The Mobile Industry Recommends Development of Full Transition Plan for Digital Television and Allocation of the ‘Digital Dividend’ for Mobile Broadband Services
Bangkok: In anticipation of a decision by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on the radio spectrum bands to be auctioned to broadcasters for digital television, the GSMA today renewed its call for the Government of Thailand to allocate the 700MHz band for mobile broadband services in full harmonisation with the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) band plan.
“This is a critical moment for the country, as the NBTC is about to choose a path for mobile spectrum that is either harmonised with the rest of Asia Pacific or one that will fragment the region, leading to costly outcomes for Thailand and its neighbouring countries,” said Tom Phillips, Chief Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer at the GSMA. “We strongly believe that allocating the Digital Dividend for mobile broadband is the right long-term choice, enabling the connectivity of all Thai people and bringing about enormous socio-economic benefits to the country and to the region.”
The NBTC faces the question of how to allocate the spectrum that will be freed up when analogue television in Thailand is converted to digital terrestrial television (DTT), also known as the ‘Digital Dividend’. While the NBTC has not yet agreed on a clear position, its decision will have enormous implications to the national economy, as demonstrated in a March 2013 report by the GSMA and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). If the 700MHz band was allocated to mobile from 2015, it would generate US$14.8 billion more in GDP by 2020 than if it was allocated to DTT broadcasting and would enable the creation of 55,000 additional jobs.
“Not only would the allocation of the 700MHz band to mobile generate significant economic benefits to the country, it could bring about significant social benefits, including improved wealth distribution and cultural diversity, developmental services such as education and healthcare,” said Michael Meyer, Partner and Managing Director of BCG.
If the NBTC instead decides to use the spectrum for broadcasting, cross-border interference would become an issue with Thailand’s neighbours — Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar — all of which are likely to roll out mobile services in the band. Interference will reduce the quality of service or interrupt service completely at national borders. Overall, spectrum fragmentation could lead to a collective US$3.4 billion loss of incremental GDP and 96,000 fewer jobs in those countries.1
Recommendations for the Regulator
The GSMA therefore calls on the NBTC to communicate a complete plan for the transition to digital television, which will establish market clarity and confidence for the wider mobile ecosystem. The plan should include:
- An official commitment to allocate the 700MHz band (698MHz to 806MHz) to mobile broadband services;
- Adoption of the multi-regionally harmonised APT 700MHz 2x45MHz FDD band plan, with an upper limit for DTT set at 694MHz;
- A policy and time frame for the analogue broadcasting switch-off (ASO); and
- A policy and time frame for consolidating (or restacking) the DTT spectrum below 694MHz.
Note to editors
1Boston Consulting Group, March 2013, ‘Socio-Economic Benefits of Assigning the Digital Dividend to Mobile in Thailand’
About the Digital Switchover: The switchover to digital terrestrial television (DTT) can bring viewers a greater number of programmes with better quality and new services such as interactivity and high-definition TV (HDTV). This improvement is because digital television transmissions are much more spectrum-efficient than analogue transmissions. For example, using the same bandwidth as one analogue programme, a digital transmission could carry up to 20 digital programmes of equivalent quality, according to the ITU. Hence, the transition to digital television can accommodate an expansion of the broadcasting service and free up spectrum for other uses. The transition to DTT is international best practice and has started, and even been completed, in many countries.
About Regional Harmonisation: In February 2013, the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore jointly declared their intentions to use the 700MHz Digital Dividend for the deployment of mobile broadband services, in harmonisation with the APT band plan. Other ASEAN countries that support the APT band plan include Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam. For mobile, the benefits of spectrum harmonisation are fourfold:
- Mobile devices cost less, as larger device markets enable manufacturers to achieve economies of scale
- With larger markets comes greater consumer choice
- Cross-border interference issues are minimised
- International mobile roaming is enabled for visitors entering the country and citizens travelling abroad
About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries and territories, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators with more than 230 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in industry sectors such as financial services, healthcare, media, transport and utilities. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as the Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Expo.
Ms.Rungnapa Charnwiset (Bangkok)
+66 81 494 8131
GSMA Press Office