Uganda sets December deadline for digital migration

By Omondi Julius Odera, Kampala, Uganda

The long awaited launch of television digital migration in Uganda is slated to commence in October as the regulator ambitiously sets December as the deadline for the digitizing the whole country.

Engineer Godfrey Mutabazi, the director for Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), explained in a recent interview that acquisition of all the necessary equipment for the switchover has already been done. The revelation comes as the regulator struggles to try and help the country beat the imminent global deadline for migration set by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) June 2015 deadline.

The regulator plans to switch the whole country to digital by December 2014 ahead of the fast approaching global deadline. The delay of the process according to Mutabazi has been caused a myriad of challenges including logistics. In October, UCC targets to switchover Kampala and its’ environs including Mukono, Mityana Entebbe among other surrounding towns. “We have agreed to complete the whole exercise by the end of December 2014. This is the time frame for switching the whole country to digital platform so that we have ample time to deal with the ensuing teething challenges before the global deadline,” explained Mutabazi. During this process, all broadcasters will be required to shut down their analogue TV transmitters and adopt the digital signals.

However, many analysts and players in the industry still decry the low figures of households adopting the pay TV decoders. Azam TV which is a new entrant in the Pay TV sector has observed that there no incentives for the masses to adopt the digital platform and yet there is less than three months for the total switchover. Arineitwe Simon the General Manager for Azam pa TV decried that the high initial costs for pay TV deters new clients. “Pay TV operators have tried to subsidize their decoders and costing but due to the exorbitant taxes meted on us, the final costs still remains relatively high leaving out over 90 percent of the of TV sets on analogue.”

Out of the three East African core states, only Tanzania has successfully switched over to digital platform. Kenya’s analogue switch off has been a continuing saga since the deadline was set following  three media houses accusing the Communication Commission of Kenya of unfair handling of license issuance. To date, the process has been put pending by the courts until the solution is at hand.

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