Mon, Dec 27, 2004 - Page 10 News List

As China vacillates on regulatory role, industry turns away


China's drive to mandate homegrown technology for digital television is losing appeal among manufacturers and broadcasters, which are turning to foreign systems after Beijing failed to announce its own standards, industry executives say.

Regulators have been pushing for China to develop its own digital TV standards, hoping to avoid dependence on Western technology and nurture a new domestic industry.

But after they missed a deadline to issue a digital TV standard by the end of last year, broadcasters and manufacturers are starting to explore the possibility of using a foreign standard.

"Companies are just moving ahead anyway, though they understand that it's at the operators' own risk," said Thierry Raymaekers, general manager in Beijing for Irdeto Access, a South African supplier of encryption technology for broadcasters.

Such standards amount to a commitment to use a specific set of processes in performing a task -- a choice that can pay off in licensing fees for patent owners.

Regulators could be forced to recognize the use of a competing standard, Raymaekers said.

That would fit the pattern of China's other attempts to set its own standards for mobile phones and wireless computer networks instead of using accepted international systems.

China withdrew a proposed wireless computer standard after protests by foreign companies.

It still is expected to use its standard for third-generation mobile phones, known as TD-SCDMA. But it also is allowing the imported WCDMA and CDMA2000 standards, which are expected to be more popular.

Chinese regulators disagree over whether to save time by picking an accepted digital-television standard or to create opportunities for their own companies by trying to develop a domestic standard.

Liu Quanen, an engineer leading the government's standards process for digital TV, said earlier this year that the ministry that oversees the electronics industry wants a Chinese standard while broadcast regulators want to use the accepted international version.

China has ordered its television stations to make sure the 2008 Beijing Olympics can be broadcast by digital TV. So they want to use a proven system rather than waiting for a domestic standard.

Some have turned to the European standard for experimental broadcasts of digital TV, known as DVB-T.

State-owned Guangdong Radio & Television New Technology Development is using DVB-T for a trial program to broadcast to receivers in taxis, public buses and other vehicles.

Similar trials of "mobile television" are starting in Beijing and the central province of Hunan.

Equipment makers are showing little enthusiasm for China's proposed domestic standard.

Mike Yu, vice president of Vimicro Corp (中星微電子), a Beijing-based designer of chips used for multimedia applications, blames delays and confusion over Chinese standards.

"Companies like us, who have a steady revenue stream from other market segments, would rather stay on the sidelines until the dust has settled," Yu said.

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