TANZANIA'S long awaited journey to digital broadcasting began with Dar es Salaam amid earlier concerns that the pricing of decoders would prevent millions of viewers from migrating to the new and clearer transmission platform.
While some had expressed fears that decoders were beyond the reach of many homes, a number of providers reported last week that sales made ahead of the switch off date overwhelmed the stock they had. "We got the right sales volumes as thousands turned up to buy the gadgets needed to switch to digital," said Mussa Mohammed, a dealer in Kariakoo.
The switch from analogue to digital broadcasting requires both broadcasters and consumers to buy new equipment that converts analogue signals to digital. In an interview with state Broadcaster TBC, Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) Manager for Communications, Mr Innocent Mungy, said the new era would open opportunities, noting that the migration to digital broadcasting is expected to unlock the frequencies logjam and break the long queue for licences by those seeking to invest in the country's vibrant broadcasting sector.
"Anyone can now invest in this industry. Even journalists can now make their own programmes and sell to any interested station and make money out of their efforts," he said. He said a single analogue frequency could carry as much as eight channels on the digital platform, offering the TCRA the opportunity to end the long queue of investors who always wait to enter the broadcasting market.
He said an increase in the number of broadcasters is in turn expected to spur growth down the chain, especially in the content generation market to keep the stations running. He said this would also help broadcasters to air more local content, something that opens up a huge business potential for homegrown production houses. Yesterday's rollout of digital broadcasting is the culmination of a three-year process that began in 2004.
In a statement by the Minister for Communications, Science and technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa, yesterday, he said the switch to digital in Dodoma and Tanga would be January 31, Mwanza February 28, Moshi and Arusha March 31 and Mbeya April 30. He said the switch changes do not involve satellite, cable and radio broadcasting services.
Digital Broadcasting milestones in Tanzania dates back in 2004 when the Regional Radio communication Conference was held in Geneva to establish the technical basis to facilitate Frequency spectrum planning and the form in which the requirements of administrations was to be submitted.
In 2005 the Converged Licensing Framework with accommodated Digital Broadcasting First Public Consultation Document on Digital Broadcasting Landscape was adopted. In 2006 Regional Radio communication Conference which was held in Geneva converted all the analogue assignment done to Digital assignment followed by signing of agreements and approved digital plan.
In the same year the National Planning and Assignment of Digital frequencies, second Public Consultation Document on Introduction of Multiplex Operators (Signal Distributors) as well as formation of the National Technical Committee-Digital Broadcasting to oversee the migration was established.
In 2007 a series of sensitization to Government and stakeholders were kicked off followed by the Cabinet Policy Document on digital migration and formation of National Steering Committee on Digital migration the following year. In 2010 licences for three Multiplex Operators namely StarMedia (T) Ltd, Agape Associates Limited and Basic Transmissions Limited was granted followed by the enactment of new governing digital migration and the Electronic and Postal Communication Act the same year.
Migration to digital TV is a global project that began at the 2006 telecommunications conference in Geneva that set June 2015 as the deadline by which all broadcasters are expected to have migrated to the digital platform. In an interview yesterday, a Telecom Engineer, Godwin, said digital formats like PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) can hold the exact digital format of sounds.
He also said digital signals can be checked for errors. "Generally, all digital transmission methods use 'head labels' to provide better checking facilities. Head label may contain how many packets may need to complete the transmission, what is the sequence number of each packet of data, acknowledgment labels etc," he said.
He also said a variety of services can afford over one line. "For example, IpTV connection can be used to watch cable TV channels while browsing the Internet through a PC using same line. This line can also be used to make a phone call at the same time," he said. Other areas touched were that digital data can be compressed and therefore possible to pass over higher bandwidths.
Any digital data; data, image, video, voice can be compressed. He said it was more secure, and easier way to integrate different digital formats. He said digital transmission provides higher maximum transmission rates via medium such as optical fibres, noting that digital transmissions use less bandwidth. He also said local assemblers and software developers are also expected to benefit from installation business and development of software that will help record programmes for later viewing.
He said Call centres will also benefit as more pay-TV operators get room to enter the market and will be looking for customer care services. A number of countries have started migrating despite numerous challenges, US is among them but they had to push their deadline ahead so as to come up with the incentives for both end users and broadcasters to ensure smooth migration. South Africa is among the countries that have migrated from analogue to digital.