3 December 2012

Tanzania: Arusha Residents Falter Digital Move

Arusha — CONFUSION reigns among residents of Arusha of what exactly will happen when Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) honours its deadline for the switchover from analogue to digital TV broadcasting come December 31.

Some of the residents of the City have expressed concern regarding the imminent switchover from analogue to digital television transmission, claiming that Tanzania has rushed into the matter without first educating viewers about its essence.

Mr Athumani Juma, a resident of Kaloleni Arusha said the migration to digital is just another method of fleecing people who are already reeling from the burden of inflation. To him that is another added cost of living, as he and others will have to buy a decoder in order to view TV channels that he now enjoys free of charge.

And for houses with more than one set of TV, this will be a challenge because current decoders on the market only support a single signal outlet through RCA cables, few have HDMI outputs and none offer multi-channel switcher.

Ms Amina Juma of Majengo Arusha is of the view that it is only a small percentage of Tanzanians who have access to TV and if one introduces a decoder hitch then "obviously many people would simply stop watching TV." She wondered why only a few companies have been given the monopoly to sell the digital decoders. "There should be competition so that we get best prices,' she added.

A TV dealer near the Central Market place, Mr Hussein Mohamed said the switchover to digital is a major blow to his business. Many dealers, he said, would be stuck with the analogue gadgets already stocked in their shops, on that people will be focusing in buying decoders now and not TV sets.

"TCRA has rushed into the switchover. We should have been given adequate time to dispose of the existing analogue equipment," he said. Another electronics dealer, Mr John Laizer, was disgusted with the whole idea of abandoning analogue broadcasting claiming that digital is far inferior to analogue.

"TV analogue transmission is solid and doesn't cut off frequently as digital does," he added. Elsewhere in Kibaya town in Kiteto district of Manyara, residents said what TCRA is preaching is not news to them because they have always been on digital broadcasting since they were connected to grid electricity in 2000.

"There are no free-to-air TV coverages here so we only use satellite dishes in this part of the country which means we are already on digital even before the TCRA move to shift from analogue to digital broadcasting," said Mr Mohamed Hamad of Kibaya.

A TCRA engineer at the Arusha office, Mr Sabath Kalolo confirmed that as of December 31 there will be a complete switchover to digital broadcasting and those with analogue TV would require decoders to be able to view programmes.

The decoders do not need to be topped up with credit every month to view local channels such as ITV, Channel 10, Star TV, TBC and those formerly offered on free-to-air basis. TCRA Public Relations Manager, Mr Innocent Mungy had earlier announced in Dar es Salaam that only seven towns out of more than 20 directly covered by terrestrial analogue TV would need to migrate to digital.

The rest of the country does not have TV coverage and access to TV is through satellite or cable, which does not need to migrate to digital terrestrial. In order to get decoders, sometimes referred to as settop boxes, TV set owners will have to link with one of the existing privately owned digital broadcasting companies, which include Star Media and Agape Television.

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