DTC fails to deliver on mandate for digital migration
The year 2012 is the year Kenyans expected a complete switch from analog television broadcasting to digital broadcasting ever since the journey started in 2009. However, this has become another pipe dream after the body mandated to fulfill this, the Digital Transition Committee, missed its own target twice (June and December 2012) for the launch of digital terrestrial television services countrywide.
Few Kenyan towns including Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Nyeri , Webuye and Meru are now covered by the digital signal but adoption is proving to be a bane for most consumers since the prices of the set- top- boxes are still prohibitive to them.
The price of a free to air DVB- T2 set top box is still in the range of Ksh.5, 000 and Ksh.7, 000 in most stores and many people cannot afford it despite the government scraping the taxes on importing the digital converters. Speculation on the price of these gadgets in the market has led to the inflation of the same with a reduction still remaining a long way out of sight. The average price of a set- top box on OLX is Ksh.6, 000.
Ironically, the pay TV subscription services have lowered their prices to as low as 1, 999 (In the case of Startimes) to take advantage of the prohibitive price for the free to air service. The infrastructure roll out in the country is also proving to be a difficult thing to execute since the government’s budget allocation for this is reportedly still insufficient.
The failure of the Digital Transition Committee (DTC) to implement the switch from analog television broadcasting is not just limited to the funding. They have been largely unable to come up with a plan to ensure that those who cannot afford the digital terrestrial set- top boxes are not locked out from the TV services they were benefiting from using their current analog TVs.
Without careful planning of the implementation phase, the issue may be taken to court and more extensions may result in the country lagging behind dangerously as we approach the global deadline for the switch in 2015.
Some quarters have been suggesting that the Communications Commission of Kenya should adopt America’s way of issuing free or partial coupons to those who cannot afford buying the new DVB- T2 set top boxes. The DTC has already ruled out this option without announcing an alternative. Similarly, the inept committee has also failed to state a definite date for the crucial switch over.
DVB T2 stands for Digital Video Broadcasting – Second Generation Terrestrial. To receive the digital signal, you will need a DVB T2 MPEG4 set top box. Kenyans are advised to be careful when going to buy the decoder since a previous version DVB- T is still in the market despite the fact that it is obsolete technology. However, the DVB- T2 still comes with a UHF TV antenna which should be placed at the top of the house and pointed towards the transmitting site (Limuru, in the case of Nairobi). The antenna can also be found on OLX for the internet buyers.
For those of you who watch television from your PCs, you will still need a DVB- T2 MPEG4 TV tuner card (together with the relevant software) since the TV cards in the market only support analog tuners. Just like an integrated TV receiver (has an inbuilt digital decoder), Digital TV cards are still not available in the country; at least it’s not official.
Digital TV broadcasting has several advantages the main ones being superior picture and sound quality, interactivity and a wider range of choice in television broadcasting. With higher bit rate offered, it is a suitable system for carrying more SDTV, HDTV, mobile TV and other multimedia signals on the terrestrial TV channel.
The set-top box is easy to install since you only need to plug it into your TV set following simple instructions that come with the manual. It should be thoroughly noted that the converter box is not the same as the existing satellite or terrestrial-based pay TV service decoders. Some people have been rushing for the subsidized pay TV converters only to realize that they do not work for the free to air service they were initially after.