29 June 2012

Kenya: Analogue Television Off in Two Months' Time

The Communications Commission of Kenya will switch off analogue transmission signals in Nairobi metropolitan area in two months' time, Information PS Bitange Ndemo has warned. The switch to digital TV signals will then follow in Mombasa and Kisumu before eventually rolling out to the rest of the country by December. "We will roll out the digital signal in bits starting with Nairobi and hope to have covered the whole country by December. We are currently implementing a pilot project in Mombasa," said Ndemo.

Kenya already has two digital signal distributors, Signet which is a subsidiary of state-owned broadcaster KBC and Pan African Group. The country in April adopted the Digital Video Broadcasting - Second Generation Terrestrial (DVB-T2) platform which has a better spectral efficiency and transmits compressed digital audio, video and other data.

The country had initially set a June 2012 deadline for migration to digital transmission of TV broadcast. However, low penetration of set-top boxes - which convert digital broadcast into analogue-compatible mode - delayed the migration as only a few of the four million analogue TV owners have access.

Digital transmission enables a broadcaster to provide the signal across various platforms, bringing down the cost of setting up and maintaining broadcasting equipment. Focus will instead shift to quality of TV programmes. "Television will be much more different as there will be a lot of digital content available," said Ndemo. He said the cost of set-top boxes will have come down significantly by December for majority of TV owners to afford.

Finance minister Njeru Githae zero-rated import duty on set-top boxes in the 2012/13 fiscal budget to fast track the digital migration process. "The entire world is targeting year 2015 as the deadline to migrate from analogue to digital television signals. To make the set-top boxes which form an integral part of this migration available to Kenyans at affordable price, I propose to remove duty on the importation of these gadgets," said Githae.

Ndemo said the prices of set-top boxes have already come down to about Sh2,000 from as high as Sh7,000 and will be far lower in six months' time when the analogue signal will be switched off countrywide. "They should cost as little as Sh500 which is a price everyone would afford," he said. Local TV channels are accessible for free on DVB-T2 compliant set-top boxes and viewers have the option of subscribing for pay-TV channels.

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