CIO East Africa (Nairobi)

10 December 2012

Kenya: Free to Air Digital Decoders Retailing At Ksh. 6,000 As Nairobi Switches in Weeks

A consumer organization has filed a suit seeking to block the government from executing the impending switch from analogue television transmission ... ( Resource: Kenyan Govt Sued Over Digital Migration

Nairobi is set for the switch off of analogue broadcasting on 31st December, 2012, with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication, Dr. Bitange Ndemo saying that there will be no further extension of the deadline. Despite the deadline being postponed twice, the country still remains largely unprepared for Digital TV Migration.

The migration will see television broadcasting shift from analogue to the more efficient digital broadcasting, which also allows addition of more services to broadcasting such as High Definition broadcasting, transmission of two channels on the same frequency through multiplexing, pay TV amongst others. "Normal" standard definition channels also occupy lesser frequency allowing for addition of more channels.

Communication Commissioner of Kenya (CCK) Director General, Francis Wangusi, said that about 40 percent of Kenya's 4 million television owners would still not be in a position to afford digital set top boxes even at a price of Ksh. 2,000 and would need government assistance. (http://www.cio.co.ke/news/main-stories/kenyan-govt.-may-offer-free-or-subsidised-digital-tv-boxes)

Research by CIO East Africa's Dennis Mbuvi shows that decoders are currently retailing at between KSh. 5,500 and KSh. 6,000 and aren't widely available.

In Nairobi's Central Business District, only one supermarket chain, Tuskys, is retailing the decoders at about. KSh. 5,500.

By the end of November, CCK had type approved 13 free to air set top box vendors, two pay TV set top boxes from GOTv and StarTimes and one integrated digital TV - The Samsung SmartTV.

CIO East Africa was able to talk to five of the type approved vendors. Gospell says their boxes are available at their Ngong Road offices and at One Stop Shop in downtown Nairobi at KSh. 6,500. The boxes have a USB port and can playback clips from flash disks and record TV to the same.

Teldy T2 decoders are available at their Riverside offices and retail at KSh. 7,000. Features include USB playback and recording support and upgrading of software over-the-air from the transmitter.

Hauren says their decoders are available from Bruce House at KSh. 5,500 and can also record and playback clips from flash disks. Hauren's set top box (STB) also offer's playback through HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) and comes with HDMI cables.

Paul Kivati said that Coship decoders would be available Monday starting at KSh. 6,000 and offer a HDMI port, two USB ports, a CI card slot.

Jimmy Munuthi told CIO East Africa that his VZStallion brand of decoders had just gotten approval from CCK and would be available by this week. Munuthi says that STBs are made to order in China as specifications vary from country to country, hence the high prices. In addition, Kenya requires that decoders (Pay TV decoders such as GOTv and StartTimes) have Common Interfaces (CI) which are slots which can accommodate any pay TV services. Such additional features increase the price of the decoders.

Minimum specifications for STBs issued by CCK state that they must support electronic programming guides (EPG) and Over the Air(OTA), software upgrades, parental lock and subtitle support. HDMI and PVR (recording to USB disks) support are optional, though almost all decoders currently in the market appear to support them.

Munuthi also told CIO East Africa that he had plans to bring in affordable integrated Digital TV television sets. He claims the sets are currently undergoing type approval by CCK and will retail under the brand name CMACC. Ranging from 14 inch to 32 inch LED screens, the sets will retail at about KSh. 14,000 for 14" sets and Ksh. 18,000 fro 21" sets. 21" LED sets with no digital TV integration currently retail at KSh. 23,000.

Munuthi said his aim was to make digital televisions affordable to all by having a low price point. In addition, he says that low power requirements by LED sets means they can be powered by car batteries in areas with not connected to the grid. He assures buyers of the quality saying the sets are of similar quality to standard brands as LED panels globally all come from five manufacturers in China, South Korea and Japan.

The quality of digital TV coverage also remains shaky, with transmitters squeezing 32 channels in spectrum where CCK recommends 20 channels. This has seen some channels having blurred picture quality. The PS says that additional spectrum needed to accommodate the extra channels would only be available once broadcasters switch to digital and free up spectrum held in analogue broadcasting. He also lamented broadcasters weren't taking advantage of new capabilities including HD (High Definition) broadcasting.

dennis.mbuvi@cio.co.ke

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