Uganda: UCC Speaks Out On Decoder Dispute

Technology & Convergence

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has said the first generation Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB-T1) Set Top Boxes (decoders) are still valid, legal and can be used up to 2015 when the Government switches off analogue transmission.

UCC's pronouncement comes in the wake of a dispute between the digital pay TV service provider StarTimes and the consumers' rights body over the fate of customers that bought the first generation decoders.

As the country moves towards the 2015 deadline for digital migration, UCC, the regulator of broadcasting, telecommunications and postal services prohibited further importation and circulation of (DVB-T1) in favour of the superior (DVB-T2) decorders that carry more channels per frequency and deliver sharper and clearer images and sound.

Following the directive, the Uganda Consumer Protection Association (UCPA) demanded that the company recalls all the DVB-T1 decoders it had sold to customers before the technology was outlawed and offer them new DVB-T2 decoders at no extra cost.

The UCC executive director Eng. Geoffrey Mutabazi clarified that the DVB-T1 decoders in the market are still valid and legal, adding that although UCC adopted new technology, it doesn't immediately render the old one useless or illegal. He added that it would only be illegal if more decoders were imported and sold after the phase-out.

"Consumers should take note that it is the Government that permitted Star Times to import that technology because it was popular then and widely used elsewhere in the world, but as technology advanced, we adopted a new one; consumers have to adjust and embrace the change," he told New Vision.

Mutabazi advised companies to ensure a win-win position while selling technology to consumers so that in case of change, both parties find a cost effective transition from one technology to another.

UBC, the national broadcaster recently invited bids from competent companies to supply it with DVB-T2 boxes as it prepares for digital migration.

GOtv and Zuku TV hit the market with DVB-T2 decoders because by the time they entered the market the technology was popular in Africa.

"We no longer distribute DVB-T1 decoders, but the decoders we sold before are serving clients with perfection, we also have a provision to exchange the old for the new technology," Star Times spokesperson Christine Nagujja said.She said customers with DVB-T1 can pay subscription worth sh60,000, hand in the old decoder and get a new one.

However, many of the customers with old decoders have not shown interest in exchanging because they see no need to do so before analogue switch off that is two years away.