With the international deadline for digital migration fast approaching, people are doubting if Kenya can have a smooth switchover as the price of set-top boxes is proving to be very high for many consumers.
The Information and Communications permanent secretary, Bitange Ndemo, said last week that the Treasury had declined an appeal made by his ministry to subsidise set-top boxes and make them affordable.
Dr. Ndemo said that the Treasury had declined to issue the Cabinet memo as the government was in a tight position financially. There were also fears that some people may misuse the opportunity and sell subsidised set-top boxes outside the country.
The ministry had approached the government for the subsidy after a waiver on imported set-top boxes failed to have a significant effect on their retail prices. Set-top boxes are devices that convert digital signals into a format compatible with analogue sets.
It is estimated that at least four million analogue TV sets in the country will have to be connected to set-top boxes in order to receive the digital signal.
But, the high prices of the set-top boxes which are over KSh. 5,000 has made it hard to switch off analogue signal even in places which are already served by digital signal.
Having been unable to meet the self-set deadline of June 2012, the director general of the Communications Commission of Kenya, Francis Wangusi, refused to a new cut-off date by which the country should have finished total switchover.
The analogue-to-digital conversion was agreed upon in May 2006 at the Radio Communication Conference (RRC) held in Geneva, Switzerland which was held under the sponsorship of the International Telecommunications Union.
The global cut-off date had been set for June 2015, but the government was determined to shift the deadline for Kenya to June 2012.
Switching from analogue-to-digital allows broadcasters to give its viewers better picture quality because a digital signal can be compressed more than the analogue one. Compression helps stations to fit more information in the signal and you can get a clearer picture with digital signal than the analogue signal.
Digital signals, like analogue signals, gets weaker with distance but they do not degrade in quality and you can obtain a clear picture if you have a signal.
The other advantage of additional bandwidth is that through digital broadcasting, local broadcasters are able to offer more programmes to their viewers through multicasting or broadcasting several shows within a single frequency. If you have a digital-to-analogue converter box and a terrestrial antenna, you can take advantage of your local station’s multicasting when they offer it.