January 13, 2014 00:00 By Usanee Mongkolporn
Fresh from the successful licence auction for commercial digital TV channels last month, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission is looking to auction about 4,000 similar licences for digital radio early next year
Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NBTC’s broadcasting committee, said the licences would be in the nationwide and region-wide categories. There are expected to about 20 nationwide licences. The auction will be held on a phase-by-phase basis.
The committee will sign a memorandum of understanding with MCOT, the Public Relations Department and the Royal Thai Army at the end of this month to conduct a year-long trial of digital radio broadcasting, he said.
The digital radio service will be provided on VHF (very high frequency) bands that will be returned to the NBTC by the state agencies that own existing analog TV concessions.
The existing analog AM and FM radio frequencies will be allocated for community and public radio. Currently there are 525AM and FM channels nationwide.
Natee estimated that the final price of a commercial digital radio licence would be around Bt100,000. About 10 licences to provide network services to the prospective digital radio operators will also be granted.
Meanwhile, the broadcast committee will prepare to grant 12 digital public TV licences on a "beauty contest" basis this year. The licences will be awarded to those with the most viable proposals.
The committee successfully auctioned 24 commercial terrestrial digital TV channel licences last month, which raised a total of Bt50.862 billion. Part of the up-front payment will be set aside for funding vouchers given to 22 million households towards purchase of digital receivers, either set-top boxes or TV sets with built-in compatibility.
The committee has considered raising the value of these vouchers to around Bt1,000 from the originally planned Bt690. It may join with state electricity authorities under the Interior Ministry and Thailand Post Co to distribute the vouchers.
According to the committee’s target, by June, people in 11 key provinces – half of the country's 22 million TV-equipped households – will be able to watch public and commercial channels on digital terrestrial television after its official launch on April 1.
In April, residents in Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chiang Mai and Songkhla will be the first group in the Kingdom to experience this new digital service, followed by residents in Ubon Ratchathani, Surat Thani and Rayong in May, and people in Sing Buri, Sukhothai, Khon Kaen and Udon Thani in June.