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Digital TV to be available in 11 provinces by June, NBTC says

By June, people in 11 key provinces - half of the country's 22 million TV-equipped households - will be able to watch public and commercial channels on digital terrestrial television after its official launch on April 1, according to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

This was revealed after the NBTC's broadcasting committee yesterday approved the results of last month's auction of 24 commercial digital TV licences.

In April, residents in Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chiang Mai and Songkhla will be the first group in the Kingdom to experience this new digital service. Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the committee, said this would include all 24 commercial channels and some in the public-broadcasting category.

In May, residents in Ubon Ratchathani, Surat Thani and Rayong will get access to this cutting-edge broadcasting service, and people in Sing Buri, Sukhothai, Khon Kaen and Udon Thani will get the chance in June.

Natee said the order in which various provinces were earmarked to receive the service was determined in accordance with the digital roll-out plan proposed by the four state-run operators of the existing analog networks. Those are the Royal Army, operator of TV5; MCOT, the operator of Modernine TV; the Public Relations Department, which runs the NBT channel; and Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS).

Under the NBTC's "must carry" rule, subscribers to cable and satellite TV services will also be able to view the new terrestrially based digital channels - 12 public and 24 commercial.

Not only will more than half of the 22 million households in the country that own a TV be able to enjoy the new digital channels, they will also be provided a Bt690 discount coupon by the NBTC for purchase of either a set-top box or an integrated digital TV (iDTV) set. This subsidy scheme is aimed at shortening the transition from analog to digital.

The broadcasting committee aims to distribute discount coupons to households in the rest of the country over next four years.

However, Natee said his panel would discuss with the committee of the NBTC's research and development fund an increase in the value of the discount coupons to cover the combined prices of set-top boxes and antennas.


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