The development of digital terrestrial TV in China has been put on hold as engineers struggle to agree a single standard for the technology.

Chinese authorities are keen to patent a domestically-developed digital terrestrial system as part of a bid for independence in high-tech markets. This, they believe, will act as a boost to the nation's electronics industries, which will not have to catch up with foreign firms selling established technology.

The initial deadline for the announcement of a technological standard for digital terrestrial TV was the end of 2003. However, nothing has been released so far and reports suggest there could be a delay of up to twelve months.

According to one unnamed informant, technology tested last year was found to be "not sufficient", and the government requires more time to work out intellectual property issues after being inundated with patent applications.

"The Chinese government has insisted that the deadline is the end of this year," revealed the insider. "We are working hard to work out a unified proposal by the middle of this year, to allow the authorities to do official tests in the second half of the year."

If a standard can be finalised in time, commercial trials are planned for next year. However, digital terrestrial broadcasts will not have wide coverage until 2008, to coincide with the Beijing Olympics.

Given this delay, some analysts have questioned how much demand there will be for digital terrestrial by the time it launches. Cable and satellite firms have been given permission to use the established European DVB (digital video broadcasting) standard, and some are already offering dTV using existing technology.

The government expects there to be 10 million digital cable homes by the end of the year and 30m by 2005, out of a total cable-TV base of 100m households.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff