Monterrey's analog switch-off flop is a lesson for Brazil

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, October 20, 2015

As half a million people were left without a TV signal in Mexico's Monterrey city for about a week after an analog switch-off, Brazil should keep its antennas well tuned to its LatAm peer.

According to the reports, the Monterrey problem was caused by insufficient digital decoders, even though telecom watchdog IFT said that about 10% of the homes (or 120,795) relied only on analog transmission.

Meanwhile, Brazil is preparing its own analog signal switch-off pilot program on November 29.

The city of Rio Verde will be used as a case study in a gradual, city-by-city, three-year switch-off process. The analog signal is expected to be completely disconnected nationwide in 2018. But digitalization in this city of 200,000 residents has not advanced as expected, and the schedule is now in jeopardy.

Telecom regulator Anatel's mandates a 93% digital TV penetration before the analog switch-off takes place in any given municipality. Home surveys indicate Rio Verde's rate does not reach the threshold.

On Monday, acting communications minister Francisco Ibiapina was in Rio Verde, alongside members of Anatel and telecom operator representatives, to oversee the digitalization process, distributing 7,000 digital TV sets to lower-income families.

Families registered with the government's social welfare programs database were already set to receive digital assistance, but now there is a sense of urgency in Rio Verde as the clock ticks down to November 29.

In Mexico, the government says the analog system will be completely switched off by December 31, though it still looks unlikely that the deadline will be met - to date only a third of the required digital TV sets and decoders have been distributed by SCT.

Brazilian broadcasters have been pressing newly appointed communications minister André Figueiredo to revise the national switch-off timetable, as several cities listed in the first phase of the process would still be behind the schedule.

BNamericas found that the slow TV digitalization pace is also the top concern with Anatel's board.

Publicly, Figueiredo already admitted the switch-off timetable is a concern. But the government remains optimistic.

"This milestone technology shows that the country is pioneering, because we are going to have here the first South American city with a fully digital signal," acting minister Ibiapina said in a speech in Rio Verde, as MiniCom reported.

Hopefully, all Rio Verde citizens will feel the same when they turn their TV on at the end of November.

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