Nelson Chamisa, the MDC-T MP for Kuwadzana, has warned Zimbabwe faces the danger of missing the 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for broadcasting from analogue to digital.
The former minister of Information and Communications Technology told journalists in Harare on Thursday that the country stands the risk of paying the painful penalty of being isolated from the world's broadcasting community if they fail to meet the deadline.
Already struggling national broadcaster ZBC missed the 2013 SADC digitalization deadline, with speculation that time is fast running out to meet next year's deadline.
'The net effect of missing the deadline is that we are going to be switched off. This is a very serious issue for citizens in terms of accessing the communications services,' Chamisa said.
But the ruling ZANU PF government says it is confident that it will meet the June 2015 international digital deadline. Information minister Jonathan Moyo last year gave assurances that digitalization of broadcast services will be achieved in line with the requirements of the ITU.
Chamisa said it is envisaged that switching to digitalization would make it possible for up to 80 television stations to be introduced, a development confirmed by Moyo in an interview with the state media in September last year.
'Digitalization is one of our priority areas, especially with respect to broadcasting. We will have to switch off the analogue system by June 2015... when the digitalization starts, you won't have to worry about ZBC alone or at all,' Moyo said.
Government strictly controls the airwaves in Zimbabwe and it is unlikely that any independent broadcasts would be allowed to apply for licenses. The costs of running a television station are also huge, and that would create an additional problem for any private broadcaster.
An expert in the telecommunications field told SW Radio Africa that the advantages of digitalization, apart from accommodating more than 20 TV channels on a single frequency, is that there is better quality picture, access to interactive services and the creation of pay TV platforms.
Almost all countries that have migrated from analogue to digital in SADC have done so with the help of their governments. It is not clear how the broke ZANU PF government will find the resources to fund the mismanaged ZBC to carry out this hugely expensive project before the June 2015 deadline.