DTT in Africa and meeting the ITU deadline: have governments kept their promises?

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By Sylvain Béletre for Balancing Act, June 2015.


According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) agreement signed on 16 June 2006, 54 African states pledged to turn off the analog TV signal before June 17, 2015, with some exceptions. Sylvain Béletre, analyst Balancing Act, co-author of a study on DTT in Africa, reports on the segment's latest developments.

ASO (analogue switch off) is not fully completed on the continent. The missed deadline for cutting off the analogue TV signal illustrates the failure of most governments to keep their promises on time. The result is a massive shortfall for the populations and local economies (read in French: 'The delayed launches of DTT-billion loss for Africa').

In a few countries where the digital dividend has not been completed, telecoms services providers will not be able to launch 4G-LTE. Only three African countries have managed to make this transition before the promised deadline. Mauritius, Tanzania and Rwanda. Last minute: Aldred Dyer, CTO, NBC wrote on 18th. June 2015: "Tomorrow marks a significant milestone in the history of broadcasting in the region and Namibia. We are celebrating the switch off of analogue TV in Namibia. We have now surpassed the mandatory ITU analogue coverage target of 66% with DTT covering over 70% of the population, leaving only a few sites that still need to be converted to digital."

Nevertheless, 19 countries have allowed the launch of DTT platforms and 11 countries are on track to launching soon. There are only three main private groups involved in this segment: Startimes, GOtv and Canal+. A new entrant, TNTSat Africa, is also pushing its hybrid DTT-DTH solution in West and Central Africa.

Here is a selection of current progress in some countries:

In South Africa, often cited as the broadcasting hub of the continent, DTT infrastructure has been ready for months, but the launch of DTT has been slowed down by bureaucracy and lawsuits between private parties. Paradoxically, a South African group, MultiChoice has yet managed to launch DTT under the GOTV brand in several English-speaking countries of Africa.

In Nigeria, DTT has been launched for years, but according to NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) - in joint venture with Startimes for operating DTT - it requires a further US$ 15 million to complete its digitization programme and N6 billion to operate the total restructuring across the country reportedly announced the Director General, NTA, Sola Omole at the recent seminar organized by Startimes.

In Ivory Coast, the deadline for the analogue switch off is 2020. The DTT committee will launch a DTT pilot test at the end of 2015, followed by the official DTT in simulcast with the existing analogue transmission. Eventually, the country will switch to full digital terrestrial TV once the DTT adoption rate will be high enough... within a few years' time. The DTT bouquet will consist of about 10 free channels, with one or more paying options.

In Cameroon, preparations continue to meet the changeover date, together with an extensive awareness campaign, according to the Monitoring Committee of the 'Cameroon digital television project' (Cam-Dtv). The contract was awarded to Startimes.

In Congo Brazzaville (Republic of Congo), TNT Africa is already present and Canal+, already present in 23 African countries, will make DTT available to residents of Pointe-Noire in November 2015, and the entire country in early 2016. Canal+ also got a DTT license in the DRC. Canal + will continue to respond to DTT tenders in other countries. The payTV player has sold 2.5 million decoders (DTH) and has about 1.6 million subscribers in Africa to date.

Niger will launch digital terrestrial television (DTT), announced the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications of the Digital Economy, Abdou Mani, but stressed that in order to avoid signal interference with neighboring countries, it will focus operations in Niamey before expanding to other regional cities.

In Cape Verde, Namibia, Senegal, Mali, Togo, Benin, Gabon, etc., the DTT launch is on its way.

This digital transition has been hampered by the required investments of US$15 million to US$ 200 million depending on the size of territories to cover, as we have heard several times in various ministries' corridors.




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