4G TV may come in the Netherlands

After the failure of Belgium DTT (Belgium is the country with the highest Cable/IPTV penetration in Europe) now the future of Dutch DTT is under discussion with the event of the upcoming DTT license renewal. DTT in Netherlands uses 5 multiplexes in a partial SFN network (not country-wide). One mux is dedicated to 3 public channels and a regional channel and is unscrambled. The other four muxes are run by KPN with 20 channels of mostly FTA commercial channels, but in a pay model for around 10 euros/month – essentially to undercut analog cable subscriptions which are running at 15 euros/month. The subscriber base is slowly decreasing; around 600k subs now (<10% HH). It has not received any significant investment in the service in the past 7 years.

KPN has a special role: it is also the largest mobile operator and has paid premium euro for 4G UHF spectrum giving good coverage with fewer basestations. If may not like more UHF spectrum becoming available from a competition point of view, so it may try to continue to run Digitenne as long as possible, also to keep competing in the low end TV services market whereas with IPTV and fiber KPN covers the higher end.

All of this is far too defensive to be sustainable. It is time to review where the real future lies. What role can terrestrial TV play: it is where fiber, cable and IPTV don’t come: campings, non-home locations, requiring cheap simple service distribution. It would be perfect if a mixed model mobile/TV broadcast system could take over and it would also provide a perfect basic totally free broadcast platform for a new era.

The only question is if there is enough of a market there; but 4G handsets with a free or nearly free subscription model is a simple solution. It is not obvious 4/5G reception mode will make it into TVs however; a broader market trend would be needed for this. Unfortunately in the larger countries in Europe (even in Germany) DVB-T2, HDTV etc. seem to roll out on DTT, so it is likely this will not happen.

This leaves only one scenario going forward with freely (or very cheaply) accessible mobile TV services: 4G..5G broadcast mode. And who knows TVs will pick up receiving these in due course. In the mean time low income household members may want to cast their mobile reception to the big screen in some way to avoid paying for TV service reception.

Decision on future of Dutch DTT in 2015.