Rwanda: Shift to Digital Broadcasting on Track


The television industry is set to benefit from increased investment after it emerged that all necessary infrastructure is in place to switch from analogue to digital broadcasting ahead of the December 2011 deadline.

A study conducted by Rwanda Broadcasting Services (RBS) through the Rwanda Television (RTV), the country's sole broadcaster, indicated that digital images can be received across the country.

Government had stopped issuing licenses to investors with analogue equipment as it set up infrastructure to support the migration to digital.

After setting up the infrastructure, interested investors were invited to rent any of the available 130 digital channels.

According to Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA), a number of investors are in advanced negotiations with the government. "The government has eased regulations and processes of setting up a TV station in Rwanda in the hope of attracting local and foreign investors. There is a new ICT bill and many other media reforms are ongoing," the Director General of RURA, Regis Gatarayiha, said in an interview.

Gatarayiha added that the government's main concern is to ensure that the migration process from analogue to digital takes place smoothly without the interruption of broadcasting services.

The Chief Technician at RBS, Innocent Nkurunziza, said that for viewers to receive digital images, they must purchase set-top box devices (STB's) which enable television sets to receive and decode digital images.

"These go for about Rwf30,000 to Rwf60,000 but are not readily available on the local market; RBS is optimistic that by the end of 2011, STBs will be available to enable a full implementation of the switch," Nkurunziza said.

He added that seven other commercial television channels will broadcast alongside RTV when they receive their operating licenses.

The Geneva based International Telecommunication Union, of which Rwanda is a member, signed a treaty agreement in 2006, which set June 17, 2015 as the deadline for all countries to adopt terrestrial digital broadcasting. After that date, no analogue signal will be protected under ITU rules.

Rwanda set its own deadline of December 2011, which is a year ahead of the EAC's agreed deadline. It is unlikely to meet this deadline.