Three days to Malawi’s digital switch

By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi

The Malawi government has announced that there are now three days before commissioning of its digital migration.

Information and Civic Education Minister Brown Mpinganjira has said installation of the first phase of the country’s digital terrestrial network has been completed.

He said the installation of the network is in line with the set dates by Southern African Development Community.

The minister disclosed that in the first phase government installed five transmitters covering the country’s cities of Blantyre, Zomba in the Southern Region; Lilongwe in the Central Region and Mzuzu in the North.

He said the commissioning of the network in Malawi would not mean that television viewers would no longer be able to watch using old analogue television equipment.

“The country has up to 2015 to completely phase out analogue TV broadcasting,” he said before disclosing that government has put in place mechanisms for ensuring that enough set-top boxes (STB) or digital terrestrial decoders are available on the local market as Malawi switches to digital migration.

Mpinganjira said all stakeholders interested to venture into the STB [decoders] should apply to government through my ministry for businesses licences but said all licensed broadcasters who are already operational should avail their signals for testing before the digital switch is on.

The minister also appealed to retailers of TV sets, and decoders to provide adequate consumer education to their customers to ensure that they acquire equipment that will enable them access digital television.

“Traders should not take advantage of the migration process and customers’ low levels technical know-how to dupe them by selling them equipment that is not digital compliant or less durable,” said Mpinganjira.

The minister said the Malawi Bureau of Standards and the Malawi Revenue Authority need to collaborate with government to ensure that set standards for TV sets and decoders are followed on the market.

On December 18, last week the minister presided over the launch of a Digital Migration Communications Strategy which is aimed at creating the project’s public awareness.

During the launch Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Civic Education Luckie Sikwese said the second phase is planned for completion in July 2014.

“The third phase is planned for launch by December 2014 during which five additional transmitters will be added to the network in each phase to bring the total stations to 15 covering the entire country,” he said.

He said they are in the comfort zone considering that the International Telecommunications Union set December 31, 2015 as the date for all countries to switch to digital television broadcasting while December 31, 2013 is the the deadline that Sadc set for its member countries.

On the launch of the Communications Strategy Mpinganjira said is aimed at ensuring that the public has adequate, relevant and accurate information necessary for people to understand, appreciate and be ready and willing to migrate to digital broadcasting.

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