The end of analogue

What is digital TV?

A simple explanation of the system being built up in Thailand is a broadcast using coded, orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing modulation in order to support hierarchical transmission.

No, seriously, can you explain that again, but in English this time around?

Okay. DTV is a system of broadcasting both video and audio signals which are digitally processed, as opposed to the old analogue system used since the start of television. Digital is superior to analogue in all measurable ways, providing a better picture and sound, using less bandwidth as well as allowing more channels with higher quality reception plus innovations such as an on-screen TV guide.

It's not new, but it has been phased in gradually. Major pay-TV systems have been all-digital for years now.

If it's so great, why wait?

There are costs involved, mostly for the consumer, in switching from analogue to digital. Analogue TV receivers must be upgraded or replaced. At zero hour, on the future date when all broadcasting goes digital, all-analogue TV sets will become obsolete.

For the past few years, virtually every new TV set sold has been capable of receiving digital broadcasts. The longer the wait before the final switch-over day, the lower the cost to consumers.

When will digital TV broadcasting start?

It already has, and it will be used more and more by broadcasters. If you have a TV set equipped to get DTV, you're probably getting it. But broadcasters also continue to send out analogue signals, so people with older sets don't notice.

Will there be a final switchover date?

Short answer: Yes. After a specific date or Zero Day, there will be no more analogue broadcasts in Thailand. Long answer: The switchover date has not yet been set. Natee Sukolrat of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said recently that it will not occur for "three to five years", that is some time after 2016. The simultaneous digital-analogue broadcasts will continue until then.

Do I have to get rid of my rooftop aerial?

No. DTV will be received by all existing home and office systems. The "magic" is in the TV set or set-top box. Roof aerials, rabbit ears, satellite dishes and cables all deliver DTV signals and consumers won't have to change this part of their current set-up.

What do I need in order to get DTV?

To receive digital broadcasts, a TV set must have a digital converter, either built-in or provided via a set-top box. All pay-TV systems, for example, provide digital converters, and any new TV bought in Thailand comes with a DTV converter built in.

The only people who need to be concerned about the final switch-over to DTV are those who own older TV sets and those who currently pick up their TV signal from rooftop or rabbit-ear aerials.

What is an "older TV set"?

There is no specific rule here. In general, though, a set with a square TV screen is probably analogue-only. A TV set with a vacuum-tube display will probably not be capable of receiving and converting DTV signals.

But I love my old TV! What can I do?

The solution is a DTV converter. These usually come as set-top boxes, the same as those used by pay-TV systems. The cable from the aerial hooks up to the conversion box and this, in turn, connects to the TV set where the aerial used to go. That way, the DTV picture and sound signals pass into home or office as usual, then go through the box for conversion, and finally appear on the TV screen and emerge via its speakers.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Wanda Sloan
Position: Reporter