The Chief Executive in Council has approved a plan to switch off analogue TV services by the end of Nov. 30, 2020, meaning TV services in Hong Kong will be transmitted solely by digital signals from December next year.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah told reporters that the move to full digital TV broadcasting is in line with the global trend to have digital TV as the major broadcasting service, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
According to the government, a study commissioned by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) showed that more than 2.2 million households in Hong Kong, or 88 percent, were already using digital terrestrial television (DTT) at the end of 2017, while only about 180,000, or 7 percent, were still watching analogue TV, whose services began more than 50 years ago.
This high level of penetration means that by the time analogue TV services are switched off, the majority of households will not need to make any adjustment while those who are still using analogue TV sets need to either switch to a digital TV set or add a set-top box to their old TV set if it is still functioning well, Yau said.
For elderly people or those in low-income groups who would still be using analogue TV sets, the CEDB plans to provide some financial support from the Community Care Fund to enable them to buy either a set-top box for their existing TV set or a basic model digital TV.
The scheme is expected to benefit about 160,000 households. Applications will probably be accepted from late this year to early next year.
Yau noted that digital TV service will not only improve the quality of reception but also allow the government to vacate the precious spectrum for other uses.
“In our plan, we intend to make use of the 160 MHz of spectrum vacated from the analogue TV for use by mobile telecommunications services, which essentially will relieve the existing congested indoor mobile hotspots, such as MTR stations,” the commerce chief said, adding that the adoption of full digital TV broadcasting will help Hong Kong to move ahead with the smart city development initiative.
Deputy Director-General (Telecommunications) of the Office of the Communications Authority Chaucer Leung chung-yin told media that there will be public consultation this year on the arrangements for assigning the 160 MHz of spectrum this year. The assignment will be done next year.
Thus, telecom operators can develop their 5G services or other telecommunication services, depending on their commercial considerations, Leung said.
Hong Kong launched digital TV services in 2007. Although the original plan was to turn off analogue TV services by 2012, the switch had been delayed twice before a final decision was made.
So far only TVB, Hong Kong Open TV under i-Cable, and RTHK have channels providing analogue TV services. TVB welcomed the decision, while i-Cable said the switching-off will not have a big impact on its TV services.
HKT welcomed the government’s decision to release more spectrum for mobile telecom services, saying it is consistent with the industry’s expectation. SmarTone also welcomed the move to offer more spectrum to operators, adding that it hopes the government will allocate more low-band spectrum to the industry as soon as possible.
Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary chairman of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said the plan to switch off analogue TV services for good comes too late and, as such, allows no spectrum for development of UHD TV.
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