Nigeria, others fail to meet digital transmission deadline

WITH barely a week to the deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for countries to switch from analogue to digital transmission, there is no hope that Nigeria and some other sub-Saharan African countries will be able to meet the migration deadline. Only Kenya and Tanzania have achieved the feat.
Indeed, after the 2006 Geneva agreement between the ITU and member countries, to which Nigeria was a signatory, a June 17, 2015 deadline date was set and agreed by member nations for switchover from analogue to digital transmission. The process is expected to help set free from the broadcasters some spectrum frequencies, otherwise known as digital dividend, which other sectors, especially the telecommunications industry, can deploy to provide better services.
Already, because it will not meet the deadline, Nigeria has asked for an extension by the ITU, with new focus on December 2017 for her to be able to migrate from analogue to digital transmission.
Digital migration refers to the shift from analog broadcasting to digital broadcasting, involving many changes in the transmission signals so that members of the public can buy high definition television sets and dispose of their standard definition television sets.
Narrating the successful transition process yesterday in Beijing, China, at the 5th edition of the yearly African Digital TV Development Seminar, organized by StarTimes, Tanzania’s Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Dr. Fenella Mukangara, said the country started migration in phases from 2009 into 2012 and completed the process on April 30, 2015.
Mukangara said though the process was challenging, “with government support, massive awareness and sensitization by the agency in charge, we were able to complete switchover ahead of the June 17, 2015 deadline.” She disclosed that in the process, the government of Tanzania provided tax reliefs, among other incentives, for the importation of Set- Top- Boxes (STB), stressing that about one million were sold recently and that the country currently enjoys about 51digital channels.
Like Mukangara, the Director-General of Communications Authority of Kenya, Francis Wangusi, said after signing the Geneva agreement of 2006, his country established a task force which saw it developed an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policy that gave meaning to the process of migration. Wangusi said by August 2015, Kenya should have attained 70 per cent migration, stressing that only areas without television would be left out.
According to him, the benefits his country enjoys now because of the migration includes release of digital dividend spectrum for roll-out of other non-broadcast services, such as mobile broadband in the 694MHz to 800MHz; improved environmental conservation, because operators now share infrastructure; quality digital picture with a target to have 40 per cent local content channels by 2017; creation of business opportunities and employment (content development; STBs manufacturing) and opportunity for Kenyans to have variety of channels. Wangusi said the process was, however, not smooth because they had to contend with some challenges, including litigation, cost of STBs and the slow roll-out of digital signals. “But we can say we have overcome that now, by August we should have 70 per cent of Kenya covered digitally.”
In an interview with The Guardian, the President of Startimes, Xinxing Pang, said countries that failed to meet the June 17 date would experience signal interference from border nations.
Pang, who said China has achieved migration, described digitalization as an irresistible trend, stressing that the process is about clear image on television and more convenient services that appeal to customer. According to him, China will always be ready to assist countries that are ready.

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