The Government is planning to roll out an assistance scheme for low-income families to ensure that they will continue to receive free-to-air TV channels when the nation switches to digital broadcasting by 2020.
Specifically, it is looking at subsidising the cost of the equipment for tuning in to digital content.
Announcing this on Tuesday, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said: "We want to have low-income households migrate without having them to spend a lot of money. We hope to give them assistance through the set-top box and antenna and funding for installation."
Dr Yaacob estimated that some 160,000 to 170,000 households will benefit from the scheme, details of which will be announced later.
He said this after visiting broadcaster MediaCorp's Bukit Batok transmission centre.
Digital transmissions allow broadcasters to send more signals more efficiently, enabling viewers to receive higher quality images and sound. Other benefits include the ability to toggle the display of subtitles and multiple language options, which are included in programmes.
Such transmissions also free up scarce spectrum or airwaves for other uses like delivering Internet data to smartphones.
In December last year, MediaCorp converted all its seven free-to-air TV channels from broadcasting in analogue signals to digital signals.
At the same time, Channel 8, Suria and Vasantham also joined English-language Channel 5 in delivering content in high definition (HD) format. Channel U, Channel NewsAsia and okto will go HD in 2016.
To tune in, non-pay-TV viewers need to buy a digital set-top box and an indoor antenna - both of which have a combined retail price of about $130 - to connect to their existing TV, or subscribe to pay-TV before 2020. This is when analogue TV signals will be switched off.
If they have recently bought a new TV with a built-in digital tuner, they just need to buy an indoor antenna.
Pay-TV subscribers to SingTel and StarHub, whose platforms are already digital, need not do anything to adjust to the switch to digital broadcasting. Pay-TV subscribers form about 60 per cent of households here.
MediaCorp is rolling out its digital broadcasting infrastructure here in phases over the next two years.
In December last year, Bukit Batok residents were the first to receive its digital channels.
Dr Yaacob said that the Ang Mo Kio and Jurong East estates were able to receive digital TV signals starting on Tuesday.
By June, digital transmission to Clementi and Bukit Timah estates will be turned on, followed by Bukit Merah, Queenstown, Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang by year end.