ITV subsidiary SDN has awarded a contract to Arqiva to design, build and operate a new national digital terrestrial TV network in preparation for digital switchover. The contract will run until 2034 and is estimated to be worth in the region of _500 million over its 27-year term, writes Fergal Ringrose.
SDN currently broadcasts a range of popular free-to-air channels including Five, S4C and QVC together with pay-channels via Top Up TV. The company intends to continue to broadcast from the 81 key transmission sites from which it is currently transmitted, but Arqiva will increase its transmission power levels to provide enhanced coverage so that it will be available to over 90% of the UK population by the end of switchover.
Steve Holebrook, managing director of Arqiva's Terrestrial Media Solutions division, said: "We are delighted to announce the signing of this major contract with SDN. This will extend an already successful relationship with SDN, which stretches back to 1998, into the digital-only broadcasting future."
Simon Pitts, managing director of SDN, added: "This is a major milestone for SDN, which gives the business valuable long-term certainty over its cost base. Arqiva are a valued partner and we look forward to working with them to deliver an enhanced service to our channel customers and play a full part in delivering digital switchover by 2012."
Arqiva is already well advanced in its preparations for the Border region, which is first to switch over to all-digital transmission. The Whitehaven 'Flagship' project completes as early as October this year, and infrastructure work elsewhere in the region is well underway in anticipation of switchover in 2008/09.
This latest contract follows the appointment of Arqiva as digital transmission supplier to the BBC (two multiplexes based on 24 recently ordered Thomson Paragon IOT (inductive output tube) transmitters) and as preferred supplier to Digital 3 and 4 Ltd. These three Public Service Broadcasting multiplexes will use the nationwide infrastructure of 1154 sites to provide 98.5% coverage.