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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Trials of Local Digital TV Begin

ST. PETERSBURG — What are being billed as the first local television channels to be transmitted digitally have begun their experimental phase in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Novgorod, but it remains unclear whether Russian viewers ultimately will be able to pick up these signals for free.

TeleMedium, which is wholly owned by St. Petersburg-based holding Telecominvest, began testing the digital signal for its new channel last week.

At present, TeleMedium is sending its signal using the digital video broadcast terrestrial standard on channel 34 — and the signal can be picked up in the city and some of the surrounding area.

Dmitry Volobuyev, general director of TeleMedium, said the company will be carrying out tests of the signal in St. Petersburg between now and May in order to find the optimal combination of signal strength and area of coverage.

"After this, we'll be ready to provide commercial channels," Volobuyev said Friday.

Broadcasting digitally, as opposed to the analog standard, brings a number of advantages, including higher quality picture and sound, and allows for about five times higher capacity to be carried on one frequency.

Volobuyev would not comment as to whether viewers will be able to receive the digital signal directly or if the signal will be scrambled, meaning that they will have to pay a monthly rate for a converter in order to see channels.

Tsifrovoye Televideniye, the company introducing the new digital system in Moscow and Novgorod, has already announced that it plans to charge viewers around $100 per month for the digital service. ComNews, an Internet-based news service, quoted TsT director Tatyana Sushkova as saying the company was planning to begin with broadcasting ORT, RTR, Eurosport and Euronews.

"Broadcasting channels which are already available is a dead end," Volobuyev said. "We won't carry these channels. To attract people to digital television, we have to offer something new — something that they can't get by satellite, cable or usual TV."

While a digital-based pay television service enjoys an advantage over satellite or cable systems in that it can be received through a regular antenna, the system would bring other expenses for local viewers. Viewers will need either to have a television able to pick up and process a digital signal or buy a special receiver to convert the signal so that it will work on an analog-standard set.

But telephone calls to larger electronics stores in St. Petersburg on Monday revealed that digital-ready televisions are not sold in the city, so the only option is to pay $180 or more for the necessary converter.