Digital migration: Will Kenya meet deadline?
GOVERNMENT| Jan. 19, 2012, 11:26 a.m.
By Carole Kimutai, Nairobi, Kenya
In December 2009, Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki launched the Digital Video Broadcasting Terrestrial (DVB-T) technology.
This marked the country’s migration from analogue to digital technology and made Kenya the second country in Africa - after South Africa - to embrace digital technology.
Kenya is a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and during a telecommunication conference in 2006, it was agreed that member countries should have migrated to digital technology in line with the ITU deadline of June, 2015.
Kenya has given itself 2012 as the deadline to make the digital switch. However, it looks like it could be an ambitious deadline after recent media reports hinted that the migration may not happen in 2012 as planned.
“It is not an ambitious deadline. We have already started the implementation of DVB-T2 and it is just a matter of scaling up,” explains Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication while speaking to this writer. Dr. Ndemo reveals that the problem is actually the set-top boxes. “We are still working with the Treasury to see if we can subsidise them.”
Digital broadcasting is a type of technology that involves transmitting TV signals using digital methods. TV signals are converted from analogue and transmitted as digital signals.
There was a directive by President Kibaki to waive duty and VAT on set- top boxes (converters) to enable Kenyans afford the equipment and meet the migration deadline. If all had gone as planned, Kenya was hoping to have finished deploying the Digital network countrywide by June 2012. Television viewers would have to use a converter or a Digital compliant TV to view terrestrial TV. Set-top boxes are a short-term intervention before people upgrade their sets to digital sets and for most people to be able to afford them.
In 2010, DVB – T set top boxes were already being sold in Kenya. The Digital Kenya Secretariat through a Public Notice advised that since the enhanced features on the DVB-T standard have motivated a number of countries to upgrade to the DVB-T2 standard, the subsequent rollout of digital broadcasting infrastructure in Kenya would be on the DVB-T2 platform. “DVB-T and DVB-T2 platforms will run concurrently in Nairobi for the entire duration of the simulcast period, which is expected to come to a close in 2012. However, in order to access programmes on the DVB-T2 platform, consumers will have to acquire DVB-T2 set- top boxes,” read the Public Notice.
The Secretariat advised members of the public that although DVB-T2 compliant set-top boxes are capable of receiving and correctly displaying digital TV signals transmitted on both DVB-T and DVB-T2 digital platforms, a DVB-T compliant set top box is limited to only receiving DVB-T digital signal and is not capable of correctly receiving and displaying digital TV signals transmitted on a DVB-T2 digital platform.
Vendors of equipment were advised in November 2010 to cease any further importation of the DVB-T set-top boxes and all importations of the set-top boxes were required to comply with the Government approved DVB-T2 system specifications. All equipment suppliers and vendors were advised to obtain type approval of the set-top boxes from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) in line with the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act No. 1 of 2009.
To make the set-top boxes affordable for Kenyans, the Government had approached The University of Nairobi to come up with a prototype and the plan was to have local entrepreneurs to manufacture in mass.
A bumpy migration
Dr. Ndemo says the main challenge is the pricing of the set-top boxes. “Unlike the US where the government paid for them, it could be a bit challenging in Kenya.” Governments in countries like New Zealand, Austria and the European Union has subsidised top-set boxes.
There have also been disagreements between the regulator (CCK) and Kenyan broadcasters after CCK awarded the second digital distributor license to a Chinese firm owned by Start Times of China. After contesting the second award, CCK allowed Kenyan broadcasters to form a third consortium. With cut-throat competition amongst the five mainly privately owned television broadcasters - NTV, Citizen, KTN, K24, and KISSTV - shareholding in the third company is yet to be made public.
Digital broadcasting is expected to grow Kenya’s media industry and will most likely see a new crop of content producers like local musicians. The music sector is a thriving industry.
Dr. Ndemo is still optimistic that Kenya can still meet the deadline. “We are already transmitting from the Kenyan Capital Nairobi and its environs but we need to put about six base stations which will cover about 70% of the country. Because of the geographical cover it will be a challenge to cover North Eastern regions, so we will get space on the satellite,” says Dr. Ndemo.
From a long-term perspective, digital broadcasting comes with many advantages. Broadcasters will not incur huge costs for broadcasting frequencies, buying transmission equipment, and leasing transmission sites. All broadcasters will be required to do, is send the signal distributer their content for broadcasting. Environmentally, this is a plus as people won’t put up masts anywhere haphazardly because under the ITU agreement, there will be designated areas where broadcasting masts and sites will be constructed.
In November 2011, a digital migration meeting organised the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) in partnership with the Ministry of Information and Communications, CCK and other organizations, the Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit brought together policy makers, regulators, broadcasting and ICT experts across the African region to discuss effective regional approaches that ATU members could adopt in transitioning and re-allocating digital spectrum.
The meeting also looked at the need to recast thinking on public sector spectrum management in light of liberalization, increased demand for spectrum and the need to deploy broadband networks for rural and underserved areas.
One of the highlights of the meeting was the need to educate consumers on the digital migration process and the role they ought to play for the switchover to take off. The Government has allocated USD one million for this education campaign which is supposed to start this year.
According to Dr. Ndemo, it is possible to be fully compliant by July 2012. “However, the decision for us to switch over depends on the Cabinet. The benefits of an early switch off are that we would then be able to have ample time to deal with the teething problems before the actual deadline of 2015.”
MORE GOVERNMENT NEWS
NCC chief urges Fed Govt to relax forex policyThe Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, has urged the Federal Government to consider relaxing its forex policy for telecommunications companies. Read More
No deal with MTN on fine, says ComTech ministerNigeria’s Communications Technology Minister says no concrete deal has been sealed in respect of the fine imposed on MTN. Read More
CA rejects misleading reports on Essar saleThe Chairman of the Communications Authority of Kenya board of directors, Ngene Gituku, has refuted allegations of impropriety and unethical conduct around the sale of Essar Telecom Kenya Ltd. Read More
Smart Africa seeks One Africa NetworkICT Ministers and telecoms regulatory bodies meeting in Kigali have resolved to implement the new One Africa regional telecommunications framework initiative this year. Read More
Kenyan mobile operators fail on QoS targetsThe Communications Authority of Kenya says Kenya’s mobile operators have failed to meet Quality of Service standards for the third year running. Read More
Glo Ghana sanctioned for call setup time delaysThe Ghana NCA says it has sanctioned Ghana’s sixth network operator, Glo, for failing in its Call Setup Time obligation within the Greater Accra region. Read More
Facebook post costs Kenyan $50000A social media user in Kenya has been fined Kshs 5million for allegedly defaming a member of parliament on social media; in a ruling that will set a precedent on any future internet cases in Kenya. Read More
BTCL lists on local bourseA journey that began close to a decade ago has culminated in the first successful privatisation of a Botswana state entity – BTCL. Read More
Huawei appointed lead ICT consultant for UgandaHuawei has been appointed as a lead ICT consultant in Uganda, and has named ten Ugandans to benefit from its Seeds for the Future development programme. Read More
FEATURED STORYCriticism over Remita borne out of ignorance, says SystemSpecs
The CEO of SystemSpecs, the company behind the revenue-saving Nigerian Single Treasury Account (TSA) system, speaks to Biztechafrica.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHIBM Opens First Cloud Data Centre in South Africa
IBM is opening a new IBM Cloud Data Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The new cloud center is the result of a close collaboration with Gijima and Vodacom and is designed to support cloud adoption and customer demand across the continent.
COMPANY NEWSKeeping up with the mobile banking evolution
Africa especially has witnessed the trend of mobile banking, due to the well-known fact that today more people on the continent have access to a mobile phone ...