The Nation



Auction of digital TV channels to be held December 26-27

The auction of 24 licences for commercial digital terrestrial TV channels will be conducted on December 26 and 27, the head of the broadcasting committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission has confirmed.

Channels for variety TV in high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) will be first on the block.

Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the committee, said his panel agreed yesterday on the timing of the auction.

On December 26, it will accept bids for seven HD and seven SD variety channels, and the auction of news and children's/family channels - all SD - will be held the next day.

The committee will prepare six hours for each round of the auction ranging from registration to conclusion. The first round of each day's bidding will run from 8am to 2pm and the second round from 4pm to 8pm. The actual auctions will take an hour, beginning at 11am and 6pm on both days.

"We want to make this auction completely clean and clear. Therefore we are offering all bidders enough time before the auction begins," Natee said.

The auction will be conducted in 16 rooms on the 27th and 28th floors of the CAT Telecom Tower in Bangkok's Bang Rak district, while the broadcasting committee will monitor the procedure from a control room on the 30th floor. Thai PBS has volunteered to broadcast the auction live.

Each bidding company will be allowed to bring a maximum of 10 pages of documents related to its business plan into the auction room. The broadcasting panel will allow only five people, including key decision-makers, to join in each round.

As this spectrum auction marks the transition to the digital terrestrial TV era, the broadcasting panel has invested Bt20 million in software development, space rental and other arrangements. The panel will summarise the list of successful bidders after each auction but these names will not be officially approved until the committee's weekly board meeting on January 6.

Commercial digital terrestrial TV channels are expected to go on air in early February, while delivery of Bt690 subsidy coupons to households for purchase of digital-capable equipment will start by midyear.

Natee said that in the first phase his panel expected to distribute the discount coupons in Greater Bangkok and key provinces. The distribution of the coupons will be conducted in accordance with the penetration of digital TV coverage areas.

He said the NBTC office had deployed 500,000 labels to guarantee the compatibility of TV sets with built-in digital tuners - so-called integrated digital TV (iDTV) sets - and set-top boxes. The latter will get 300,000 of the labels and the rest will be attached to iDTV sets. Consumers will be able to use the discount coupons for purchase of either an iDTV set or a digital set-top box.

Natee said that after the auction, his panel would focus on the transition from analog to digital radio broadcasting in the hope of minimising interference from illegal radio operators. The broadcasting committee will sign memoranda of understanding with state-run radio-frequency holders including the Army, MCOT and the Public Relations Department, as well as leading manufacturers of cars and mobile digital radio receivers, for joint development of a digital radio standard.

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