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Finnish Firms Delay DTT Launch

Helsinki, Finland-Companies that won digital-terrestrial-TV licenses from the Finnish government last year are delaying introduction of the service and ditching a plan that would have had DTT bow concurrently with the Summer Olympic Games in September.

State broadcaster YLE recently announced that it would begin DTT test transmissions this fall and commence full commercial broadcasting by the end of the year.

Private television companies, which received two of the three licenses (of four channel frequencies each), are now aiming for an Aug. 27, 2001, deadline to start full-time programming. The licenses would expire Sept. 1, 2001, if the winners don't begin around-the-clock transmissions by that date.

"We are not postponing, just lightening up on the launch of digital TV," YLE TV chief executive Heikki Lehmusto said. YLE will transmit two digital test broadcasts from the Games in Sydney, Australia.

"We will start as late as possible," said Jorma Miettinen, senior vice president of broadcasting at Finland's No. 2 media company Alma Media. Alma's MTV3 channel is part of a DTT partnership.

The lack of technical standards is behind the delay, industry executives said. This means license winners have been unable to build set-top boxes and receivers in time for prelaunch sales-and-marketing campaigns.

Europe's Digital Video Broadcasting standards consortium only threw its support behind the wide-ranging Multimedia Home Platform standard for the Nordic countries late last month.

MHP is an open standard that enables the provision of services such as Internet access and interactive offerings. Developing a Nordicwide standard will enable companies to achieve greater scale by operating over a potentially bigger geographic area.

"It would not have been consumer-friendly if we had launched in Sydney and viewers had not had the chance to get hold of receivers," YLE chairman Jussi Tunturi said.

Tunturi added that YLE's 24-hour news channel would start DTT test transmissions in the Helsinki area this fall. The signal will be expanded according to market demand.

Rauli Ahola, sales and marketing director at set-top maker Nokia Multimedia Terminals, said delaying the commercial introduction of DTT was the most logical solution for the license holders.

"If broadcasting had started from Sydney, consumers would have been unable to see the difference between analog and digital TV," he added.