By end 2012, North America and Western Europe had effectively made the transition from legacy analog broadcast technology to digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasts.
The next milestone year (2015) was established by the ITU and a number of countries in Eastern Europe and Middle-East Africa are hoping to satisfy this goal.
With a later start to digital services a number of countries in these regions are starting with DVB-T2, avoiding the conundrum facing established DVB-T markets looking to migrate to the newer technology.
"If remaining analog shutoff timelines go largely as planned, we expect over 18 million DVB-T2 STBs will ship in 2015," said Michael Inouye, senior analyst at ABI Research.
Other potential factors, like spectrum reallocation for mobile broadband in Western Europe, might increase the demand for DVB-T2 boxes, but this likely won't be a significant factor until the latter half -- if not past the 2018 forecasting window, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.
While most countries have settled on a DTT technology, the path to digital is less consistent in other regions where multiple DTT technologies are present and future analog shutoffs span a wide time frame (2015 to 2020+).
Aiding the digital transition, Pay Terrestrial DTT operators subsidize the price of free-to-air set-top boxes in order to gain subscribers.
For instance, in Sub-Saharan Africa both StarTimes and GoTV -- a service of Naspers, parent of MultiChoice -- have launched Pay DTT platforms using a subsidized set-top box selling for about $35 while free-to-air boxes sell for approximately $60.
ABI Practice director Sam Rosen added, "Integrated televisions will certainly play a role in digitization, but set-top boxes, by necessity, are still the driver used to fully satisfy most ASO goals.
Proactive work from government agencies in the form of subsidies and consumer education remain vital components to a successful ASO, best suiting the lower cost STB as the digitization vehicle of choice.
After 2015, ABI expects demand for DTT set-top boxes will decline, but circumstances beyond ASOs could shift the outlook higher.
So far, the shift from analog to digital hasn't been a catalyst for product and service designers to re-imagine the TV experience. Perhaps that innovation will come later, when someone will creatively utilize these digital video platforms to their full potential.