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Digital TV vouchers may be handed out

VOUCHERS for the purchase of digital-compatible set-top boxes will likely be distributed in August instead of July, as the broadcasting regulator says it needs another month to set up the system for handing out the coupons.

Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the broadcasting committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said yesterday that he was concerned that the delay would have an impact on broadcasters of the 24 new commercial digital TV channels, and those wanting to view them.

The committee had originally intended to distribute the free vouchers in July, and on Tuesday the board of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research and Development Fund for the Public Interest agreed to that date. However, this board has still not yet set the vouchers' value. It expects to do so and submit it to the NBTC board for approval this month.

Natee said that once everything is approved, it was still expected to take his committee two to three months to install completely the systems needed for distributing the vouchers to households nationwide. These include a system to register suppliers of the set-top boxes and retailers eligible to join the voucher scheme. It also needs to install an information-technology system to keep up to date on the voucher distribution and the redemption of coupons into cash by retailers.

The NBTC plans to give away these vouchers to 11 million households this year, about half of the households that own television sets. They can use the vouchers for one of four options: a digital set-top box plus compatible antenna; a cable set-top box that can also receive terrestrial digital broadcasts; a satellite TV set-top box with the same compatibility; or a TV set with a built-in digital receiver.

Existing cable and satellite set-top boxes are not eligible to join the voucher scheme. Their suppliers have to register with the NBTC to join the programme and produce new lots of boxes to qualify.

In a related matter, Samart Corp yesterday disclosed that it expected to sell 1.5 million to 2 million digital set-top boxes this year, worth at least Bt2 billion. It also expects to sell 1.5 million smartphones with built-in digital-TV reception functions worth a total of Bt6 billion.


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