State-owned Belarusian incumbent telco Beltelecom is planning to launch a pay DTT service April 2013 on the country's multiplexes 2 and 3. The service will broadcast 16 pay channels on top of the eight free-to-air channels already available on multiplex 1 (which Beltelecom also operates). For the pay service the operator will use the DVB-T2 standard. By the end of 2013 the company will build 30 transmitters across the country to provide sufficient coverage for the two new multiplexes. Beltelecom is also planning to buy 30,000 DVB-T2 set top boxes for promotion of its new pay TV service. The company says it can get 300,000-350,000 subscribers for its pay DTT service by 2015. Since 2008 the operator has been offering an IPTV service, ZALA, which reached 650,000 TV subscribers by the end of 2012. The Free DTT service launched in 2009. By the end of 2010 the coverage for DTT was short of 70 per cent of homes; currently, it reaches 95.65 per cent of households. The free DTT platform uses DVB-T broadcasting standard. The completion of analogue switch-off is scheduled for mid-2015, but the process will start in August 2013. There is already a pay DTT service in Belarus, operated by the country's second largest cable TV operator, Cosmos TV, however, it is provided only in a region of Minsk.
At the end of 2012, multichannel TV penetration in Belarus reached nearly 90 per cent of homes, with cable TV watched by well over 50 per cent of total households and IPTV picking up subscribers at a fast pace. As there is no pay satellite TV in the country, Beltelecom's pay DTT service will be the only pay TV service for homes in rural areas, competing only with freesat. As such it might well gain a substantial subscriber base in a relatively short period of time, especially given that its offer should also prove more attractive than a number of cable TV players (providing services only in urban areas), which in many cases offer only a very few pay TV channels on top of the free to air line-up. Nevertheless, the major problem for the planned service is the supply of a sufficient number of DVB-T2 set top boxes to the market. The 30,000 T2 boxes which Beltelecom is planning to give out to its subscribers will be the very first big supply of T2 boxes to the Belarusian market. Moreover, as the free-to-air DTT platform has been rolled out in DVB-T standard, the homes which have already purchased DVB-T-enabled boxes may be reluctant to subscribe to pay DTT.
Much also depends on the pricing of the new service and the price of boxes. On the one hand, two neighbouring countries, Russia and Ukraine, are rolling out DTT in T2 standard, which may help to decrease the price on the boxes in Belarus (currently a T2 box can be purchased in Russia for an equivalent of €50). On the other hand, the economic situation in Belarus is rather hard. Further, the local currency exchange rate has been recently considerably worsening (about 10 per cent over the last six months), which may have a negative impact on the price of the boxes. Belarus will be another country in Eastern Europe with a national pay DTT service, joining: Hungary, Macedonia, and Baltic countries.