Kenya: Early into the race for the transition to digital broadcasting

Technology & Convergence

Kenya became one of the first African countries outside South Africa to begin the journey to digital broadcasting. That journey involves migrating all broadcast media from analogue to digital. It will start in earnest at the end of this month when national broadcaster, KBC, migrates from analogue to digital broadcasting, setting the pace for mass migration that will end in 2012.

To undertake this process successfully, both broadcasters and consumers of their services will need to undergo a transformation that will require change of equipment on both sides. The State has already moved to show the way with the announcement that it has formed a subsidiary arm of KBC - Signate- that will act as the signal distributor of content on the digital platform.

Consumers are required to prepare to buy set up top boxes - the gadgets that the millions of analogue TV sets in Kenyan homes need to receive digital broadcasting signals.

First, the technical capacity that digital broadcasting offers is the silver bullet that the country needs to solve the acute shortage of frequencies currently inhibiting investment into broadcast media. Broadcast engineers say digital platform would make available eight channels for every single frequency available on analogue platform currently.

Limitations of the analogue system is the reason the Communication Commission of Kenya has a list of more than 100 investors on the queue for frequencies to set up radio and TV stations. Besides, digital broadcasting bears the potential of significantly lowering the cost of entry into the business of broadcasting.

Having a single distributor of signals means that operators will no longer need to set up own transmission systems cutting out a large chunk of the costs that investor incur to enter the business.