31 December 2012

Tanzania: Arusha Ready for Digital Television

Photo: Caroline Mwakio/AllAfrica
Dar es Salaam moves from analogue to digital technology.

AS analogue television broadcasting ends tonight, many residents in rural parts of Arusha and Manyara regions say they are not worried because their areas had never been covered with analogue signals in the first place.

"We have been using satellite dishes to access TV channels, which means people here had already by-passed the analogue area and gone straight to digital," said Mr Ahmed Kongowa of Kibaya township in Kiteto District, Manyara Region.

Students at Embarway Secondary School in the remote Endulen Ward of Ngorongoro Division, who remained at school to study during holidays said for years they have been enjoying TV programmes and Internet connections using satellite dishes.

"We do not even have electricity and everything is powered by solar and generators," they said. The students have also been safeguarded from the digital switchover expected to face the entire country this Monday, December 31.

Satellite dishes have also been in use for years in Katesh area of Hanang District, Haydom area as well as other parts of Mbulu District in Manyara. Longido, Namanga and parts of Monduli District were also yet to receive 'free-to-air,' analogue broadcasts by the time the signals get switched off. But in urban centres confusion has been reigning among residents in places like Arusha City.

Most people here think that they now have to throw away their old television sets. 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 impoverishing 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 gets 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 switch.

Ms Amina Juma of Majengo in 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 affordable prices," she added. A television 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 switch-over. 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 inferior to analogue.

"TV analogue transmission is solid and doesn't cut off frequently as digital does," he added. A TCRA engineer at the Arusha office, Mr Sabath Kalolo has previously confirmed that as of December 31, there will be a complete switchover to digital broadcasting in the region 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-1 and those formerly offered on free-to-air basis. In order to get decoders, sometimes referred to as set-top boxes, TV set owners will have to link with one of the existing privately owned digital broadcasting companies, which include Star Media, Zuku and Agape Television as more vendors expected to release own decoders into the market in the course of 2013.

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