Nigeria: Convergence gains momemntum as AIT goes to capital market

Investment

With Nigeria’s first private television network, African Independent Television (AIT), at the capital market to raise some N18 billion or so for expansion, the line for convergence between broadcast and telecom is expected to further thin out and step up competition in Nigeria’s increasingly fiery broadcast-telecom market.

“Unified licence by the country’s regulator allows different telecommunications companies [to] provide multiple services to the PC from broadband high-speed Internet access and VoIP telephone to IP television and 3.5G wireless services,” said Lagos based telecom consultant Olu G. Alabi-Isama.

Operators such as AIT are itching to expand their broadcast coverage and upgrade existing facilities to include the purchase of multi-channel digital KV.TV system and launch of triple play services.

With a national coverage aggressively at par in visibility with the country’s public-owned television station Nigeria Televisaion Authority (NTA), a global presence that enjoys higher patronage than any other electronic media within Nigeria, AIT has displayed more market dynamism than any other player that should see it revving up on the market.

While speaking at the opening of its public offer at the Nigeria Stock Exchange, the chairman of AIT, Chief Raymond Dokpesi said the offer would allow the company to explore new vast oppurtunities offered by the dynamics of technology and the changing trends in the industry to meet the rising sophistication of viewers within and outside Nigeria.

While convergence open a new window for expansion in terms of broadcast reach, it is the potential for new high stake partnership between AIT and telecom operators that could firmly redefine the market and point the new direction in local and international programming, deployment of digital switchover and high-definition viewing technology and rollout of mobile TV.

AIT has already signalled to move in this direction with recent investment in Internet technology for audio-video streaming of its live programmes to an international audience via the web and exploration of the potential for mobile TV through opening of talks with some GSM and CDMA operators.

At stake is a content market for news, entertainment and sports valued at several billion naira and up for grabs is a subscriber base in excess of some 15 million mobile viewers – a conservative figure from Nigeria’s current mobile subscription of 40 million. But to tap into this waiting market, operators in the broadcast and telecom market must even the lines between them to deliver mobile content on TV and TV content on mobile.

Getting it right would also demand that the winning operators have sufficient cash in their war chest thus the pressure on AIT to get fresh funding from the capital market if it must talk as equal with big money telecom networks such as MTN, Gobacom and Celtel to deliver congerged services. The three leading Nigeria mobile telco are all poised to shoot services into the converged market with the launch of 3G services.