Revolution looms for Thai digital television

NBTC expects more than 100 channels to be on air in the next five years

The spectrum-management and broadcasting master plans will drastically change the landscape of the Thai television industry with up to 100 digital-TV channels being available for public viewing in the near future.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission aims to grant digital terrestrial TV broadcasting licences late this year and expects to see the number of digital-TV channels grow to 100 within the next five years, NBTC broadcasting committee chairman Natee Sukonrat said yesterday.

About 50 licences are expected to be handed out in the first lot by early next year.

The move is in line with the NBTC draft of the spectrum-management master plan aiming to take radio and TV broadcasters to the digital era within four years after the master plan takes effect.

After a long delay plagued with disputes stemming from political and business motives, the NBTC came into full existence just a few months ago. Formed under a constitutional spirit that treats broadcast and telecom frequencies as national resources that are to be shared and must benefit all Thais equally, the NBTC apparently has hit the ground running with its digital-TV plan.

Natee told the Nation Multimedia Group yesterday that the watchdog was expected to trial the digital terrestrial TV broadcasting system in June in its attempt to educate viewers on a wider scale. Free-TV operators will be invited to conduct the test.

The NBTC digital-TV plan seems set to shake up the television-industry landscape as the operating costs of TV will significantly go down. The large number of new channels will draw a massive number of content providers to the long-monopolised playing field.

He added that digital broadcasting technology would enable the maximum use of TV broadcasting spectra and provide better service quality to viewers.

But the watchdog might not need to specify the technology platforms that the broadcasters should use for the trial.

The NBTC’s draft of the broadcasting master plan determines that the watchdog will complete the details of this digital switch-over plan for TV broadcasting within one year and for radio broadcasting within two years, and will start digital radio and TV broadcasting within four years. It will also complete regulations on licensing of digital TV broadcasting within two years and for digital radio broadcasting within three years.

Natee said prospective digital-TV broadcasters should be encouraged to use a common infrastructure to create a cost-effective operation.

The watchdog will put the drafts of the spectrum, broadcasting and telecom master plans for nationwide hearing next Friday.

They are expected to become effective in March.


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