The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will give a six-month simulcast period to free-television operators for digital broadcast testing.
The move is aimed at accelerating the transition from analogue to digital TV. It is also intended to encourage the imagination of consumers and encourage innovative use of digital technology.
Col Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NBTC's broadcasting committee, said the regulator agreed in principle to allow free-TV stations to run their channels on digital platforms during the simulcast period _ both digital and analogue signals.
Col Natee said TV operators are divided into public and commercial categories.
Three channels operate public services on the UHF frequency: Channel 5, run by the Royal Thai Army; Channel 11, operated by the Public Relations Department; and public TV station Thai PBS.
The NBTC has reserved the UHF frequency for three purposes on digital TV: public service, community and commercial.
Commercial TV channels include Channel 3, operated by BEC World Plc; Channel 7, run by BBTV; and Channel 9, operated by MCOT Plc.
Col Natee said the testing would help consumers to understand more about digital TV and assure them that existing free-TV programmes will still remain but new content will be available.
The simulcast period for commercial channels will stop once the winners of bids for digital TV licences for commercial channels start broadcasting.
The watchdog plans to issue licences for temporary digital broadcasts in April.
The NBTC last month signed a memorandum of understanding with Thai PBS. Under the agreement, the regulator will issue a digital TV licence for a public service channel with high-definition (HD) quality.
Thai PBS, meanwhile, will have to return the UHF frequency to the NBTC by 2016. The frequency will then be reallocated for digital broadcasts.
Thai PBS could then obtain another public channel on the digital system with HD quality over the next three years.
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Writer: Saengwit Kewaleewongsatorn