The Netherlands turns off free analog TV

The Netherlands ended transmission of 'free to air' analog television, becoming the first nation to switch completely to digital signals, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said few Dutch consumers noticed, because the overwhelming majority get TV via cable.

Only around 74,000 households relied primarily on the old-fashioned TV antennas in this country of 16 million, although 220,000 people had an 'occasional use' set somewhere such as in a vacation house, camper or boat, according to government figures, the report said.

The bandwidth formerly used by analog has been licensed through 2017 by former telecommunications company Royal KPN NV, which will use it to broadcast digital television.

The Associated Press report also quoted KPN spokesman Jan Davids as saying that the switch occurred without any reported problems.

'Then we broke out the champagne,' he said.

At present, the full package of channels is available in most of the country, with national coverage expected by early 2007, Davids said. The government-sponsored channels were available nationally as of Monday.

The government will save around $14 million annually from the switch, the cost it used to pay to broadcast the 'free' service that was used by only 74,000 households, a hidden cost of roughly $200 per house, the report said.