Managing how broadband is used will be a key challenge in moving to a high-definition (HD) world, panelists at the Canadian Satellite Users Association (CSUA) conference agreed. One participant likened the transition to a throwback to the analog world. Digital channels take up a fraction of the space of their analog cousins so that capacity is freed up. However, HD digital content is bandwidth intensive, and an HD channel can take up as much space as an analog channel. Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association (CCTA) VP of technology Michele Beck estimated that about eight digital TV channels occupy as much space as two to three HD channels or one analog channel. Rogers Cable Communications Inc. director of DTV services technology Chris LaPine warned that capacity should not go toward HD channels with limited HD content. "Decisions on content must be carefully examined. We cannot afford to waste bandwidth on bad or limited HD offerings," he said. He argued that up-converted stock is not acceptable HD. CDTV president Michael McEwen said that the industry has to understand the capacity issues that will surround a fully HD environment. He said that the capacity should be used for the distribution and backhaul of HD programming, and should not be clogged up with imported versions of HD channels. "Distributors are going to have to strike the right balance between distribution of television services, and voice and data services," he said. "Everyone can be accommodated but cooperation will be critical to the last stage of this transition." Peter Miller, VP of planning and regulatory affairs at CHUM Ltd., noted that the bandwidth will have to be shared between HD and other services, such as the slew of Canadian TV services that launched beginning two years ago. Capacity could become even tighter as broadcasters duplicate, rather than migrate, specialty and pay TV channels to digital. The analog versions of the channels are not expected to be dropped until most households have converted to digital. On a panel exploring the regulation of HD and digital TV, Mark Lewis, a partner with the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais, took the CRTC to task for considering licensing more analog channels, particularly when bandwidth will have to be managed carefully in the digital transition period. He was amazed that the commission has put out a call for applications for a new over-the-air channel for the Niagara region. "Recently – November 8 – the CRTC put out a public notice calling for applications for the Niagara region for analog. Now someone has gone and made an application for an analog over-the-air station and the business plan is predicated upon getting Toronto (too). To be very blunt, there isn’t enough population base in the Niagara Peninsula for an analog TV station," he said. "What amazed me and other observers in this industry is that the commission put out six questions on the web site, but not one of them is on the impact of additional analog signals on cable in Toronto, on digital migration, on digital rollout and on digital services." Lewis said it was time for the CRTC to be asking those questions. Beck suggested that it was time to perhaps even considering a moratorium on the issuing of any more analog licences. "I think the fact that someone puts in a bizarre application at this point in time shouldn’t trigger an obligational licence or a licensing proceeding without it being in the best interests (of the overall system)," Lewis noted. The CRTC put out the general call for applications for a TV station in Niagara after receiving a filing for a licence for Niagara (CCR Update, Nov. 12/04). Beck noted that analog services are still being added to the cable dial. For instance, the CRTC licenced the conventional station Toronto One and a second Toronto ethnic channel to Rogers in 2002. Toronto One didn’t launch until September 2003. "We could use capacity more effectively (than adding new analog channels) to better serve our customers," said Beck. "What they want to see is better quality cable in their house. The addition of more analog channels exacerbates the problem of getting through migration." Miller agreed with Beck, saying that HD channels take up enormous capacity and that distributors are grappling with capacity problems around migration to digital. "Rogers has been very aggressive, you can’t ignore that," he said. It’s difficult to determine exactly what the capacity constraints will be, said Beck, because the CRTC has not released a policy for the transition to HD for the specialty channels. The regulator has mandated that distributors must duplicate the HD signals of the conventional broadcasters (CCR, Nov. 14/03). "Will it be the same for specialties? We hope it wouldn’t, because we’d have difficulties (with capacity)," she said. "An alternative would be to have them carried one way (in analog or digital) but not both." But Miller cautioned that not all specialty TV services will go HD right away in their transition to digital. It will take five to ten years for that to happen, he said. He pointed out that the movie and sports specialty TV channels would be the first to go HD. "There’s no reason for Drive-In Classics to go high definition," he said. CHUM diginet Drive-In Classics broadcasts B movies from the past. Bell ExpressVu senior director of government and regulation Chris Frank noted that new Canadian services keep being introduced along with a trickle of new foreign services, eating up more capacity. For example, the CRTC recently allowed the entry of Fox News, Bloomberg TV and the NFL Network. Under the CRTC’s new rules for the carriage of general interest third-language TV channels it is expected that RAI International will soon gain entry into Canada. LaPine said that the introduction of interactive television (iTV) applications will also consume bandwidth. He rattled off a number of other developments that will put demands on bandwidth, including digital penetration, HD and VOD services, niche channels, network personal video recorders (PVRs), and everything on demand (any content, anywhere, anytime on any appliance). "Bandwidth is precious," he stated. "It is a defined commodity." But he noted that technological innovations might provide part of the solution. Advanced digital (MPEG 4) offers a two-fold improvement over current compression schemes, he noted. He also stated that switched broadcast offers an ability to over-subscribe the network.