Digital broadcast to have far-reaching effects
The new era of broadcasting is beginning with the transformation from analog to digital terrestrial television service in the Kingdom.Not only will 22 million households be able to watch better-|quality TV programmes on more channels, but businesses ranging from upstream to downstream can benefit from this coming development.
The Royal Army's TV5 last week launched a trial of digital broadcasting. TV5 spent about Bt60 million for new transmitters and related transmission costs. This investment includes 1,000 digital-compatible set-top boxes and antennas for a sample audience in Greater Bangkok.
Once digital broadcasting is officially launched later in the year, the transition is expected to boost the economy by more than Bt40 billion, according to the estimation of the Thai Electrical, Electronics and Telecommunication Industries Association.
Prapat Rathlertkarn, TETA deputy secretary-general, said this boost would come from new business in the broadcasting industry itself and related enterprises in the supply chain.
Under its master plan for the transition to digital TV and radio, |the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) says 80 per cent of households in major cities should be able to access such services within five years.
During this transformation, an infrastructure provider needs to invest at least Bt10 billion on broadcasting towers and facilities, replacing existing analog equipment, Prapat said.
Meanwhile producers will also focus on creating more quality TV programmes to fill the new digital channels.
Of the 48 digital TV channels, the NBTC has reserved 12 for public TV and 12 for community-based service. These channels will be aired in standard definition (SD).
The remaining 24 channels will be for commercial purposes, comprising five SD channels for children/family programmes, five SD channels for news/information programmes, 10 SD channels for variety programmes, and four high-definition channels for variety programmes.
Prapat projected that this process would create jobs in the industry and generate new businesses such as production houses and network and facility providers, worth about Bt10 billion.
Manufacturers of digital TV |sets, set-top boxes and indoor/|outdoor antennas would also benefit. TETA projects that this manufacturing sector will be boosted by more than Bt20 billion in investments.
For example, leading television-set makers say they are ready for the changeover to digital terrestrial television.
In a previous interview, Ratchata Suttapattanon, senior manager for audio-visual (AV) business at Thai Samsung Electronics, said the transition would benefit both consumers and manufacturers.
Samsung has experienced such changes in countries including Australia and Singapore, he said, adding that production at his company's Sri Racha plant could begin quickly to meet local demand.
Hideki Kondo, manager for AV-product marketing at Sony Thai, said its Bravia television sets supported the first version of the DVB-T digital broadcasting system in the Pacific region.
He added that though his company had no plan to sell set-top boxes individually, it was trying its best to develop a TV set with a build-in digital antenna in time for the commencement of digital broadcasting in Thailand.
Apart from manufacturers of TV sets and signal converters, Kittsanan Ngamphatipong, chief executive officer at Cable Thai Holdings, said his company also planned to import hybrid digital set-top boxes, which are able to work with terrestrial and cable TV signals, from China this year.
Samart Engineering, a local distributor of DVB-T2 set-top boxes, has reserved a million sets (antenna plus set-top box) and has been waiting for the NBTC's green light to allow it to sell such products, which are expected to retail for less than Bt1,000 per set.
Another factor expected to boost sales in this business sector is a subsidy scheme.
Last month, the NBTC agreed to offer discount coupons for 22 million households in to encourage them to buy either new TV sets or set-top boxes to enable them to view |programmes on the new digital channels.