Digital TV to reach entire country

Digital TV to reach entire country

TV viewing experience is expected to change forever in the country with the establishment of Multi-Service Operator (MSO), which was inaugurated on November 11 at the ThimphuTechPark.

The MSO is called Bhutan NetCom and it will provide host of services in the form of digitalsignal.

The move was initiated by all Local Cable Operators (LCOs) in the country to keep pace with technological advancement in TV industry. Since most of the countries are now switching to digital system from the old analogue system, the MSO will overhaul the TV distribution system in the country.

“It’s a unique model of MSO created by all our LCOs in the country,” said Khampa, the Chief Executive Officer of Bhutan NetCom. “This MSO will focus on bettering the services of our LCOs and strengthening their business rather than takeover as is happening elsewhere.”

Previously subscribers watched TV through analogue signal which was transmitted through coaxial cable that was directly connected at the back of TV set. The old system suffered from poor quality picture and sound with subscribers often seeing ghosting and snowing effects on TV when the analogue signal was weak.

“It’s like progressing from the old-stone age to modern age in the TV systems,” said TashiDendup, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bhutan NetCom. “I’m also an LCO operating in Gedu where the weather conditions disrupt the quality of TV signal. I hope the digital system will address these issues.”

The digital TV system brings host of new service experiences. The digital TV signal will provide high quality picture with better sound through digital addressable system.That means to watch digital TV each subscriber will need a device called set-top box near their TV.

Bhutan NetCom as the MSO will acquire the TV contents especially from foreign broadcasters since Bhutanese watch lot of foreign channels. The company will receive all TV signals through its digital head end system. The TV channels will be packaged and sent as digital signal through fiber optic cable to all 20 Dzongkhags. Currently, there are only 60 channels approved by the government including the local channels.

Bhutan NetCom will provide digital signal to all LCOs in the country. These LCOs will be effectively and efficiently managed through the systems of Conditional Access System (CAS) and Subscriber Management System (SMS). The CAS and SMS software will help address the problem of signal theft and unaccounted subscribers.   

According to Bhutan NetCom, digital TV system will bring lot of benefits to all stakeholders in the TV industry. Firstly, the subscribers will be able to watch High Definition (HD) channels through the use of set-top box. The subscribers can also opt for various television packages once the MSO makes such services available.

Next the LCOs will not be required to set up costly system at their end. Much of the cost for setting up digital head end is offset by the MSO. With the MSO providing CAS and SMS software to LCOs, they will be able to determine the exact number of their subscribers unlike in the analogue system where customers could connect lot of unaccounted TV sets to one single line using splitters.LCOs can also provide customized and better services through CAS and SMS. Earlier LCOs found it very difficult to manage their subscribers through manual registration, delayed or non-payment, and having to physically cut off the TV lines for defaulting customers. With the new system, an LCO can keep a tab on every subscriber.

According to Bhutan NetCom, thedigital television system will also complement the government’s Digital Drukyul flagship program. The government can use the MSO platform to broadcast public service announcements and messages during disasters. The government is also benefited by more tax revenues from the subscribers as well as TV service providers since all are managed through transparent system.

“One of the objectives of the government is ‘reaching the unreached,’ to cover 90% of the rural households in the country with information and media services. We hope Bhutan NetCom can help achieve this critical target,” said Lyonpo Karma DonnenWangdi, Information and Communications Minister, who inaugurated the MSO.

However, Bhutan NetCom maintains that a lot of things need to be fixed to take advantage of the digital TV services. A revision in monthly tariff for TV services is desired and might soon be implemented. A different tariff options might be in place based on various packages of TV channels. The monthly entertainment tax on subscribers might have to be revised since it is highest in the region.

“I don’t know why our past governments were hesitant to open up private broadcasting services in the country,” said Khampa. “The more we delay these platforms the more we will allow the foreign contents to sink in our minds.”

Lyonpo Karma Donnen said foreign media have brought negative influence in our society, resulting in gang fights, drug addictions, and violation of our social and traditional norms.

Tashi said the government should allow general entertainment channels since there is huge demand for such contents from our own audience.

Bhutan NetCom was inaugurated coinciding with the birth anniversary of the Fourth DrukGyalpo who gifted the access to television and internet in 1999 to the people. After 20 years, the television industry advances to digital world. There are more than 90 LCOs in the country.

The propagation of signal from Bhutan NetCom was successfully tested to Gasa. Subscribers in Gasa will now watch digital TV.

Tshering from Thimphu