A new Strategy Analytics' report, Interactive and Digital Television, says the FCC's 2006 deadline for complete conversion from analog to digital broadcasting is doomed.
"Analog broadcasting is an anachronism in today's digital world, but it also fulfills a public service role," says senior analyst David Mercer. "Switching off NTSC is going to be a far greater challenge than most people realize."
The study recommends employing a "universal broadband strategy that will switch dependence to non-terrestrial distribution mechanisms" to clear the way for the return of analog broadcast spectrum by 2013.
The report predicts that less than 5% of U.S. households will tune in off-air DTV by 2005. Terrestrial broadcasters are expected to use their digital capacity increasingly for data services.
Boston-based Strategy Analytics also suggests there is still no proven business model for either HDTV or SDTV, as "HDTV receivers will always be too expensive for mass-market adoption, and the SDTV option is under threat from satellite and cable operators."
One key limitation is that more than a quarter of U.S. households own three or more TV receivers, virtually all of which are NTSC analog-based, the study says. And "every set must be capable of receiving digital signals before analog broadcasting can be switched off."