Grab a Set-Top Box before it becomes Hot cake!


June 7, 2010 – Forget what your electronics salesperson cousin or an engineer boyfriend says, there is no digital TV. TV sets that can detect digital signals are not available even from developed markets or easily accessible ones like Dubai. Even where they are manufactured, digital TVs are very expensive. Many times more expensive than the enviable plasma screen TVs.
But why should you care? There are some unscrupulous businesspersons selling fancy, out-of-box and high definition TVs in the name of digital TV and charge dearly for it. While internal operations of the TV is digital, it does not mean it can detect a digital signal. In fact, apart from the good old great walls, most modern TVs’ internal operations are digital. Their only shortcoming is the mode of signal reception remains analogue.
2012 is the “use-by” date stamped by government on all analogue transmissions by production houses. In its place, they are advocating for digital transmission – a cool technology that enables media houses to provide simultaneously run programs within one channel. Through a process called multiplexing. In addition to offering the consumer more choices, digital transmission also guarantees the quality of transmitted TV/Radio signal.

Low lying fruit

You risk missing out these benefits or even worse, loss the TV/Radio reception if you don’t own a Set-Top Box (STB) or a digital TV set.  Since we have said digital TV is a long shot, will stick with STB. An STB is a device that receives digital signal and converts the signal to analogue (the pristine mode of TV reception). The device has at least two in-built terminals. One that connects the outside antenna and the other connects to your TV analogue terminal (where you normally terminate the antenna). 
Let’s go shopping for an STB, shall we? The government has liberalised the importation of STB thus, you can find the device in almost all electronics outlets. But do take care. Most STBs out there are built on substandard technology that does not receive local channels. A friend lamented this. “I bought one without thoroughly checking it out. It only receives some poorly produced Chinese adult channels. I swear it was a rip off.”
It is for this reason the government has recommended the STAR 3800T. And it means well for once. As opposed to the other STBs that use MPEG2 technology, this one utilises MPEG4 technology to offer superior image clarity and features similar or better to compact DSTV decoder. 
The channels captured by this STB include NTV, KTN, CNBC, K24, STV, KBC, EATN, KISS TV, Classic TV, Citizen and Family TV. What’s more, your antenna needs to face one direction only and view all these stations as if you were watching a DVD movie. So you can wave goodbye to that guy who normally comes to adjust your antenna at a fee or something else in kind.
There are up to 28 channels provided by the STAR 3800T airing sporting events and a couple of ‘Oga’ films. You might find some channels indicated ‘encrypted’ meaning you have to pay a monthly premium for them. By the way, most of the channels are promising to air the World Cup matches.
The STAR 3800T seems to provide a better stereo sound than what normally comes out of most TV sets. May be I am either nostalgic or because as opposed to analogue signals, digital signals are capable of carrying stereo audio as they are produced. The result is a DVD quality sound right from your TV set. Amazing!
Loving this device is easy because it’s good looking and fit enough to go in the same rack space as your DVD player.
Not only has the demand because of the World Cup bonanza escalated the cost of STAR 3800T, it has also precipitated its scarcity. Before its rise to stardom late last year, the device went for about KSh5,500. Today, apart from forking anything between KSh7,700 and KSh10, 000 you will also be forced to wait for at least a week since they may be ‘out of stock’.
I don’t know about you, but I bet this situation will be repeated in greater magnitude come December 2011. Imagine forty million Kenyans jostling for a piece of the STAR 3800T! Crazy.  To some it will be a business opportunity. For me, I would make hay while the sun shines and grab a piece.