18 February 2013

Cameroon: Digital Switch Over - Practical Guide Scrutinised

Given that Cameroon adopted the Geneva 2006 Agreement which sets 17 June 2015 as the switch-over-date beyond which analogue TV broadcasting will no longer be protected from overspill of signals from neighbouring countries that have completed the transition, a practical guide to help with the process of implementation is inevitable. It is for this reason that the World Bank hired the services of a consultant, Russell Southwood, to draft a practical guide for Digital Switch Over (DSO) in Cameroon. An inter-ministerial committee and the Cameroon Digital Television Project, CAMDTP, converged in Mbalmayo recently to examine the document that will contain the practical modalities of DSO.

The guide identified public benefit of the DSO process, stating that there will be more efficient TV transmission signals, cheaper spectrum bills, greater number of channels with greater diversity, as well as the increase in availability of local content. According to the consultant, a slow switch-over in Cameroon could mean that it may become a dumping place for obsolete analogue equipment no longer used else where in the world. Thus Cameroon has to go digital with the rest of the world on the switch-over-date.

Moving from analogue to digital technology has a cost for the government, all broadcasters, both on the production and transmission sides, as well as households. Those who own analogue TV will need to buy a set-top converter box which will likely cost between FCFA 10,000 and FCFA 12,000 or purchase a digitally-enabled TV for 500 US dollars (approximately FCFA 25,000). The coordinator of CAMDTP, François Wakata said government will make sure that the cost weighs less on viewers. Representing the Minister of Communication, the Director of Legal affairs, Jean Tobie Hond said the guide will take into consideration the interest of the State and its people. The government will set up a body to manage the single carrier option chosen.

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