Digital terrestrial TV (DTT) will reach 2 million BR1M recipients, who will get to enjoy high definition (HD) and local free-to-air (FTA) content with the distribution of set-top boxes after the project rolls out in Malaysia in January 2015.

“The set-top boxes will then be sold to subscribers of the free content television services, and may only cost a few hundred ringgit,” Puncak Semangat Sdn Bhd deputy project director Mohamed Redzwan Yahya said to the Media.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will be the organisation that will recommend the names of the BR1M recipients to Puncak Semangat, said the official at the DTT launch at the Sime Darby Convention Center on Wednesday.

“The free distribution will reach those who are among the most needy under the BR1M programme, but they may not be the only recipients to get free set-top boxes,” Redzwan said.

The free distribution programme will also reach e-Kasih recipients and will concentrate on rural areas.

BR1M recipients across Malaysia will get the services in stages, as the DTT will be rolled out in four phases.

The project, costing RM4.5 billion and touted as a historic move by Malaysia in embracing digital television, will roll out in three major phases starting with the East Coast states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.

The switchover to digital broadcasting will be completed in April 2016 with phase four, covering Selangor, the Klang Valley, Putrajaya and all capital cities and suburban towns.

Puncak Semangat Sdn Bhd Director Datuk Hilmi Mohd Noor said that phase two, which will cover Sabah and Sarawak, is expected to be rolled out in February, followed by phase three for Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor.

Puncak Semangat was awarded a 15-year concession by the MCMC to develop DTT infrastructure and network facilities.

The project will cost RM2 billion, while its operating expenses will reach RM2.5 billion in the first year of operation. The company said it will only break-even after 7 years of operation.

With the DTT launch, Malaysia’s remaining analogue TV will almost completely be wiped out, while FTA broadcasters such as RTM and TV3 or TV Al Hijrah will have to move to a fully digital platform.

The DTT will allow them to broadcast more television and radio channels, and RTM may have 5 additional channels after 2016, said Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, who officiated at the ceremony.