Four licensed network providers for digital TV must roll out their network coverage nationwide within two years of operation at the soonest and four years at the latest.
The commitments were announced yesterday to prospective digital TV bidders.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) ruled the four licensed network providers must expand their digital TV network to cover 50% of the country in the first year of operations. The coverage expansion must increase to 80% in the second year, rising to 90% in the third and 95% in the fourth year of operations.
The Royal Thai Army is proposing to complete its nationwide network expansion the fastest by taking only two years.
MCOT Plc and the Government Public Relations Department (PRD) are committed to finishing nationwide expansion within three years, and Thai PBS plans to complete its expansion within four years.
Maj Gen Boonyarit Wissamol, director for policy and planning at Channel 5, owned by the Royal Thai Army, said the company's network will use 39 main broadcast towers and 180 subordinate towers under a 2-billion-baht investment budget for its two network licences. The Royal Thai Army's 1.5-billion-baht facility for digital broadcasting is to open next June, featuring a broadcasting studio, rental offices and conference rooms.
"We are ready to provide network rental service the first day of operation, as we've been testing the digital TV broadcasting system for six months," said Maj Gen Boonyarit.
The Royal Thai Army charges 4.72 million baht a month for a standard-definition (SD) channel and 14.16 million a month for a high-definition (HD) channel. The rates will be revised every three years, based on inflation.
Prawin Patthanapong, deputy director-general of the PRD, said it allocated 3 billion baht for its network expansion over three years.
The PRD will charge 4.65 million baht a month for a SD channel and 13.95 for a HD channel. "We expect to break even within seven years," he said.
Mongkol Leelatham, executive chairman of Thai PBS, said the company expects its digital network expansion to cover 67% of the country, or 56 provinces, in the first year of operations. The coverage will expand to 83% in 19 more provinces in the second year, rising to 93% in the third year and 98% in the fourth year of operations.
Thai PBS's monthly service charge is 4.6 million baht per SD channel and 13.81 million per HD channel.
Chalit Lailikit, vice-president for engineering of MCOT Plc, said the company will use 39 main broadcast towers and 186 subordinate towers, covering 99% of the country within three years.
MCOT will charge 4.76 million baht a month for a SD channel and 14.16 million baht for a HD channel.