The Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) announced that beginning January 1 next year, Thimphu Thromde would only be allowed to have digital cable TV services.

The move that was announced at a press conference yesterday is expected to improve quality services related to TV, and also help in regulation and monitoring of such a system in the country besides promoting digitalisation.

Director General of BICMA, Chencho Dorji said since 1999, about 90 percent of people have been watching almost the same quality TV with similar content. “Even with digital cable TV services in Thimphu, a majority of people still use analog TV services as it has not been made mandatory.”

The decision was taken after BICMA was ensured that all three licensed operators could have the technology required for the switch in June, he said.

To make the country ready for the digital switch from analog cable TV services through the set-top-box (STB), the three cable operators of Thimphu Thromde were provided six months to establish the cable television system technology in the country from June this year.

The time was also provided to advocate and educate their subscribers on the process of making the system digital.

Chencho Dorji said that in analog system, not every subscriber was accounted for in the country, which is a loss to the revenue of the government. “Besides quality, there are areas of promoting local content through the change. Value added services such as movie on demand would also be possible.”

Cable operators are ready with the technology; the time is for people to switch to digital TV services, he said.

A press release from BICMA stated that as per the provision of the Information, Communications and Media Act of Bhutan 2018 to facilitate and support technology innovation and ensure improved picture and sound quality to viewers (High Definition programmes), the authority decided to implement the switch.

The transition will be carried out in Thimphu Thromde, which would then be carried out in other dzongkhags in the country.

Drukcom was the first cable operator to make the switch after BICMA approved the cable operator’s request in 2016.

Soon after, cable operators such as Etho Metho and Norling also started providing digital TV cable services from 2017.

Speaking on Multi Service Operator (MSO), Chencho Dorji said that the system would compliment the switch to digital TV cable services. Preparations are ongoing to establish the required infrastructure to have a MSO.

Although BICMA fixed the number of channels to 56, people in remote areas were unable to get all channels. “People should be able to watch channels of their choice in remote areas including BBS I and BBS II. It will also help in local content promotion, and uniform pricing would be possible,” Chencho Dorji said.

To advocate people, he said that BICMA would be conveying their messages through various media adding that anyone could visit the office and learn about the switch.

When it comes to affordability of the switch, Chencho Dorji said that people have the choice in the market. “Some cable operators provide it for free and only charge for the HDMI cable. There are differences in their services, which is up to the people to decide.”

He said that the decision is for the greater good of the country. “If people do not comply, we have instructed the cable operators to cut off the cable line.”

Chief of licensing and compliance division, Wangay Dorji said that the cost of the set top box is not going to be an issue. “In those areas where there is no market or competition, the authority will have regulatory measures such as payment in installation among others.”

The digitalisation would ensure that each and every TV is accounted for.

Rinchen Zangmo