Kenya import millions of digital broadcasting set top boxes

Technology & Convergence

Kenya is set to import millions of digital video broadcasting (DVB) gadgets as the country seeks to comply with its 2012 deadline for migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.

The DVB-T2 set top boxes are gadgets that are fixed on analogue television sets to enable them receive digital transmission.

Without the devices, most viewers, especially in developing countries, will have their analogue television sets rendered obsolete.

The East African nation’s process of migrating from analogue to digital TV broadcasting is on course, according to Digital Kenya, Communication Commission of Kenya and Ministry of Information.

The three institutions, which are spearheading the shift, announced on Tuesday that DVB-T2 signal is already available in the capital Nairobi and its environs.

The global deadline for migration to digital TV is 2015, but Kenya and its peers in East African Community revised their deadlines to December.

This is to enable them assess the impact of the transmission before the global disconnection date set by International Telecommunication Union.

This means by the end of this year, every homestead in Kenya with a television set must have DVB-T2 set top boxes to be able to view local TV programming.

The situation, therefore, presents massive business opportunities worth millions of dollars to businessmen, both in and outside Kenya, dealing with electronic gadgets.

In Kenya, there are approximately four million analogue television sets.

“The television sets will require mandatory connection to DVB- T2 set top boxes in order to receive digital signal,” said Digital Kenya in a notice.

The institution, together with its partners, has asked suppliers, distributors and retailers interested in importing the equipment to apply for approval and note minimum specification for the Kenyan market.

According to Digital Kenya, some of specification the DVB-T2 set top boxes gadgets must have include RF tuner and DVB-T2 channel complied standard ETSI EN 302 755 V1.1.1, frequency VHF (174-230 MHz), UHF (470 – 806 MHz), video decoding MPEG-2/MPEG 4 and they should have an on-screen visual signal level indicator, which will aid in directing the antenna and troubleshooting reception problems.

The gadgets are expected to be imported mainly from Asia (China and Japan) and Europe. Prices in the international market vary from between 20 and 30 U.S. dollars.

But when imported to Kenya, prices will range from between 48 and 90 dollars, because of tax and freight charges.

Also to be imported are digital TV sets with inbuilt DVB-T2 tuners. Prices of digital TV sets, measuring between 32 and 46 inches, range from 200 and 300 dollars.

The Kenyan government, however, is working on a plan to zero- rate taxes on DVBT-2 set-top boxes and digital TVs to make them affordable to consumers.

The East African nation is hoping that by mid this year, about 80 percent of its population with analogue TV sets will have migrated to digital transmission.

“Kenya is on course for a complete shift from analogue to digital broadcasting. We expect 80 percent of the population to be served by digital signal by June this year,” said Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo recently.

The country is also expected to impose a ban on importation of analogue television sets as part of administrative reforms in the sector.

“We have had talks with the Treasury and we expect that in the next three months, the importation of analogue television sets will be banned,” said Ndemo.

But as Kenya’s government works harder to comply with international requirements on digital broadcasting, millions of Kenyans are in the dark about the migration or what to do with their analogue TV sets.

Many of them are still buying the sets despite the nation working on the shift.

“I have heard about the migration to digital TV from analogue but I do not know how it works. I went to an electronic shop recently and bought a flat screen TV. The dealer told me it will be able to receive digital broadcasting,” John Dindi, who works with an insurance agency, said on April 3.

But, like many other consumers, Dindi will be forced to buy a DVB-T2 set top box for his TV set.

“The government should be able to control the sector and give consumers information so that we can make informed decisions. It does not make economic sense to buy a TV set now that will require a convertor yet you can buy one that has inbuilt units to receive digital broadcasting,” he noted.

He observed that since millions of consumers will need DVB-T2 set top boxes, unscrupulous traders may take advantage of the situation to import fake items.

“The situation presents massive business opportunities but as usual, traders will make every effort to cash-in on the situation, including by importing fake gadgets,” he said.

Analysts have raised concerns that thousands of people, especially low-income households may be switched off from television programming once the migration fully takes effect because they may not be able to afford the gadgets.

In rural Kenya, many people have not yet switched from black and white television, partly because of lack of electricity.