TALLINN - Elion, Estonia's largest telecommunications firm, is set to become the trailblazer in digital television, announcing on Feb. 1 that it would begin transmitting a high-definition TV signal later this month, the first company to do so in the Baltics. "We are starting the transmission of HDTV now in order to be the first [company] in the Baltic states to show our customers the future of TV broadcasting," Ingvar Kupinski, an Elion director, said in a statement.
"If HDTV transmission is already widespread in the U.S. and Japan and there are numerous channels, then in Europe this field is just starting to develop, and we wish to be at the forefront," he added.
Standard, or analog, television possesses a resolution of 720x576 pixels. High-definition television, by contrast, has 1920x1080 pixels, and allows for widescreen formatting like in cinemas. As Elion explained, a high-def TV picture "consists of a greater number of densely packed dots of light, which combine to create an image that is many times sharper."
Elion said that it would begin transmitting the first HDTV channel 's Voom 's to customers of Kaabel DigiTV in February.
Voom, which belongs to U.S.-based Rainbow Holdings, is a culture and entertainment channel featuring travel and nature programs, fashion shows and extreme sports.
But in order to watch high-definition snowboarding and fashion models, viewers will need to purchase an HDTV digibox for 4,990 kroons (319 euros) from Elion. And, of course, they will need the requisite television set. Ideal picture quality is provided by HDTV-ready LCD (liquid crystal display) or plasma TVs, Elion said.
"HDTV is a leap in quality compared to the ordinary or standard-resolution TV offered today," said Toivo Praakel, director of Elion's Internet and Data Communi-cations Service.
"With the addition of Voom to the Elion Kaabel DigiTV program, we wish to prove that we are technically capable of bringing a high-quality picture to our customers already today. We hope that the Estonian TV channels will start to produce high-resolution content in the near future," Praakel added.
HDTV is a type of digital television service that facilitates greater possibilities for multiple programming and interactive capabilities for viewers. Instead of being limited to broadcasting one analog program, digital TV transmitters will be able to provide a sharp HDTV program or multiple "standard definition" digital programs simultaneously, which is referred to as "multicasting."
In the United States, all broadcasters have switched, at least partially, to transmitting digital television signals. Some have switched over completely. According to the Federal Communications Com-mission, on Feb. 17, 2009 TV stations "will cease broadcasting on their current analog channels, and the spectrum they use for analog broadcasting will be reclaimed and put to other uses."
In Estonia, Elion Kaabel DigiTV will be available in new housing developments in Tallinn, Tartu and Parnu, the company said. Also, Elion will start offering HDTV to Kodulahendus DigiTV customers in the second half of 2007.
To be sure, this is not the first time Elion is offering digital television. In April of last year the company began offering digital TV transmission through its ADSL broadband Internet network. A month later it added a new generation "Home Solution" together with super high-speed Internet allowing for faster data transmission.
For Estonians, DigiTV is catching on fast. In October, the company announced that in the six months since its inception, almost 20,000 customers subscribed to the service.
Elion is the leader in fixed-line communications and Internet services in Estonia. It is owned by Eesti Telekom, which, in turn, is controlled by TeliaSonera (53.7 percent), the Scandinavian telecommunication corporation. The state retains a 27.3 percent stake in Eesti Telekom.