21 August 2012

Uganda Approves Digital TV Standard

Kampala, Uganda — Customers who are purchasing set top boxes fixed with the DVBT1 technology could soon find themselves needing to purchase decoders with BVBT2 technology.

This is because the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has approved the DVBT2 technology as the standard and has hence forth directed the companies supplying set top boxes to stop importing the DVBT1 enabled decoders.

Mr Patrick Mwesigwa, the Director of Technology and Licensing at UCC says that the decision to adopt the DVBT2 technology was taken by the East African partner states and as such customers should also purchase the approved decoders or else they stand to lose.

"The DVBT2 decoder has more capacity since one channel can carry more stations. So when all television stations switch to DVBT2, those with DVBT1 decoders will not be able to receive any transmission," he said.

This therefore means that those customers currently purchasing the inferior DVBT1 set top boxes will have to sooner than later purchase new set top boxes.

Mwesigwa said that the directive was passed onto the companies to stop importing DVBT1 set top boxes and that UCC was in contact with the relevant authorities to make sure that there was compliance.

According to a WMC, media and public relations agency in Kampala, only GoTv has the DVBT2 technology. this means decoders without these decoders will expire when the migration takes place effective 2013.

Most pay Tv companies recently reduced the price of their decoders ranging from Ush100,000 ($42) to Ush60,000 ($25) or $20 in a move seen as intended to get rid of their stock.

The source said companies such as Star times and TV NEXT had initially thought that the decoders could be upgraded to DVBT2 and as such their customers would be called for the upgrade of their boxes. Their supplier in China apparently told them that the DVBT1 technology in the boxes could not be changed hence the quick sale of the stock.

Mr Mutabazi, the Executive Director of UCC in an interview with the East African Business Week recently said DVBT2 technology was superior and as such was adopted. "Those companies supplying DVBT1 technology should upgrade to DVBT2 because it is modern and can carry more programs. People who are using those decoders (DVBT1) are subscribers and those companies have the mandate to upgrade their customers' decoders (to DVBT2)," he said.

During the reading of the 2012/13 budget in June, Finance Minister Ms. Maria Kiwanuka said that government had decided to waive off excise duty on set top boxes for one year so as to enable the country fast track her digital migration process.

As it appears, Uganda will not be able to meet the December 31, 2012 deadline agreed upon by the East African partner states. Mutabazi said that the regulator had decided to buy signal distribution equipment to enable Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) fast track the process.

According to the Digital Migration Policy that was approved by cabinet last year, UBC was contracted for a five-year period as sole signal distributor and given the mandate to implement digital migration.

Several electronic media owners thereafter began agitating for the government to let another independent company be the distributor of digital signals under the digital migration programme.

Late last year a COMESA member states meeting in Kampala recommended that governments should consider having more than one signal distributor as the region marches towards digital television.

Having at least two signal distributors means that for countries like Uganda, the monopoly enjoyed by UBC would have to come to an end.

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