Digitalizing television, a governmental policy designed to enhance television quality and save the country’s digital resources, is a costly, long-term process.
It’s estimated that local television viewers would have to pay VND9,100 bil (US$433.6 mil) to buy new receiving devices while television stations would also spend several trillion dongs to purchase new transmitters.
There are roughly 18.2 million households with television sets in Vietnam. Among them, nearly 12.6 million are currently using antennas.
According to a state project from now to 2020, by 2015, 80% of households with TV nationwide will gain access to digital TV, among which digital terrestrial TV is expected to account for roughly 55%.
By the end of 2015, central and local television stations are expected to switch totally from analog TV to digital terrestrial television in major cities.
The multi-billion-dong new tech
An expert estimated that the new technology will cost TV stations nationwide a whopping several thousand billion dongs.
Thanks to proper preparation, most analog signal transmitters at the stations can be upgraded to transmit digital signals. The upgrade costs some hundreds of millions of dong, instead of some US$400,000 for a new device.
According to the 2011 national statistics, TV viewers nationwide would have to spend a staggering total of VND9,100 bil (US$433.6 mil) to buy new devices.
A new reception device, including installation fee, costs at least over VND 500,000 (US$25), which isn’t a small sum for more than two million needy households.
This means a possibility that poor people will likely be deprived of access to television.
City and province leaders are planning to provide assistance to locals to make sure that all can enjoy the high-quality television.
While television service providers are quite enthusiastic about the project, most locals remain indifferent, as the addition of new programs doesn’t quite make up for the extra expenses.
Dang Thi Thuoc, a local, said buying a new TV set or transmitter is the last thing her family wants. She added though she’s living in the countryside, the youth there now can gain easy access to the Internet.
Whopping need for digital reception devices
Presume that one third of the 18 million households with TVs can afford new TV sets equipped with digital receivers, some 12 million families still need to buy new receivers.
Also, many families own more than one TV set. Unlike analog TV, digital TV needs a receiver for each TV, which means by 2020, the whole country needs at least 12 million receivers of various kinds.
Digital TV with the DVB-T2 technology offer viewers twice as many channels and much finer quality compared to the analog service.
Since VTC, one of the country’s three current stations with nationwide signal transmission, launched its pilot digital terrestrial service in 2000, nearly 4 million digital reception devices of different kinds have been sold.
According to Le Van Khuong, a television expert, almost 100% of the current reception devices in the country are imported from China, South Korea and Taiwan. More than half of them are not guaranteed regarding quality and maintenance.
Khuong added previously some local companies, such as Hanel or VTC, began producing digital receivers, but discontinued the practice as the local market was poor.
Some large enterprises have now begun producing digital receivers to cater to the soaring demand in the coming time.
Though the enterprises are entirely capable of the production, they face considerable difficulty including huge investments, limited ability to recoup capital and make profits due to the poor local market and being imposed a 3-5% tax in spare parts import while receivers imported whole are exempt from tax.
According to Le Van Tuan, from the Ministry of Information and Communication, the government will offer assistance to businesses, mobilize resources to develop digital terrestrial transmission infrastructure as well as provide disadvantaged households with free digital reception devices.