Digital TV should come sooner rather than later
Both the government and the private sector will benefit economically from the changeover from analogue to digital broadcasting, says Anupon Tajawanno, a consulting systems engineer at Cisco System (Thailand).
"Apart from the fact that digital will introduce new innovations and services like high-definition and mobile TV, the government will also be able to earn revenue from licensing the switch from analogue frequencies and even more from licensing more channels on the digital system," he said.
Digital TV will help advance the overall television industry, including TV manufacturers and programming producers.
Since digital channels take up less frequency space than analogue channels, more channels will become available and can be used to promote a greater variety of local culture and foster tourism.
"It has been 42 years since Thai TVs changed from black-and-white to colour. Nowadays, Thai viewers in 12 million households still watch analogue technology from four decades ago because there's been no major change in the industry," said Mr Anupon.
He said the growth of satellite and cable TV reflected the fact that free channels could not fulfil viewers' needs to consume a greater variety of content. Cable TV has grown by 20% so far this year and satellite TV by as much as 400%.
Another reason that digital TV should be adopted is that analogue systems will soon cost more to maintain and service.
A report from the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center shows the combined cost of adding digital transmitters may reach 14.2 billion baht if each channel develops the system separately.
However, that will be cut to only about 7 billion baht if broadcasters share the infrastructure.
"The cost of the transition to digital TV is considered low compared with the money that channel operators derive from advertising, which amounts to about 50 billion baht each year," said Mr Anupon.
For viewers, the transition will cost 1,000 to 1,500 baht per household for a standard set-top box transmitter that will convert analogue signals to digital.
Mr Anupon admitted it would take four to eight years for digital to replace analogue completely. The most important factor driving the change is government support in promoting the benefits of the new system among both operators and viewers.