Free-to-air digital broadcasts of the Beijing Olympics in August next year will not get to a quarter of Hong Kong's population even though transmission in the new digital mode will begin by the end of December.
Only one transmission station at Temple Hill, or Tsz Wan Shan, has been completed to serve residents in Kowloon, north Hong Kong Island, part of Sha Tin and east Lantau, which accounts for half of the city's population. Five more stations are due to be built by the end of next year to cover another 25 per cent of Hongkongers, according to the schedule.
But officials won't say if they will be in service before August 8, when the Olympics kick off.
Senior telecommunications engineer Chaucer Leung Chung-yin, of the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta), citing free-to-air broadcasters TVB and ATV, which are responsible for construction, said three stations at Castle Peak, Golden Hill and Kowloon Peak were progressing well but the other two at Cloudy Hill and Lamma Island needed more time.
'It won't be impossible to launch the service before August next year but it will depend on works progress as well as weather conditions,' Mr Leung said.
Lawmaker Sin Chung-kai said viewers will need time to install set-top boxes and new-technology televisions.
Meanwhile, the government is planning a labelling system to help people choose the right set-top boxes as two different types will be available. The government will ask manufacturers voluntarily to label basic receivers, capable of receiving the four existing channels in digital format, and more sophisticated receivers which will also receive high-definition television signals.
More information would give consumers more confidence to choose according to their needs, Ofta director Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen said.
TVB and ATV will begin to transmit digital signals on December 31.
Cost of viewing
A digital set-top box which allows viewing of both SDTV and HDTV programmes costs upwards of,
in HK dollars $1,000