Africable announces first hybrid DTT-DTH platform in West Africa

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DTT services in Africa are only available in urban areas, apart from a few exceptions. Deploying DTT in large rural areas is expensive, time consuming to install and not necessarily profitable. In the short term, the best technical alternative to cover a territory in its entirety and without delay is to use the satellite to relay the DTT signal, writes Sylvain Beletre, Balancing Act's broadcast analyst.

In August 2014, satellite operator SES announced it had established with Africable and other TV channels a multiyear contract allowing them to transmit DTT sugnals over a large part of the African continent.

Ismaïla Sidibe, President of TNTSAT AFRICA and CEO of Africable explained that several media groups have joined forces to create the first DTT platform / Satellite in West Africa. These media groups are members of OPTA – an association of private operators in Africa television and they have created TNTSAT AFRICA.

TNTSAT AFRICA has already started operations on the Mali - in partnership with the Ministry of Employment and the Digital Economy - launching its "ELEVATE ITS Program" with training for 3,000 young Malians in how to install satellite dishes and decoders. The programme was launched in September 2014.

 "We expect a commercial launch in mid-March 2015," said Mr Sidibe.

When launched, TNTSAT AFRICA will offer a complimentary bouquet of channels: both African public and private television stations, as well as international news channels in English and in French. Sidibe also sees it as a way of helping African countries meet the June 2015 digital migration deadline. TNTSAT uses SES position 4 which provides 99% uptime and provides comprehensive coverage of a country.

TNTSAT will offer its "TVBOX", a dual tuner hybrid receiver (MPEG4 DVBS2 / T2)  in two versions - SD & HD - versions that will allow viewers to connect to the national DTT networks and also to receive free content via satellite. Developed specifically for the African market with a power consumption of only 8 watts, the TVBOX is powered by either a 12 volt battery (solar system possible or other means) to rural areas or on the sector (90-240 volts) urban.

The satellite platform will be managed by TNTSAT AFRICA from a satellite uplink in Bamako and a back-up uplink in Ghana. Technical management is in the hands of a Malian company, Datcom, a specialist in the field.

The announcement comes at a time when African states should finalize their migration strategies to digital television, a costly migration can take several years. Although there has been a story in the Daily Nation saying that the ITU will allow 30 African countries to extend the formal deadline, there has been no formal confirmation at the time of writing. In this context, TNTSAT offers governments a new alternative – another distribution channel for national TV stations – which can be rapidly deployed.

For African viewers, the service offers free access to local television stations (national, public and private) and 42 other African channels in local languages and French, all digitally. TNTSAT AFRICA will itself offer a film channel, a cooking channel and two Malian language channels (Bambara and Peul).

The economic model of the project is based on one-off fee of about 60 euros paid at the time of acquisition of the decoder. The HD model will cost 110 Euros. The estimated target audience is 3.5 million households in the region.

In addition, there is also the opportunity to provide satellite links to governments, businesses and individuals. The challenge is also to reduce the digital divide by facilitating access to the internet in urban and rural areas with a bandwidth of 54 MHz satellite, through a partnership with IG Telecom.

TNTSAT AFRICA has marketing support from SES. This includes training in each country where the company is present, and according to demand, between 700 and 3000 young people in the technical installation of DTT through the program "ELEVATE" SES. Through this public / private partnership, it wants to create an incubation system to enable young people trained to become self-employed and meet any future digital training requests. It is also setting up Set an assembly workshop for DTT receivers and manufacturing UHF antennas in many African countries is also on the agenda.

TNTSAT AFRICA will not replace each country's development of its terrestrial networks, but wants to offer a free complementary, reliable and easy to access service for digital TV shows, said Sidibe.

This new arrival will boost the sector in West Africa for the benefit of citizens' access to a plurality of sources of information and entertainment, and local producers who must complete the grids. In Mali, for now and in the area where you are, pay TV platforms 4 and 3 free channels in radio mode are available.

The Africable group transmits two channels: Africable TV, satellite channel from Bamako and Maisha TV, a thematic channel. Africable has acquired terrestrial broadcasting licenses and transmits in several African countries: Gabon, Niger, Mali, Burkina Fasoand Senegal. A licence for Benin is currently being processed.

Related article in French: A LA UNE - Africable annonce la première plate-forme hybride TNT/DTH en Afrique de l'Ouest



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