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Two-year-old NBTC maps out agenda, including digital radio

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission plans this year to focus on managing radio stations, allocating frequencies for digital radio broadcasting and reclaiming telecom frequencies for reallocation.

The NBTC celebrated its second anniversary yesterday.

Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the commission's broadcasting committee, said the priority of his panel after starting its third year was to usher in the era of digital radio broadcasting.

Since last year, the broadcasting committee has granted one-year licences to 2,844 radio stations across the country.

The NBTC aims to govern those stations under these temporary licences before drafting rules for them, while giving the stations time to prepare well for the coming regulations.

The NBTC is drafting guidelines for the conversion from analog to digital radio on the VHF (very high frequency) band.

The NBTC expects to learn from Australia's success in reaching more than 10 per cent of its population with digital radio.

For the auction of 24 licences for commercial digital terrestrial television, Natee is confident that the process is on track and the first channels will go on air by the first quarter of next year.

However, private firms have urged the NBTC to launch a campaign to raise public awareness of the benefits of digital TV.

Nation Broadcasting

Adisak Limprungpatanakij, president of Nation Broadcasting Corporation, said he was happy with the developments driven by the NBTC, but people needed to be well prepared for this transition.

Vilasinee Chivanond, vice president of GMM Z, said an educational campaign was crucial not only for the public but also content providers and broadcasters.

Adisak said what needed to be done for the second year was involving TV popularity ratings endorsed by the NBTC and explaining more details on the interim simulcast period. NBTC chairman Thares Punsri said that this year the watchdog would concentrate on reclaiming frequencies for reallocation.

It is also setting up a joint panel of the telecom and broadcasting committees to address the future of the 700-megahertz band.

The NBTC has over the past few months been urged by international telecom organisations to make it clear that the 700MHz band would be reserved for mobile broadband service and not for terrestrial digital broadcasting, in line with international standards.

The broadcasting committee has allocated the 510-790MHz range for digital TV, but the NBTC's telecom road map committee has proposed reserving 698-806MHz for the future provisioning of mobile broadband service. The road-map panel suggested that the broadcasting committee allocate 470-694MHz for digital TV broadcasts instead.

Vichai Bencharongkul, president of the Telecommunication Association of Thailand, said he wanted to see the watchdog better enforce existing regulations to drive the telecom industry forward. Laws should also be amended to enable the broadcasting and telecom committees to work seamlessly. Currently they have their own rules and regulations and work as separate entities.

Wichian Mektrakarn, chief executive of Advanced Info Service (AIS), said recently that he hoped the NBTC would be successful in its continued repossession of frequencies.

Jon Eddy Abdullah, CEO of Total Access Communication (DTAC), said recently that the watchdog deserved credit for its success in bring about a third-generation-cellular licensing regime for the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum. The NBTC should continue with licensing, which would result in better telecom services for consumers.

Last December, the NBTC granted 2.1GHz licences to three bid winners - AIS's Advanced Wireless Service, DTAC TriNet and True Corp's Real Future. Its next step is to auction the 1,800MHz spectrum in September next year.


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