Kenya: Traders Gear Up for Boom from Broadcast Switchover to digital

Technology & Convergence

The migration of broadcasting from analogue to digital will open a window of opportunities for entrepreneurs. Signs that traders are entering a boom period is the move by the body in charge of the migration, Digital Kenya, to issue specifications for suppliers of equipment.

This gives the entrepreneurs a green light to start bringing in the new set-top boxes. Apart from suppliers, technicians will benefit from repairs and installations under the short-term gains. Content providers, trainers of technicians and equipment assemblers of top boxes have room for long-term gains.

Entrepreneurs within Nairobi and its environs are expected to be the first beneficiaries as the rollout of the programme will begin in the capital city. However, a proposal by the Ministry of Information to Treasury to zero-rate the equipment is yet to be approved, a factor that may drive the costs of the set top boxes and other equipment to be used by the industry and at home.

Alfred Ambani, the broadcast director at Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), says there will be no new regulations for the suppliers but they will be required to adhere to minimum specification provided by the regulator.

"We won't restrict the numbers of players like what happened in the mobile industry at first, which led to high prices but leave it open so as to allow as many players as possible which will bring in competition and hence dictate prices," said Ambani. The biggest hindrance to migration to digital broadcasting, which Kenya has planned for 2012, will be the conversion of the analog signals.

There have been conflicting reports on the expected price of the set-top boxes with some government officials saying the price should be between Sh2,000 and 3,000 while others put it at Sh5,000.

Although there are some in the country already, CCK is warning that consumers should only buy those that are Digital Video Broadcasting Terrestrial (DVBT) and MPEG4-enabled.

Apart from offering opportunities for assemblers, software developers are also expected to benefit from the technology switch as the set top boxes will mainly involve installing or customising of software, such as those that record programmes when one is away and store for later viewing. Call centres will benefit as more pay-TV operators get room to enter the market and will be looking for customer care services.