New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Communications Sector Registers Mixed Fortunes in 2012

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An STBs, also known as a decoder, is a receiver that, when connected to a television set, will decode the digital signal to enable the channels to be displayed on an analogue television set.

For most Ugandans who own analog TV-sets, the mandatory STBs, subsidised at $50-$60, may still prove expensive, limiting digitalisation.

With no chance of beating the deadline, UCC has postponed the cut-off date.

Kenya, like Uganda, failed on their initial cut-off date, extending their deadlines to May 2013 whilst Tanzania has phased its digitalisation drive.

Nonetheless, UCC is hopeful that Uganda will be digitally compliant by the June 2015 ITU deadline.

But the government's award of a five-year sole signal distributor rights to Uganda Broadcasting Service, affiliated to UBC TV, has proved controversial with other TV stations argue that being a competitor, granting the national broadcaster monopolistic powers would cause a conflict of interest and give it unfair competing advantage over others.

SIM card registration

On March 1, UCC announced nationwide registration of all the 17 million Subscriber Identity Module (SIM cards) in Uganda, with all mobile phone holders mandated to comply within 12-months when non-subscribers would be de-activated. The registration of SIM cards is in line with the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, 2010. SIM registration, a global trend intended to fight fraud and insecurity peddled through telecommunication, is also a regional exercise undertaken by the East African Communications Organisation for which Uganda is a member.

However, whilst the exercise kicked off expressly, not even the threat of de-activating unregistered SIM cards has attractive a rash in registration. Presently, only 50%- 55% of SIM cards are registered, although UCC targeted 80% by December 2012.

It is also unlikely that even the 90% target UCC set by March 1, 2013 is achievable, although a massive media campaign and outreach campaigns in 20 populous districts is projected to increase registration before deadline date. Even with those registered, the absence of a national ID or a biometric system renders authenticating information provided a Herculean task.

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