CCK changes policy to cut price of digital TV converters


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CCK changes policy to cut price of digital TV converters

By Semaj Itosno, Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya has moved to cut price of digital TV devices that are key in the shift from analogue to Digital TV broadcasting.

The greatest barrier to the success of digital migration has been the access to affordable set-top boxes.

The price of set-top boxes is set to fall by at least over 40% after the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) changed minimum specifications, which allows for importation of equipment that exclusively support free-to-air (FTA) channels.

In the last national budget, the government waived the import taxes on the gadgets to make them cheaper but the CCK policy on what kind of gadgets to import has been an impediment.

Prior to this revision of policy, CCK only allowed  importation of set-top boxes on the Digital Video Broadcast Technology 2 (DVB-T2) that could access both pay and free-to-air channels whether or not the consumer subscribes to pay- TV.

It is this “conditional access” feature, a technology allowing pay TV broadcasters to control what viewers watch and one whose installation cost is estimated at about USD40 (Sh3,360), that has been removed.

This now allows vendors to import two types of set-top boxes — the less-advanced gadget only accessing FTA channels like NTV, KTN, Citizen and K24 and the costlier one that allows airing of both free and premium channels.

“The minimum specifications for DVB-T2 set-top boxes have been revised making the conditional access feature optional for DVB-T2 set top boxes intended for use to receive Free-to-Air  TV content,” CCK said in a public notice to vendors and consumers on Tuesday

“However, the set-top boxes intended for pay/subscription TV, conditional access still remains a mandatory feature,” added CCK.

With this change the cost of exclusive free-to-air set-top- boxes is expected to go down from the current Sh8,000 a gadget to about Sh4,600.

However the cost would only go down once traders import the cheaper gadgets.

According to Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary, Bitange Ndemo, the digital signal is now available in all the major towns in Kenya and is expected to be available in all parts, at least 80% coverage, by the end of 2012.

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