Wake-Up Call to US FCC: Argentina Looks to Follow Peru in Adopting Japanese-Brazilian Digital TV Standard

What a telling and timely juxtaposition.

On the day responses are due to the US FCC’s request for comments to the CUT FATT request for an official inquiry into patent overcharging in the US digital TV transition (the “ATSC standard”), Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is reported to have confirmed that Argentina is about to follow Brazil with the rival and lower cost Japanese-Brazilian Digital TV system.

This is hardly a surprise — some three years ago Argentina decided to reverse its decision to adopt ATSC as the country’s terrestrial DTV standard and consider other options.

And this follows last week’s announcement by the government of Peru that it is also adopting the lower cost Japanese-Brazilian Digital TV system, after a meeting between President Alan García and Shunichi Yamaguchi, a special envoy of Japan’s Prime Minister.

As tempting as it might be to write off the CUT FATT petition as part of a tactical patent dispute between CUT FATT founder VIZIO and Japanese rival Funai (over patents Funai acquired from Grand Alliance  member Thomson Consumer Electronics), it is important that the US government, and the FCC in particular, look deeper and systematically rethink the confused and obsolete 1980’s-era “America-is-better-than-Japan” DTV policy that now risks seeping over into a next generation of US broadband policy.

One can hardly blame the U.S. Trade Development Agency to have funded in September 2008 a half-hearted promotion of ATSC to Peru, after all promoting ATSC abroad must seem to be nearly official US FCC policy and many still wrongly believe that because the US FCC officially adopted the ATSC standard, the “A” in ATSC must stand for America (it actually stands for “Advanced“).

But as the CUT FATT filing aptly points out (Exhibit 2), even as of May 2008, in a written response to the US Congress, then FCC Chairman Kevin Martin outlined clearly that the FCC has little idea of who even owns the patents in the ATSC standard, and must rely on news reports and second and third hand information.

Finally, as advocated in several places on this blog, a royalty-free standards process, rather a patent-pool based process, is worthy of serious consideration by the US FCC as a preferred process — and to see how this royalty-free process has already helped Brazil and other countries in Digital TV, see this article.


“Peru follows Brazil with ISDB”, Friday, April 24, 2009

“On the other hand, the DVB Coalition sent a press release by means of which it is highlighted that DVB is the cheapest set top box (U$S 28), whereas for the Brazilian standard, such cost amounts to U$S 138 and for the Japanese standard it amounts to $82. According to the Coalition, Peruvians would have invested U$S 161 millions in their digital TV transition if they had turned to DVB, whereas the Japanese-Brazilian standard will involve U$S 795 millions and the Japanese one will involve U$S 472 millions.”

“Confirmed: Argentina is close to ISDB”, Monday, April 27, 2009

“[L]ast week, the Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, confirmed that the country is about to follow Brazil with ISDB. “We are working to complement and agree on a common digital TV system so that part of the TV sets’ production elements can be produced in Argentina””

“Government selects Japanese-Brazilian digital TV standard”, Monday, Apr 27, 2009

“Digital TV decoders to be sold in Peru for $28 in six months”

“[T]he Andean country’s Ministry of Communications (MTC) stated decoders would begin being sold for $28….Jorge Cuba, the vice minister of communications explained that the Japanese-Brazilian standard had been chosen, among other reasons, for its low cost.”

“European Commission offers Peru €500,000 to implement digital TV standard”, 2 April, 2009

“[President of the European Commission] José Manuel Durao Barroso … offered Peru five hundred thousand Euros if the South American country decided to implement the European DVB-T standard instead of the Japanese-Brazilian SBTVD one.”

“José Manuel Durão Barroso, the current president of the European Commission, offered Peru €500,000 if Peru decided to implement the DVB-T standard instead of the Japanese-Brazilian SBTVD one.”

http://www.ustda.gov/program/sectors/standardsdevelopment.asp (retrieved April 27, 2009)

Peru Digital Television Standards – In 2008, USTDA funded an orientation visit to support the Government of Peru’s efforts to update the country’s telecommunication regulatory framework, including the adoption of a national digital satellite television (DTV) standard. The visit was designed to provide the Peruvian delegates with an opportunity to learn about the U.S. approach to telecom regulatory issues such as long distance licensing, broadband networks, Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP), digital television, convergence, spectrum, allocation, and local loop unbundling.

“TRI manages and provides technical, logistical, and communications
support to the U.S. Trade Development Agency (USTDA) Orientation Visit on Digital Television Standards”

http://www.tech-res.com/tri/news/managedevents.htm, September 21-27, 2008

“The purpose of this Orientation Visit is to educate and promote the ATSC Standard, which is the standard developed and used by the U.S. for digital television and to encourage the Peru policy makers to choose this standard when Peru makes the transition from digital to analog.”

“Argentina Favoring Brazilian Version of ISDB-T for Terrestrial DTV”, 09.12.2008 http://www.tvtechnology.com/article/66586

“Three years ago this month Argentina decided to reverse its decision to adopt ATSC as the country’s terrestrial DTV standard and consider other options.”