Work is to begin by July for the system to be in place by its 2018 deadline

Television: Bhutan plans to digitalise its television (TV) services by 2018, and work to enable the migration to a digital system is expected to begin in July.

Currently, Bhutan is among a minority group of countries that still use analogue technology to transmit television.

In the analogue system, information, such as video and audio, is translated into electric pulses, while, in a digital system, it is translated into a binary or number system.

While both systems have their pros and cons, the advantages of digital television include better picture and sound, and allow the broadcast of multiple channels and services like broadband internet.

The information and communications ministry held a workshop last week to make the private sector aware of its plans to complete the switchover by 2018.

It was pointed out at the workshop that the switchover would mean a cheaper option for customers, and that other services like video-on-demand, interactive gaming, newspapers, among others, could also be provided along with television.

It was also pointed out that going digital is a global trend, and that analogue equipment was becoming obsolete, and therefore necessitated the switchover.

A task force, comprising officials from the information and communications ministry, BBS, Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority, and the Association of Private Cable Operators, has been formed to prepare for the migration, based on international guidelines.

International Telecommunication Union expert Peter Walop, who resourced the workshop, said the task force would create a road map for the migration.  He said there are a series of decisions, ranging from political to technical levels, that are yet to be made, such as whether new entrants should be allowed into the market, and how many channels or digital services are to be provided.

He said this would also determine the investment required.  However, he added that, while investments may be a hurdle initially, in the long run it is the cheaper option than to stick to an analogue system, in terms of both maintenance and provision of additional services.

Department of Information media development chief, Monira A Tshewang, said that, given the scattered nature of settlements and households, it was currently not economically feasible for companies to lay TV cables and connect remote communities.  She said it would be much cheaper for companies to install digital transmitters on towers and beam the TV signal instead.

Such a method would allow for TV, and especially the BBS channels, to reach the “unreached”.

Gyalsten K Dorji