Thai Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has proposed to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) a trial of the 4K high-resolution broadcasting platform, airing content in 16 provinces.
The move is in line with the global trend of upgrading broadcast technology and explores real demand among consumers based on a demand-push basis in Thailand, said the public broadcaster.
The development of a 4K ecosystem would help the broadcasting industry survive the threat of streaming platforms, according to a source at the NBTC who requested anonymity.
The source said there are more than 4 million TV screens in Thai households that can view 4K content aired via a broadcasting network.
Thai PBS is looking to collaborate with digital TV operators to develop and air specific 4K programmes via its broadcasting network in Bangkok.
Thai PBS recently tested its 4K technical system under an NBTC permit.
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A source at Thai PBS who requested anonymity said airing 4K programmes in 16 provinces is a crucial milestone of 4K ecosystem development in Thailand.
The source said despite having more than 4 million 4K TV screens in housesholds, it is difficult to create a collaboration between Thai PBS and digital TV operators to promote 4K content on a trial basis.
Under the NBTC's existing regulations, commercial activities and advertising are banned during the trial period and this could result in a financial burden for the trial or collaboration between Thai PBS and digital TV players.
Digital TV operators already face a tough time and they are concerned over further spending or investing in the business in the near future, especially after their licences expire in 2029.
"We need to amend the regulations' conditions in the trial process to help promote 4K penetration in the country," said the source.
The source added that the 4K trial on the basis of demand-push is an interesting regime as more than 4 million households have 4K TV screens. They would be the first group to experience 4K content and help push demand in the market.
This differs from the previous situation when digital TV development was pushed via a licensing auction, while most people had no experience in using the set-top box to receive digital TV content.
Prawit Leesathapornwongsa, advisor to NBTC commissioner Pirongrong Ramasoota, said he acknowledged the move by the public broadcaster.
He said there are two alternatives to deal with the possible financial burden of the trial of airing 4K content to TV screens.
First, the NBTC board may have to revise the existing regulations' conditions which ban commercials during the trial.
Second, the board may have to adjust the conditions of the digital TV licence auction by allowing existing licensees to upgrade their broadcasting quality. For example, standard definition (SD) TV channels should be allowed to upgrade to high definition (HD) content, while existing HD channels can voluntarily upgrade to 4K.
"The amendment needs the sincerity and unity of the NBTC board," Mr Prawit said.
NBTC commissioner Pirongrong Ramasoota, who is directly responsible for television business, said the TV business ecosystem has been dramatically affected by changing consumer behaviour, the rising popularity of streaming content via social platforms and the development of over-the-top platforms (OTT).
More importantly, TV programmes and channels are facing a decline in advertising spending, while there are doubts concerning the accuracy of the calculation of the audience for each programme and channel.
The existing digital TV landscape is also being challenged by the development of frequency allocation for broadcasting under international practice as well as the development of new tech such as 4K and 5G broadcasting technology.
There were 24 digital TV channels which won licences in 2013. However, there are now only 15 channels after some of them decided to cease operations due to the financial burden.
Mrs Pirongrong explained that the digital TV channels operated through the 470-694 megahertz spectrum range in the initial period.
Digital TV operators currently provide service through the 470-614 MHz spectrum as some of the range they used earlier was reallocated for telecom service.
In the future, it is most likely that this spectrum range used in the existing digital TV landscape would be constrained by the full adoption of 4K tech.
"It is possible that there will only be 3-5 TV channels in the future, especially after licences expire in 2029, and they may only operate via HD TV and 4K technology," Mrs Pirongrong said.