Free vouchers for digital TV set-top boxes

Economy March 28, 2014 00:00

By Usanee Mongkolporn
The Nation

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The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will start mailing vouchers for free digital-TV set-top boxes to households in four provinces by June, commissioner Supinya Klangnarong said yesterday.

The four provinces are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima and Songkhla, which will be covered initially by the digital-TV network providers.
An NBTC source said the commission’s broadcasting committee would meet on Monday to approve the process of delivering these vouchers to about 25 million households, with those in the four provinces being the first few. 
However, the watchdog’s Broadcasting and Telecommunications Resources Development Fund for Public Interest (BITFP) board has yet to finalise the value of these vouchers, though it is believed that the vouchers will be priced at around Bt1,000. The price of set-top boxes generally ranges between Bt900 and Bt1,500.
The Bank of Thailand will print the vouchers to prevent counterfeiting, while Thailand Post will oversee the delivery, according to the source. These vouchers can then be used to pick up a digital-TV set-top box and a compatible antenna at specific shops.
Suppliers can then exchange these vouchers for cash at all branches of state-owned Krungthai Bank, for which NBTC has already deposited Bt11.9 billion. These funds come from the up-front payments it received from the auction of 24 commercial digital-TV licences last December. 
The NBTC has given digital-TV network operators the green light to run a trial service from April 1 to 24 before it officially grants licences to the operators of 24 channels on April 25. This trial period will initially focus on the first four provinces, where users can use the new set-top boxes. Consumers who already have cable or satellite set-top boxes can also access the channels nationwide during the trial period. 
At a seminar the NBTC held yesterday to learn about consumers’ views, the most frequently asked questions were about the final price of the voucher, digital-TV coverage and how the digital-TV system works.