Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) has denied the request to extend time for the switch to digital TV, according to the Association of Bhutanese Cable Operators (ABCO).

The ABCO on December 24 had requested for a six-month transition time to install set top boxes in Thimphu. The deadline for the switch is December 31.

This means analog signal, the existing system where TV cable connections are provided without the set top box would be shut down five days from today.

In a directive BICMA issued on December 24, it stated to cable operators that they should stop transmission of the analog signal. If operators fail to implement the change within the given time frame, the authority could take “serious” regulatory action.

One of the main reasons for time extension, ABCO said, was the need for adequate awareness among users.

General secretary of ABCO, Sherub Gyeltshen, said that people were reluctant to switch to digital TV. “People have yet to understand it; not many people seem to be keen on installing set top boxes.”

Many, he said, were unaware of the benefits and the advantages of digital TV.

“This could cause inconvenience to people when analog TV signal is shut off. Looking at the response from the subscribers, more time is needed for awareness,” said Sherub Gyeltshen.

He said that subscribers out of the thromde but who have availed of the services from the two cable operators – Etho Metho and Norling Cable – would also be affected. “TV is no more a luxury; it is a necessity now.”

Sherub Gyeltshen said that although Etho Metho and Norling Cable have been trying to provide digital service; only about 45 percent of the subscribers have switched over to digital signal. “They have established schemes and provided huge discounts on set top boxes. All of their staff have even been deployed in installing the set top boxes forgoing monthly bill collection for last month.”

A BICMA directive dated June 7 states that the simultaneous casting of both analog and digital cable TV service would be allowed only until December 31. “The analog switch over for Thimphu Thromde will begin from January 1, 2019 by going 100 percent digital.”

Drukcom Private Limited’s managing director, Sherab Lhamo, said that the company has about 1,500 subscribers currently. “The initiative is a good move, especially because it will solve the revenue pilferage and it would contribute to nation building.”

She said that the digital TV system would ensure transparency and that the cable operators, could provide same quality TV even in rural areas.

One of the challenges during the transition, she said, was the clearance needed if a subscriber wished to switch to another cable operator. “When a customer wants to switch to another service provider, getting clearance from the previous service provider is a hassle.”

She said that most people had little idea about the transition. “We get calls from people saying they need to purchase set top box. People think that we are a set top box selling company, but what they do not understand is that the set top box that one avails from cable operator A will avail the service of that cable operator.”

Rinchen Zangmo