Digital TV set-top box warning

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2008, 12:00am

The government has urged the public to hold off buying basic-tier set-top boxes five days after the start of digital broadcasting, as none of them have passed Office of Telecommunications Authority tests.

But industry officials challenged the warning, saying it was not mandatory for set-top box manufacturers to have their products tested by the government.

On Commercial Radio yesterday, Commerce and Economic Development Bureau principal assistant secretary Kevin Choi said people should be careful when purchasing digital TV equipment.

'Consumers should only buy set-top boxes affixed with the labels issued by Ofta,' he said, adding that not one basic set-top box had passed muster so far. Ofta said it had examined 25 set-top box models by Friday Sixteen models - all higher-tier products - had passed and nine had failed.

The testing is part of a voluntary labelling scheme introduced by the telecommunication watchdog in November, which aims to help consumers distinguish between the basic and more sophisticated set-top boxes.

The basic models are capable of receiving the four existing channels in standard definition picture quality only, whereas the upper-tier receivers can receive all channels, including the two high-definition channels provided by free-to-air broadcasters TVB and ATV.

Chamber of Hong Kong Computer Industry president Cheung Yiu-shing said he had reservations about the government's advice.

'You may say it is in consumers' better interests to buy receivers with government labels. But it does not mean those without the labels cannot function well,' he said.

Mr Cheung said most set-top boxes on sale in chain electrical appliance stores were higher-tier models but some basic ones could be found in Ap Liu Street, Sham Shui Po.

'Most suppliers will spend resources on higher-tier receivers because of the much bigger profit margins, particularly at the beginning of digital broadcasting,' he said.

'Some basic-tier models will be developed by small-scale manufacturers eventually, but not at this stage.'

Testing, testing

Of 25 basic set-top box models tested by Ofta, the number that failed was 9