NBTC to subsidise digital switch

NBTC to subsidise digital switch

All 22 million households in Thailand look set to receive a subsidy package to upgrade to a digital television set or set-top box to ease the nationwide transition to a digital TV system.

The broadcasting committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) approved in principle yesterday a decision to give away discount coupons to help viewers.

A discount coupon will be provided for people who want to buy a new TV set or set-top box to receive digital TV signals.

However, Natee Sukolrat, chairman of the broadcast committee, said the coupon value has not yet been set.

A digital set-top box costs around 800-1,000 baht, which means the total cost of the subsidy for the NBTC could be as high as 22 billion baht.

"The coupon value will depend on the valuation we receive in bidding for the spectrum for the 24 digital TV channels," Col Natee said.

Digital broadcasts will increase the number of channels available to viewers, from the current total of six to as many as 48. The government is auctioning off spectrum for 24 channels, while the other 24 will be kept for public services purposes.

The auction will be held and licences distributed this year.

He said the coupon costs will be taken into account when drawing up the spectrum bidding criteria.

The NBTC expects to receive an evaluation of the spectrum's value from Chulalongkorn University next month, he said.

Thawatchai Jittrapan, an NBTC commissioner, said evaluations of the spectrum's value initially ranged from 100 million baht to 1 billion baht per licence.

Col Natee said the money raised from the auction will be delivered to the universal service obligation (USO) fund, as the 2007 constitution stipulates that spectrum is a national resource. "We need approval from the USO committee for the subsidy coupon scheme, before passing the proposal on to the NBTC's board for endorsement in February," he said.

"We aim to distribute the coupons to consumers by July."

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