The central city of Da Nang has broadcast experimental high-definition digital television (DTV) as a crucial preparation for official telecasts by 2015.

The vice director of the city's information and communication department, Nguyen Hoang Cam, said Da Nang was the first location in Vietnam to launch digital television. The experimental stage will last until June, 2015, when the city stops using analogue technology.

"It's a new step in television technology. Digital television can provide multiple channels with high definition quality," Cam said.

"However, digital television requires a setter-box to convert the digital signal. We will provide less cashed-up local people with subsidised products," he said.

Van Cong Tuong, deputy director of Vietnam Television Da Nang, said a digital transmitter had been set up at Son Tra station 639m above the sea level.

"The digital signal can cover 100km. Of course, we will install more digital transmitters in Quang Nam , Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and the Central Highlands region," Tuong said.

"VTV will broadcast free and supply subsidised setter boxes. However, many TV sets on the market now have the device installed during manufacture," he said.

About half the population in Da Nang and neighbouring Quang Nam province will be affected by the change to digital technology.

The director of Vietnam Authority of Radio Frequency Management, Doan Quang Hoan, said the use of television digital technology would boost competition among television stations.

"TV stations will have to improve their programmes and service to lure more subscribers," he said.

"As scheduled, Da Nang will stop broadcasting with analogue technology in 2015, while Quang Nam will start the digital television plan in 2018," he said, adding that VTV would set up an analogue transmitter in Quang Nam province for one year before the province starts experimental digital television.

In Da Nang City , VTV Da Nang, An Vien Group Television (AVG) and Vietnam Multimedia Corporation (VTC) are allowed to broadcast using digital television.

Vietnam will have access to digital television by 2020 under a programme recently approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Under the digital-television transition project, all households will have access to digital TV under different forms by 2020. Terrestrial digital television will account for 45 percent.-VNA