Thai digital auction gets underway

October 28th was the first day for pre-auction bids to be filed with Thailand’s National Broadcasting & Telecoms Commission (NBTC). The bids are for rights to participate in the auction. A total of 24 channels are up for grabs.

All of Thailand’s leading broadcasters have already expressed their intention to bid. Local reports say that 20 broadcasters have already filed their applications. The application process ends at 4pm on October 29th.

October 29th also sees the auction pre-bid process start and within 45 days the regulator is obliged to announce the names of those who are pre-qualified for the actual digital TV auction. Pre-qualification is understood to be based on the broadcaster’s revenue and business plan, as well as a commitment to deliver digital signals to at least 95 per cent of Thailand’s population.
A Frost & Sullivan report talks optimistically about the benefits likely to come about as a result of Thailand’s switch to digital TV. The study has been published to tie in with the first stage of Thailand’s digital auction process.

Thailand has already been one of the busier broadcast markets in the region in 2013. The market has seen more competitors recently enter to challenge TRUEs current dominance, and a fierce battle over football content has given consumers more choices in from providers such as Cable Thai Holdings (CTH), GMM Z and RS. As such, the pay TV industry is experiencing double digit growth which is even outpacing the mobile service market and household penetration including pirated connections is hovering at 50 per cent household adoption, says news-site EIN.

Marc Einstein, Industry Principal for Digital Media and Telecoms, Frost & Sullivan says, “More recently the kingdom is preparing for the transition from analogue to digital TV which will ultimately bring more choices and services to Thai consumers although the transition itself will not be without difficulties. Bidding for the licences has already seen a significant amount of interest with 49 companies registering for 24 licences, leading to some speculation that Thai news coverage in particular will become more diverse and more international.”

“Overall digital television is a much more efficient technology which will offer a better viewing experience in terms of resolution to consumers, but the transition may have some problems in the market. It is important to note that two-thirds of the Thai populations reside in rural areas, and therefore coverage will be an issue as digital TV coverage is more or a yes or no experience as opposed to analogue which is more of a continuum.”

He also adds that, “When the US undertook the transition in 2009, the issue of disconnecting households during the transition became a very politically charged issue, and while only about 3 per cent of households were unprepared at the point of the switch, the US government spent over $1 billion in educating the public. On the same note the US government also set aside $890 million in vouchers for people to obtain analogue-to-digital converters. As such, the NTBC should clarify its policies on subsidies and consumer education in order to avoid issues going forward.”

One of the greatest benefits of the transition might in fact not even have to do with the TV market at all. Transitioning from analogue to digital TV will free a significant amount of radio spectrum which can be re-farmed for mobile purposes, which might go a long way in alleviating the country’s 3G/4G woes, says the report.

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