Planning needed for transition to digital TV: expert
The transition from analogue to digital terrestrial TV could be expedited with good planning, an appropriate subsidy scheme and a strong public awareness campaign, a broadcasting expert said last week.
Richard Womersley, director of spectrum consulting for LS Telcom, said the switchover to digital terrestrial TV requires four stages - planning, initiation, switchover and completion.
Womersley, who has been consulting for more than 20 years in radio spectrum management, public telecommunications, digital broadcasting and satellite industries, was speaking with local TV broadcasters at the "Go Digital" workshop held by the National Broadcasting and Telecommu-nications Commission (NBTC) in Pattaya.
In the planning phase, the regulator should establish technical teams and develop a frequency
plan, a website for digital TV transition, publicity materials and a call centre.
A good pilot or test of signal transmission was very important to ensure that receivers, digital set-top boxes or new antennas can be reached by consumers.
"The authority should also commence the analogue switchover in assigned areas in line with the digital TV testing," he said.
Although it was considered as a test, everything must be in place.
Though it is difficult to predict how fast the switchover can be, lessons from other countries say it might take two to 15 years.
A lack of benefits or attractive incentives for TV broadcasters, high cost receivers, lack of consumer awareness or interest and strong competition from other platforms like cable/satellite TV and IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) could make the process longer.
Good initial planning and sufficient engineer teams to roll out the digital TV network across the country could help promote digitalisation.
The government, regulator and broadcasters must set a common goal for this process.
A strong public awareness campaign was needed to promote the switchover before and after
the beginning of the process.
The campaign should be involved with 360-degree communication via direct mail, media activities, advertising, online communications and a call centre.
Retailers are a key part of this process as they are in the middle of the public and new technology.
"All retailers must be trained and have sufficient knowledge to give customers a better understanding of how to use a digital TV set," he said.
Providing a subsidy for consumers to get an affordable digital TV set or set-top box is a big challenge during the transition. There are many methods such as offering vouchers, rebates or low cost box rentals.
The NBTC's committee overseeing the transition has floated the idea of providing discount coupons to all 22 million households to buy digital TV sets or set-top boxes.
The concept of the subsidy scheme is expected to be approved by the NBTC's broadcasting committee today.