, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 9 – Kenya has finally launched phase one of its digital TV broadcasting at a cost of Sh200 million as it seeks to beat a global 2015 deadline for all countries to migrate from analogue signals.
Kenya which becomes the second African country to have digital terrestrial broadcasting after South Africa, will require over Sh4 billion for the entire rollout scheduled for 2012.
President Mwai Kibaki who commissioned the Digital Video Broadcasting Terrestrial Centre at KBC studios on Wednesday introduced an era for Kenyans to start experiencing better quality transmission and reception.
He said the government would waive import tax for the equipment that would be needed to facilitate the migration so as to make it affordable for Kenyans pointing out that the high cost of the set-top boxes would prevent millions of viewers from migrating to the new and clearer transmission platform.
“In order to mitigate the cost of the transition, I am directing both the Ministers for Finance and for Information and Communication to find means of providing tax relief for importation of this new technology,” he said.
He added that the new technology would facilitate the increase of revenue generated by the Information, Communication and Technology sector.
“Currently the sector contributes about 2.8 percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). We envisage this to rise to eight percent by 2012 bringing tremendous benefits to our country,” he stated.
President Kibaki also said that the country currently had a lot of demand from investors seeking to get frequency broadcasting allocations which it could not meet. He however explained that the launch of the new digital system would open up more frequencies in ways that would enable more players to come on board.
“We have applications for 60 TV licences and more than 150 for FM radio. With the migration to digital broadcasting it will now be possible to award new licenses, increase choice and give more room to a broader democratic space,” he said.
Media owners who were represented by Rose Kimotho called on the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) to ensure that the new broadcasting frequencies created by the new infrastructure were distributed equally to all current and future broadcasters.
“As we switch to digital migration today we would like to request that the allocation of the 40 frequencies is done in a fair and open manner to ensure fair distribution and allocation to all potential investors in the industry,” she stated.
Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo added that the technological advancement was also timely as it had come at a time when Kenya had rolled out its fibre optic cables set to revolutionalise the ICT sector.
“We are about to make this country the real hub for Africa in terms of technology. We bring together the fibre optics that we have been laying out throughout the country (since June) and this new technology in what we call the convergence of technology,” he said.
CCK Chairman Philip Okundi said the migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting in Kenya was happening at the same time with the transition of the broadcasting sector to the new regulatory platform which would require broadcasters to have 40 percent of local content in their broadcasted material.
He said: “This development will create more employment for Kenyans and increase the production of local content for our viewers in line with the expected sector regulations. We will continue availing the right intervention in the industry to enable the uptake of new technology to ensure the realisation of Vision 2030 goals through effective use of ICT.”
Consumers as well as broadcasters will be required to purchase digital decoders, or set-top boxes to use with the current analogue TV sets following the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting. The new equipment will help convert digital signals to analogue.
Recent reports said the government announced that only digital set-top boxes that are Digital Video Broadcasting Terrestrial (DVBT) and MPEG4-enabled will be sold in Kenya. These are higher versions of the signal conversion equipment with the ability to pick up signals from the KBC portal.
The government says the set-top boxes should be priced at between Sh3,000 and Sh5,000 but consumers say they are currently priced at Sh10,000.
Digital TV sets that don’t require the set-top boxes are priced at between Sh30,000 and Sh500,000 for high definition versions.