After a six-year campaign to get Singapore households to switch from analogue to digital broadcasting, up to 400,000 Housing Board homes yet to make the switch are set to come on board.
Cost - it will set a family back about $100 to install equipment to covert analogue signals to digital - could have been a stumbling block to getting the remaining households to convert. The plan to end analogue broadcasts at the end of last year was put on hold for a year to get more people to switch.
Consequently, the Government has earmarked $40 million to help equip homes to receive digital broadcasts ahead of the Dec 31 deadline. After this date, those who have not installed new digital TV equipment or subscribed to pay-TV services will no longer receive Mediacorp's free-to-air channels.
Announcing this yesterday at the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) annual partners' appreciation event at Mediacorp, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the Government is committed to helping Singaporeans transition to digital TV and enjoy its benefits.
He had said in Parliament in November that access to Mediacorp's free-to-air channels is important as they are a key source of news and entertainment in four languages, and carry programmes that promote societal values and the Singaporean identity.
The IMDA will start sending letters this month to the 400,000 HDB homes, informing them that they are entitled to free equipment worth $100.
The value of free equipment each of the 400,000 HDB homes is entitled to. The homes can choose to either have a free digital set-top box and antenna installed at their home free, or get $100 off digital TV equipment of their choice at participating stores.
Advantages of going digital
Digital transmissions allow broadcasters to send more signals more efficiently, and offer viewers higher-quality images and sound.
Users can, among other benefits, choose subtitles and language options for programmes. All of Mediacorp's free-to-air channels - Channel 5, Channel 8, Suria, Vasantham, Channel NewsAsia, okto and Channel U - are in high-definition format, and the HD quality can be experienced only with digital TV.
To continue watching free-to-air TV channels from next January, after analogue broadcasting ends, viewers with older TV sets will need to buy and connect a digital set-top box and an indoor antenna. The equipment costs about $100.
Pay-TV subscribers need not take action as their set-top boxes act as digital tuners. Most TV sets on sale in the last two years also come with a built-in digital tuner, and retailers also sell antennae with the TV sets. Those who bought these need not worry about not getting digital broadcasts.
All analogue TV channels now carry the "analogue" channel logo on the top right-hand corner of the TV screen - to help viewers determine whether they will be affected. If you see the logo, you need to switch.
They can choose to either have a free digital set-top box and antenna installed at their home free, or get $100 off digital TV equipment of their choice at participating stores, including Best Denki, Gain City, Courts and Harvey Norman.
Digital transmissions allow broadcasters to send more signals more efficiently, enabling viewers to receive higher-quality images and sound. Users can also, among other benefits, choose which of the subtitle and language options to display.
To date, the bulk of Singapore's 1.2 million Singapore households are already receiving digital TV signals over the air or through their pay-TV set-top boxes.
Of the remaining 400,000 HDB homes, 32,000 are low-income households. There had been previous initiatives to help the low-income. Since 2014, 70,000 needy households have benefited from a scheme targeting those on a monthly income of $1,900 and below, or with an annual property value of $13,000 or lower. But more can be done, said Dr Yaacob, noting that this is why the original help scheme has now been expanded.
Singapore plans to use the freed-up analogue TV frequency to provide more capacity for mobile broadband. Malaysia and Indonesia are expected to switch off analogue broadcasting next year. Having neighbours that have also switched off their TV frequencies will reduce interference problems for mobile broadband users here.