Digital TV: What do I need to know?

Digital TV: What do I need to know?

In early April, Thailand begins transition to new digital TV system with more channels & content. Learn how it will affect your TV viewing habits.

Digital TV countdown

Trial period to begin early next month


Thailand’s broadcasting industry is counting down to a phenomenal transition in the industry from the terrestrial TV platform to digitalisation which will begin its trial period early next month.

The country’s broadcasting industry started in 1955 with the black-and-white TV system before advancing to colour TV. The onset of digitalisation is seen as a major evolutionary step that will affect the entire industry, business operators and consumers nationwide.

Viewers are definitely looking forward to the migration, yet many are unsure of what it involves.

“Do I need to have a new TV set?” and “Will the transmission reach my home and am I eligible for a subsidised coupon?” are the main questions that many people are asking about the imminent change. Below are questions and answers that we hope will give readers a better understanding of the change to digitalisation.


The Thai broadcasting industry turned a new page after the introduction of digital TV and an auction for 24  commercial digital TV channels held in December last year. The auctions generated a total of 50.9 billion baht with winning bids averaging 2.3 times the starting price.

The new channels raise the total number of digital TV channels to 48, comprising 12 public channels, 12 community channels, seven news channels, seven variety channels, three children’s channels and seven HD channels

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is in the process of approving licences for the auction winners of the 24 digital TV channels which will be finalised before the trial period begins in early April. 

Why digitalisation?

Digital TV is an evolution of the utilisation of radio frequencies in which efficiency will be way higher than that of the analogue system. With digitalisation, one frequency transmission can carry as many as eight to 25 channels while the analogue system can carry only one.

But why digitalisation? Firstly, digital TV allows viewers to get more channels with a greater variety of content such as news, children’s shows and more programming compared with the existing six free-analogue TV channels (channels 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and Thai PBS) and this also includes cable and satellite. Digital TV broadcasters are expected to produce a higher quality and greater variety of content.

Moreover, the quality of sound and images will be improved with the digitalised platform with a reduction in interference.

Who can watch it and how?

All 22 million households who have television sets should be eventually able to watch digital TV by 2017. During the initial stage, viewers in Greater Bangkok, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Udon Thani and Chiang Mai will be able to watch digital TV channels while the transmission will expand to other provinces soon after. By 2017, 95% of total households are expected to be fully migrated to the digital format and the analogue system will then be obsolete.

There are many different scenarios you may face when moving to digital TV:

1. Analogue-based TV or high-definition TV (HDTV) plus antenna

It may not be necessary for viewers in this category to purchase a new TV set and they can watch digital TV with the use of a set-top box (STB) as an antenna will act as a signal receptor.

Viewers will then be able to watch 36 digital channels while they will have limited exposure to the remaining 12 community channels as their accessibility will be based on individual regions such as northern, central, eastern, southern and northeastern region.

However, viewers with analogue TVs will be able to watch only standard definition (SD) platform while those with HDTVs are eligible to watch 29 SD channels and seven high-definition (HD) channels.

A set-top box (STB) is an information appliance device. The box will turn the source signal into content in a form that can then be displayed on the TV screen with the help of an antenna. Viewers are also eligible for the seven HD channels.

2. Integrated digital TV (iDTV) plus antenna

There is no need for viewers with an iDTV set to get a STB. They can view all 48 digital TV channels by hooking up the set with an antenna. iDTV is a television set with a built-in digital tuner.

Meanwhile, viewers will be able to watch the 36 digital channels with the exception of the 12 community channels that will be available according to individual local communities in each region. All 36 channels will be transmitted through HD platform.  

3. Cable and satellite

Viewers will be able to automatically watch the 36 digital TV channels except the dozen community channels that will be available based on individual regions.

However, through the cable and satellite, viewers will be able to watch the content with only SD quality. If they want to upgrade the quality, they will need to get an STB to enhance the quality to HD.

What’s with the free TV channels?

After the arrival of the digital channels, viewers can still watch the free TV channels — 3, 5, 7, 9,11 and TPBS — as usual.

Based on the regulation of simulcast period, channels 5 and 11 and TPBS will be required to broadcast their content on both analogue and digital platforms during the transitional period. And it is very likely that channels 3, 7 and 9 will also air their existing content on digital TV. So viewers will continue to receive the existing free TV channels. And by 2017 all channels are expected to broadcast through the digital system.

Subsidised coupons

In order to ease the public’s burden for the migration of analogue to digital, the NBTC will provide a subsidy in the form of a coupon. Every household nationwide will be granted coupons which can be used to purchase either a new TV set or a set-top box to enable them to switch to digital content. The value of the coupon will be finalised soon.

Learn from listening

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  • advance: moving forward - การเคลื่อนไปข้างหน้า
  • analogue: the telephone system that came before "digital" -
  • antenna: (plural antennae) a piece of equipment made of wire or long straight pieces of metal for receiving or sending radio and television signals - สายอากาศ, เสาอากาศ
  • approve: to give official permission - อนุมัต
  • auction: a usually public sale of goods or property, where people make higher and higher bids (= offers of money) for each thing, until the thing is sold to the person who will pay most - การขายโดยการประมูล, การขายทอดตลาด
  • average: the amount, level, standard etc that is typical of a group of people or things - ค่าเฉลี่ย, ส่วนเฉลี่ย
  • background: information about some person or subject that helps you better understand them and understand current events - ประวัติ
  • bid: an offer to buy or provide something at a specific price - การประมูล, การให้ราคา, การเสนอราคา
  • broadcasting (noun): the sending out of a programme on television or radio - กระจายเสียง,กระจายข่าว
  • burden: to give somebody a duty, responsibility, etc. that causes worry, difficulty or hard work - เป็นภาระ
  • category: a group of people or things that have similar qualities - หมวดหมู่ ประเภท
  • channel (noun): TV channel - ช่อง, ช่องโทรทัศน์
  • commercial: for business purposes - เกี่ยวกับการค้า
  • community: the people living in one particular area - ชุมชน
  • comprising: consisting of - ประกอบด้วย
  • consumer: someone who buys and uses goods and services - ผู้บริโภค
  • content: the subject, ideas, or story that a piece of writing or a radio or television programme deals with - เนื้อหา,สาระ
  • coupon: a small piece of printed paper that you can exchange for something or that gives you the right to buy something at a cheaper price than normal - คูปอง, บัตรแลกสินค้าที่ได้จากร้านค้า
  • definition: resolution; the amount of detail that you can see on a television or computer screen - ความละเอียดของภาพ, จำนวนจุดหรือพิกเซลบนจอภาพ
  • digitalisation: making some system "digital" or computer-based -
  • ease: to make a problem, situation or pain less severe or serious - บรรเทา
  • efficiency: the ability to work well and produce good results by using the available time, money, supplies etc in the most effective way - ความมีประสิทธิภาพ
  • eligible: allowed by rules or laws to do something or to receive something - มีสิทธิ
  • evolution (noun): the gradual development of plants, animals, etc. over many years as they adapt to changes in their environment; the gradual development of something - วิวัฒนาการ
  • evolutionary: gradual change that adapts to a new situation -
  • existing (adj): present now; in use now; used now - ที่มีอยู่
  • expand: to make or become larger - ขยาย เพิ่ม
  • exposure: experience with or information about something - ประสบการณ์
  • finalise: to complete the last part of a plan, trip, project, etc - ทำให้เสร็จสมบูรณ์
  • format: the arrangement, design or organisation of something - รูปแบบ
  • frequency: the number of times that a wave, especially a sound or radio wave, is produced within a particular period, especially one second - ความถี่
  • generate: to produce - ก่อให้เกิด
  • grant: to officially give something - ให้
  • high-definition: high resolution; the ability of a camera, microscope, computer screen, etc. to show things clearly and with a lot of very small details - ความละเอียดสูงมีความคมชัด
  • household: a group of people, often a family, who live together - ครัวเรือน
  • imminent: expected to happen soon - ในไม่ช้า จวนเจียน จวนตัว
  • in the process of: currently working on .... -
  • initial: early; first - เบื้องต้น
  • interference: anything that disrupts a TV or radio signal as it travels between transmitter and receiver -
  • licence: an official document that gives someone permission to do or use something - ใบอนุญาต
  • limited: not much or enough; not very great in amount or extent - จำกัด
  • looking forward to (idiom): feeling happy and/or excited about something that is going to happen - รอคอย
  • migrate: moving from one place to another or from an old technology to a new technology - อพยพ
  • migration: moving from one place to another or from an old technology to a new technology - การอพยพ
  • National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC): the independent government agency which oversees and regulates the Thai telecoms and broadcasting industry - สำนักงานคณะกรรมการกิจการกระจายเสียง กิจการโทรทัศน์และกิจการโทรคมนาคมแห่งชาติ
  • nationwide: throughout a whole country - ทั่วทั้งประเทศ
  • necessary (adj.): essential, needful, something that you must do or have - จำเป็น, ซึ่งเลี่ยงไม่ได้, ซึ่งเป็นที่ต้องการ, สำคัญ
  • obsolete: not in use any more, having been replaced by something newer and better - ล้าสมัย หมดยุคไปแล้ว
  • onset: the beginning of something, especially something unpleasant - การเริ่มต้น กำเริบ
  • operator (noun): a person or company that runs a business - ผู้ดำเนินกิจการทางธุรกิจ, ผู้ประกอบธุรกิจ
  • phenomenal: very great or impressive - พิเศษ, ยอดเยี่ยม
  • platform (noun): a type of media or way of distributing information , e.g., websites, newspapers, magazines, video, etc. -
  • province: one of many divisions of the government of a country into smaller parts - จังหวัด
  • public (noun): people - ผู้คน
  • purchase: to buy something - ซื้อ
  • region: a large area of land or space, usually without exact limits or borders - ภูมิภาค, ขอบเขต, แถบ, บริเวณ
  • satellite: an electronic device that is sent into space and moves around the earth or another planet. It is used for communicating by radio, television, etc. and for providing information - ดาวเทียม
  • set-top box (noun): the box on top of TV used to receive satellite or cable TV and select channels - กล่องรับสัญญาณ
  • signal: a mobile phone, TV or radio transmission -
  • stage: a part of an activity or process or a period of development - ช่วง, ระยะ, ตอน
  • subsidised: paid part of the cost of something - ให้ความช่วยเหลือด้านการเงิน
  • subsidy: an amount of money that a government or organisation pays to help to reduce the cost of a product or service - เงินชดเชยที่รัฐเป็นผู้จ่ายให้
  • television set: the actual TV equipment that receives TV signals and displays them - จอรับภาพ, จอภาพ
  • transition: the process of changing from one situation or state to another - การเปลี่ยนถ่าย การโอน
  • transmission (noun): the process of sending out electronic signals such as television or radio signals or electronic messages through data networks - การส่งสัญญาณ แพร่ภาพ กระจายเสียง
  • trial: a test, usually over a limited period of time, to discover how effective or suitable something or someone is - การทดลอง, การทดสอบ
  • variety (noun): many different types of things or people - ความหลากหลาย
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