Chinese firm wins digital signal distribution tender in Kenya


China has secured a larger share of Kenya’s television market after one of its firms won a licence for distributing digital signals in the country, further cementing the hold of the Asian country in the economy.

The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) is set to award the licence to Pan African Network Group for one of the two new digital signal distribution licences in a bid that had attracted Signal Distributors Ltd, Mayfox Ltd, Globecast Africa, Africa Link Agencies and a consortium of local broadcasters Nation Media Group and Royal Media Services.

Kenya’s TV market is migrating from the current analogue broadcasting platform to digital broadcasting by next June as part of a global initiative that will see broadcasters cede transmission of their content to the Chinese company, which will earn a distribution fee.

“It was the only one (Pan African Network) that qualified and this means that the second licence remains free for now,” Francis Wangusi, the director of broadcasting at CCK told the Business Daily on Wednesday, adding that the regulator is yet to decide whether to issue or scrap the second licence.

The licence will be issued on three conditions: that it will be on an open access platform; must have national coverage, and the investor must show proof of resources or funding needed for putting up the national infrastructure.

Already, the government has awarded another transmission licence to Signet—a subsidiary of state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), which was last embroiled in a tussle with local broadcasters after it issued content from eight channels to a private Swedish pay-TV firm for onward distribution without their permission.

The content was meant for testing and some broadcasters have pulled out of the deal, arguing against the takeover of the broadcasting services by foreign firms. Pan African Network becomes the second Chinese firm to seek a piece of the of Kenya’s digital TV market after Smart DTV secured the contract to supply set-top boxes—gadgets that allow viewers to access digitised content using their analogue TVs instead of buying expensive digital sets.

Pan African Network Group will roll out its network alongside Signet which has been hit by funding challenges that has limited its reach to the capital Nairobi and its environs.

Signet needs about Sh4 billion to expand countrywide, but the government said it lacks funds amid low revenue collection and priority spending on infrastructure and food subsidies.

Signet and the new digital signal carrier are to move to a higher technology (DVB-T2) from the earlier version (DVB-T), owing to the improved features of the new technology and the government ban of the latter version.