BBS awaits switchover to digital network

As the nation goes from analog to digital in television (TV) system, Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) still operates two analogue TV networks for television services.

The Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA) extended time for switchover from analog to digital Television for Thimphu Thromde until May 31 and it will be carried out phase-wise across the country.

Digital TV will transmit a new image format, high definition television (HDTV), with greater resolution than analog TV.

Currently, both the services BBS1 and BBS2 transmit in standard definition (SD) in 29 analogue TV stations across the country.

“We are still on SD, 3:4 ratio, the picture quality is not good as we are not able to go to HD because of huge costs involved at around Nu. 1 billion,” said Chief Engineer, Technical Department, BBS, Sherab Tharchen.

BBS 1 and BBS2 would be continued to be broadcasted in SD for a certain period, as HD services will require HD receivers, according to Bhutan roadmap report on ‘For the Transition from Analogue to Digital Television Broadcasting’.

“BBS is in very critical condition as SD equipment are worn out over the years and absolute in the market,” said Sherab Tharchen.

Officiating Director General, BICMA, Wangay Dorji said the authority cannot ask BBS to go digital.

Additionally, Sherab Tharchen said the BBS has put a proposal to JICA through the Gross National Happiness Commission for funding.

BBS uplinks its two services for Direct-to-Home (DTH) distribution to InSat (an Indian satellite network operator and service provider).

It is distributed in C-Band that requires the necessity of having expensive and large satellite receiving dishes, said Sherab Tharchen. Only 200 TVHHs make use of this service in Bhutan.

The otherpay-tv DTH services in the Ku-band (smaller dishes)can avail BBS services but BICMA found it illegal as equipment is purchased in neighboring country India and subscription payments are done either in cash or by family living in India.

Additionally, Sherab Tharchen said the Direct-to-Home service could be only availed by the cable operators and for the rural areas where there are no cable operators, people can afford to buy pay-tv DTH.

BBS plans to extend the analogue TV coverage by installing 75 additional stations.

However, it was decided to cease any further analogue TV development and to extend coverage by means Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB), according to the report.

The intention was to use current 29 analog TV sites and the 75 sites that were envisaged for the extension of analogue TV coverage for DTTB.

Sherab Tharchen expects to convert BBS system to HD only within five years as there are huge budget implications to carry out in phase manner.

The Bhutan television market is relatively small with 165,000 households of which the TV set penetration is relatively low (53%), resulting in 88,000 television households (TVHHs).

The network coverage of analog cable TV stands at about 56,000 (64%) television households compared to 32, 000 (35%) analog terrestrial platform.

There are about 83 cable operators in the country.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu