Kenya keen to beat deadline on digital migration

Regulation & Policy

Even as fears abound about the possibility of many African countries being unable to meet the 2015 deadline to transition from analogue to digital television broadcasting, the government is keen to ensure that Kenya beats the deadline.

The switch over will create new distribution networks; expand the potential for wireless innovation and services while the digital dividend realised from efficiencies in spectrum usage will allow more channels to be carried across fewer airwaves and lead to greater convergence of services.

Kenya’s Information and Communications Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo, said that the Treasury has set aside $ 4.4 million to ensure the country meets the 2015 ITU deadline.

“Kenya indeed will meet the 2012 self-imposed deadline way ahead of the 2015 ITU deadline. We shall not seek an extension since we have enough time to do something,” said Dr Bitange Ndemo in an online interview. Admitting that Kenya has “had several legal issues” relating to digital migration, Dr Ndemo said the country would cover at least 80 per cent of the population by June 2012.

Dr Ndemo said Kenya is deploying Digital Video Broadcast Terrestrial II (DVB-T2) while some operators may deploy satellite (Direct to Home or DTH) in order to cover the country’s estimated three million TV households out of a total population of about 40 million, mainly concentrated in urban centres as relying on digital terrestrial television would not be viable.

“It would be very expensive for example to cover northern Kenya via digital terrestrial television. We shall most likely subsidise DTH via satellite in remote places where there is no electricity,” he said

Kenya is among the five African countries that have launched the digital TV broadcasting migration process, the others being Ghana, Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria while South Africa has only decided on the standard to use but has not yet embarked on the migration process, according to Christoph Limmer, SES’s Africa market development senior director.

Limmer, whose company provides satellite broadcast solutions, said many countries in Africa would not meet the 2015 deadline as 20 countries are yet to begin the migration process, adding that African states would need to deploy a combination of infrastructure – both DTH and satellite – to attain entire coverage of their countries.

The flexibility offered by the digital platform will support mobile reception of video, Internet and multimedia data, making applications, services and information accessible and usable anywhere and at any time.

But even as the digital switchover date approaches, the number of sub-Saharan Africa families with TV receivers is still low. Compared with Europe where out of total 236.8 million households, 230.4 million have television sets, only 81.6 million households in sub-Saharan Africa, out of a total 234.4 million, have TVs.

According to ITU, the migration process is slow in some countries of the region: “For most developing countries, switchover to digital broadcasting is something feasible but not urgent. The uneven migration of technology is mainly due not only to the lack of expertise and financial resources but also to an immature economic situation.”