From an analog past to a digital future (Photo courtesy : Simon Denyer)

BICMA asks Thimphu residents to go digital by 31st December or get no cable signal

The Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA)after consultation with the three cable operators adopted the standards for operation of Digital Cable Broadcasting Service System from June 2018.

BICMA’s officiating Director, Wangay Dorji said that all the three cable operators (EthoMeto, DrukCom, and Norling) in the capital are now technologically equipped to render the digital cable television facility to all the cable subscribers through their well established digital cable system.

“It is an innovation which is provided by the sector and as a regulatory board, it is our job to support the innovation. The benefit of switching from analogue to digital system is that the cable television viewers get improved picture and sound quality in High Definition (HD). Currently, there is no way we can monitor or control the information that is transmitted through the analogue cable system. Gradually we plan to make it possible for the subscribers to avail services such as video on demand among lot of other innovative and interactive services through the digital system.”

Wangay said that by end of this year, all the subscribers under Thimphu Thromde are mandated to switch to digital network to get along with the digital world. “If we don’t update at the right time with in this digital world, there might come a time a when there’ll be no analogue signal anymore. Gradually, the international manufacturers of the analogue equipments will dwindle and it’ll become difficult for the operators.”

“With the switch to digital cable system, consumer rights can also be enhanced. For instance, if a digital cable subscriber does not get TV signal for a week or two, the consumer has every right to complain and pay according to the number of service received. So in that way, unlike the analogue system, glitches and claims by the consumers can be monitored and verified through the encrypted signal in the system. The consumers can now demand value for their money.”

The Officiating Director said that the monthly payment for the digital service has not been revised and will be charged a regular fee of Nu. 300 per month. The consequences of not switching to the digital cable system by the 31st of December, 2018 would mean that the subscribers will not be able to continue with the analogue cable system anymore, as the three cable operators will discontinue and switch off the analogue signal.

Wangay Dorji also said that Norling and EthoMeto cable operators are currently simulcasting whereby they have to maintain and operate both the analogue and digital cable systems, which is proving costly.

Wangay Dorji said that there are also plans to implement such standards outside Thimphu to the other parts of the country.

“For the same reason, BICMA has already issued approval licenses for the establishment of Multi Service Operators (MSO) in July this year. So within nine months, once the MSO is established, we plan to digitalize the cable services around the country phase-wise,” said Wangay.

The current practice is that every cable operator build their own headend to receive signals and redistribute to the customers, however, once a MSO is established, it will receive signals for Bhutan and it will distribute to all the local cable operators. MSO will also ensure that every subscriber around the country will receive uniform number of channels unlike in the analogue system.

The cost implication of switching to the digital system, Wangay said will depend on the cable operators. Drukcom, the country’s first digital cable distribution company said that although a set-top-box will be provided for free, the company charges Nu. 1000 as an installation fee andEthoMeto cable service charges Nu. 1500 for the set-top-box and no fees will be charged for the switch over to the digital system. And as an offer price, Norling cable operator is currently charging Nu. 1000 for the set-top-box and similarly no fees will be charged for installation.

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