Nairobi — Kenyans in Nairobi will have to purchase a set top box by December 31 if they want to view any form of television programming, as the government hastens the digital migration process.
By the end of December the government is expecting four million analogue viewers to have migrated to digital TV.
"Government as well as the other operators has invested heavily on the infrastructure. So further delays in the migration would be very costly," Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo said during a press briefing.
Digitally transmitted signals currently cover 70 percent of the viewing population, with the countrywide migration expected to be complete by June 2013, ahead of the global deadline of 2015.
The set top boxes required for the digital process were zero-rated by government to make them more affordable and currently range between Sh2,500 and Sh5,000.
However, the issue that arises is the affordability of the subscription services to wananchi once they purchase the set top boxes.
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) Managing Director Waithaka Waihenya, who is also a member of the Digital Television Committee, said new free-to-air channels will be available on the network's Signet platform.
"You will be able to get 18 new channels and eight others that will be activated within the month of December. Some are in vernacular," he explained.
The Communication Commission of Kenya recently licensed new players on free-to-air to offer local programming.
The migration process will also free up much needed spectrum, which the government plans to hand over to mobile operators that have been eager to roll-out the Long Term Evolution (LTE) (4G) network.
As the country moves into a devolved government system, mobile operators want to maximize on the analogue spectrum to provide data services to outlying parts of the country at cheaper rates.