Friday 22 April 2016

Postponement Threat to Digital Radio Transition in Thailand

DAB and DVB-T2 on the Thai agenda. The challenge is local radio.
The planned transition of radio broadcasting from analog to digital system seems in serious danger of being postponed, with the term of the incumbent broadcasting committee at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission due to expire next year. The optimization of radio frequencies through a broadcasting transition from analog to digital technology is among those key plans, which have been delayed since last year from what was set out under the original Broadcasting Master Plan (2012-16). 

The broadcasting committee having just 17 months left might not be sufficient time for it to bring all crucial aspects to fruition.

Apart from the plan for digital radio broadcasting, the launch of community-based digital terrestrial-TV broadcasting might also face a major impact, due to the delay of analog TV's switch-off and the low penetration of digital TV receivers around the country. In February 2014 the NBTC joined with eight state agencies in a test-run of digital radio broadcasting, but the results are still to be concluded.

The experiment used the existing infrastructure of the Armed Forces, as well as the separate infrastructures of the Army, Navy and Air Force, the National Police, the Public Relations Department, the Secretariat of the House of Representatives, and MCOT. The test was aimed at furthering research on the feasibility of digital radio, which will be transmitted over the very high frequency (VHF) band III, some of which carries analog terrestrial-TV broadcasts.

Another objective was to raise public awareness about digital radio broadcasting, which will have an impact on everyone in the country. The transition to digital radio would be in tandem with the analog-TV switch-off process. (The Nation).

FM radio will probably be retained in Thailand for many years to come. The trial launch of DAB was postponed in 2014.  One official explanation was that listeners increasingly going for radio on the Internet. The original Plan A was three national DAB multiplexes in 11 cities and the longterm Plan B four national DAB multiplexes with 95% population coverage with 64 national radio channels plus four local DAB multiplexes in each of the 39 areas with a total of 2.496 digital radio channels.

Another problem, which Thailand is struggling with today, is the huge amount of radio stations available in the country with thousands of small local radio stations. There are no precise counts of community radio stations. However, in 2009 more than 6,000 local community stations registered with NTC to notify their intent to be on the air. 

Plan A for terrestrial digital radio via DVB-T2 rather than DAB+ using the three times more efficient standard DVB-T2 Lite will solve the problem with capacity for local radio. By using this technology the transmission structure for digital terrestrial television can also be utilized. The difference in capacity between DAB+ and DVB-T2 Lite can be illustrated as below comparing the systems in the long term plan for Thailand:

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