major technological advance over the previous analog television and has largely replaced analog which had been in common use since the middle of the 20th century. Test broadcasts began in 1998 with the changeover to DTT (aka Analog Switchoff (ASO) or Digital Switchover (DSO)) beginning in 2006 and is now complete in many countries.

The advantages of digital terrestrial television are similar to those obtained by digitizing platforms such as cable TV, satellite, and telecommunications: more efficient use of limited radio spectrum bandwidth, provision of more television channels than analog, better quality images, and potentially lower operating costs for broadcasters (after the initial upgrade costs).

Different countries have adopted different digital broadcasting standards. Costa Rica chose Japanese-Brazilian standard ISDB-T on May 25, 2010, and started trial transmissions by Channel 13 from Irazú Volcano on March 19, 2012.

Across Central America, Nicaragua and El Salvador chose the Japanese-Brazilian standard ISDB-TB; Panama chose the European DVB-T standard.