British Digital Broadcasting Ltd, the Carlton Communications Plc and Granada Group Plc-owned consortium set to introduce digital terrestrial television to the UK next year, is triggering speculation that it may not meet its deadline because it has not yet issued likely manufacturers with specifications for the set- top boxes. Pace Micro Technology Plc, the Shipley, West Yorkshire set-top decoder maker says it would expect to be one of the companies contacted by BDB, but as yet it says none of the possible manufacturers has seen a specification for the boxes. Pace has good reason to be nervous. The company has seen its share prices hit by the slower than expected take up of digital television equipment orders, and a tailing off of analog business in anticipation of digital television. British Digital won’t comment, other than to say that it still intends to launch its service in the second half of next year. It said all the manufacturers it has been talking to have expressed confidence that they could produce the boxes in time. Pace, was one of four companies selected to manufacture boxes for British Interactive Broadcasting Ltd, the UK digital satellite consortium of British Telecommunications Plc, British Sky Broadcasting Plc, Midland Bank Plc and Matsushita (UK) earlier this year (CI No 3,173), and has supplied boxes for eleven different systems. The company says it is confident it can deliver the goods, but says that while the back end of all the set-top boxes, be they for cable, satellite or digital terrestrial is the same, the front end interface is different for each, and has to be varied according to the broadcaster’s particular requirements. Time is running out if British Digital is to keep to its timetable, but it will give no indication as to why it is dragging its feet over the specifications.
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