Residents of Thimphu throm have just one day  to switch to digital or not watch television.

Beginning March 1, all subscribers of Norling and Etho Metho cable services in Thimphu would be connected to the digital network. Those not doing so will not receive their TV connections, according to Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA).

Chief of licensing and compliance division, Wangay Dorji said that with no further directives from the government and the board, Norling and Etho Metho cable services will stop transmitting analog signal after tomorrow, February 28.

BICMA on December 31 decided to extend the deadline for the switch by a month, on the request of the information and communications ministry, because the parliament sessions had begun and it was important for people to not miss the sessions.

Wangay Dorji said that as of February 5, there were about 20,000 television sets in Thimphu connected to the digital network. Norling connected the majority of them.

“The whole purpose of going digital is to know how many television sets are in the locality,” he said.

With the analog system, he said, it was difficult to keep track of the actual numbers of television sets. “Earlier, if you have five TV sets, you only pay for one, but with the switch to digital, all the sets have to be connected using set-top-boxes and pay for all.”

As of December last year, he said that Thimphu Thromde had around 14,000 customers. “We have exceeded the number but we don’t know the exact subscribers even today.”

Although there are people who feel the new system would not be compatible with the old TV sets, Wangay Dorji said that old TV sets are compatible to switch to digital, but may not enjoy high-quality signal.

With the new system in place, he said the payments system would also change. “Earlier, people using more than one television set only paid for one set. But, now each television set connected to the digital signal is accountable.”

He said that the installation for the first TV would cost a monthly service charge of Nu 300 and the second would be Nu 100 depending on the market.

Etho Metho has completed about 10,000 switchovers. About 2,000 TV sets need to be connected before the deadline.

Meanwhile, Project manager of Etho Metho, Pem Tshewang said that as per the directives given to the public by BICMA, only the areas under the Thimthrom would have ASO (Absolute Switch Over) but places like Tango, Hongtsho, Chamgang, and Khasadrapchu, outside the thromde, avail Etho Metho or Norling cable services. “After February 28, when the signal goes off, these places will also be affected.”

He said that he was worried about how to resolve the issue if any arises. “People residing in those places refuse to go digital as it was clearly stated that only Thimthrom will have ASO.”

However, he said that they had been trying to convince the people in the above areas to switch to digital.

Sonam Choden