Transition testing worth close monitoring
The digital TV transitional testing period provides real impact on the future of DTV in Thailand and alll stakeholders should closely monitor movement and feedback, said consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
The feedback from both TV broadcaster and general public point of views is important, said Teera Kanokkanjanarat, senior ICT industry analyst .
"Digital TV provides higher quality of picture and voice quality. However, what entail is the risk of signal loss and lack of coverage in remote area, or 'digital cliff'. In analog broadcasting, TV viewers in some area with strong signal will get a clear reception, meanwhile some remote areas with weaker signal will experience limited picture quality, but still be able to view the program. However, under digital signal broadcast, the viewing will either be perfect or not at all (showing black screen, if the signal is not strong enough). This issue bears significant importance since more than 2 out of 3 entire Thai populations live in upcountry provinces," said Teera.
Today, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) began the "Transition Testing" period with the broadcasting coverage over 4 cities: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Songkhla, and Nakhon Ratchasima. This trial period will continue until April 24 before the full broadcasting begins in June this year.
The main purpose of trial period is to run pilot test on the campaign and technical test on signal transmission. Meanwhile, it is also an opportunity for ground level broadcaster such as MCOT, ThaiPBS, and CH5 to work with 24 digital channel content providers. TV broadcasters whom participate in this trial period will be allowed to air their content without strict rules on program listings, yet they are not allowed to account any revenues from broadcasting throughout this period. Though NBTC did not issue a mandate that all channel licensees have to participate in this trial phase, Frost & Sullivan believes that participation in this trial period has high significance and all stakeholders should closely monitor the outcome.
"This transition testing period is highly important in terms of finding out technical errors and potential difficulty before the full launch in June. For existing TV broadcasters with content ready in analog such as VoiceTV or Daily News, this trial period allow them to gain feedback on coverage and quality of HD platform. Meanwhile for new entrants such as Thairath and PPTV, this testing period will help them assess technical readiness and public reception," Teera said.
"For NBTC and spectrum providers, although this trial period will have coverage limited to 4 provinces, the feedback will provide good evaluation on network coverage, signal transmission quality, digital cliff, public comments, technical emergencies, and effectiveness of current public relation campaign."
Frost and Sullivan believes that lessons and case study on DTV transition from other countries can be used as guidelines and provide good learning for Thailand's DTV roadmap.
"Thailand's DTV roadmap has a lot similarities comparing to DTV transition done in the USA. During the transition period, US Federal Communications Commission decided to use Wilmington, North Carolina as DTV test market. Although FCC had done significant amount of public relation in many media channels prior to the launch, it turned out that more than 7 per cent of the population had technical difficulties. FCC call centre also received over 1,800 phone calls on reception problems, mainly on set top box configuration, antenna setup, and signal scanning. There was also large number of population with limited understanding of DTV system. The issues escalated to the point that congress had to reevaluate the possibility of delaying the launch date," Teera added.