M1 to roll out Government-subsidised digital TV set-top boxes to low-income homes

Telco M1 will be rolling out digital set-top boxes from September to low-income homes under an official assistance scheme. This is to ensure that these homes will keep getting free-to-air TV channels when the nation switches to digital broadcasting by 2020.

The Government will pick up the bill for the digital set-top box and antenna used to plug into existing TV sets to receive the digital signals. Installation of the equipment will also be covered.

About 160,000 to 170,000 households will receive help, said Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim in February.

A key group that will get automatic assistance includes those who live in one- or two-room rental flats, or are on Comcare or self-help groups' assistance schemes. They will be notified by mail.

The scheme will also be extended to households that have no pay-TV subscription or integrated digital television, and that have a monthly household income of $1,900 and below - but they need to apply to be included. For households with no income, the property must have an annual value of $13,000 and below.

Qualifying households must also have at least one member who is a citizen. More application details will be released closer to the launch date.

Digital transmissions allow broadcasters to send more signals more efficiently, enabling viewers to receive higher quality images and sound, among other benefits.

To tune in to digital TV, viewers need to buy and connect a digital set-top box and an indoor antenna to their existing TV sets, or subscribe to pay-TV before 2020. This the target deadline for switching off analogue TV signals.

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 prepare for the switch to digital broadcasting. Pay-TV subscribers form about 60 per cent of households here.

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