NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 28 – The government is on a collision path with media owners after it declared that all analogue TV frequencies in Nairobi will be switched off in two months and moved to the digital platform.
The switch-over will mean that consumers who do not have digital-to-analogue signal converters – popularly known as set-top boxes – will not be able to view television programmes.
“We are shutting down analogue TV in Nairobi completely; then we’ll move to Mombasa, and other areas where we are testing signals. Some mobile phones will also be able to access the digital signals,” PS Bitange Ndemo said.
While delivering this year’s budget speech, Finance Minister Njeru Githae removed duty on set-top boxes, which are currently retailing for Sh2,500.
The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) had an ambitious target for the country to fully migrate by this month, ahead of the global deadline of 2015.
However, the two month notice has not sat well with the Media Owners Association (MOA), which argues that such a move runs the risk of shutting off 98 percent of its core consumers, who cannot make the move in time.
“How many of our consumers can afford the set-top boxes and in such a short time? We do not even have enough set-top boxes to cater to all the consumers at least for Nairobi,” MOA Secretary General Hanningtone Gaya said.
Gaya added that the Association has not received clear communication on the government’s plans to shut off analogue signals, however he said it will also impact advertising revenues.
“I would prefer they give a six months notice, two months is too abrupt. The government also needs to do more to educate the public on the migration process,” he explained.
Mobile operators eager to roll-out the Long Term Evolution (LTE) (4G) network on the 700MHz band, currently used for analogue TV broadcasting, have resisted delays lobbying the communications regulator to fast track the process.
Ndemo said once the migration process has been rolled out to some major towns the price of the set-top boxes should become more affordable.
“Probably the costs should drop down to about Sh500 that’s why we are doing it in steps. We must push for the Shutting off because the benefits outweigh the costs,” he insisted.
Chinese firm Pan African Network Group and Signet, a subsidiary of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, have both been licensed to broadcast digital signals across the country.
The PS was speaking during the launch of the Access Kenya Fibre to Premise Solution that seeks to integrate ICT services such as data, TV and voice onto one platform for residential and commercial buildings.