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Nigeria’s digital migration failure: Lessons from Tanzania

By Prince Osuagwu

Nigeria’s most hyped digital migration project has failed. The price to pay is that the over 177 million Nigerians may have to put up with the disturbing noise that could be blasting through their radio and television sets due to likely signal interference from neighbouring countries that migrated at the right time.

DigifotoThe most unfortunate thing is that nothing could be done about it until such a time Nigeria would be opportuned to do the needful. Digital migration allows television viewers enjoy improved picture and sound quality as broadcasters could offer several channels of programming in spectrum that previously was only able to transmit a single analogue channel.

In addition to the disturbing signal interference occasioned by this failure, would be the huge revenue that would go down the drain. It was estimated that up to $49bn Digital Dividend service revenue would accrue to Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of economies in sub-Saharan Africa on the completion of the initiative. Nigeria has missed out on this, having not completed hers in due time.

The project, in the estimation of GSM Association, GSMA, was also supposed to rake in over $2b to the country, from the sale of analogue spectrums the broadcasters would have migrated from. That revenue is also heading down the drain. Nigeria’s own share of the 506,000 potential jobs GSMA said sub Saharan Africa stood to lose by 2020, if the migration date was not complied with, is sure, now that the touted giant of Africa has failed to keep up with time.

There have been several reasons given for this massive disappointment, including paucity of fund and low awareness. But whether the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, entrusted with the success of the project, did not manage it well or the government was not educated enough to know the importance, there were available templates to copy and interesting developments to have been emulated.

Lessons from Tanzania

Despite many African countries being richer than Tanzania, it however beat other African countries to digital migration just by a single successful partnership.  Tanzania started the process of analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) in 2006, when it amended its broadcasting laws to accommodate digital broadcasting; this was after the announcement by the International Telecommunication Union which found many African countries unprepared to undertake the required task of migration.

Tanzania however started the Analogue Switch Over on 31st December 2012 and completed 30th April, 2015 when all analogue television transmitters were switched off.

The StarTimes connection

Recently, at the 5th edition of the yearly African Digital TV Development Seminar, organized by StarTimes, in Beijing, China, Tanzania’s Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Dr. Fenella Mukangara, was quoted as saying: “It was not a very easy task.

We were lucky to hook up with the right partners; companies dedicated specifically for the purpose of digital migration. StarTimes was that company. We also obtained funding through StarTimes. I want to thank them for the good work in the digital transformation. My Government will continue to support StarTimes in order to continue rolling out digital services in the country including our processes for content development”.

According to the minister, “In May, 2009 StarTimes formed a Joint Venture Company-STAR MEDIA (Tanzania) limited, with our Public Service Broadcaster, Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC). To date Star Media, Digital Television Broadcasting, covers all former Analogue serviced areas including major commercial and capital cities of our country, Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, Arusha, Mwanza Tanga and others,” she said.

Massive awareness

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) began a public education roadshow in April 2011, and the country’s president launched the Digital Tanzania campaign in August 2011. Mukangara said though the process was challenging, but with support from the government and StarTimes, massive awareness and sensitization by the agency in charge, they were able to complete switchover ahead of the June 17, 2015 deadline.

“Our Government through the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has allowed introduction of DTH to complement the DTT services. With that, Tanzania is now having 100% digital signal coverage using DTT and DTH. Tanzania has managed to have smooth and successful migration from analogue to digital television ahead of the set ITU deadline of 17th June, 2015,” she said.

Tax relief

She also said that “in the process of migration, the government of Tanzania provided tax reliefs, among other incentives, for the importation of Set- Top- Boxes (STB). To date, nearly One million set top boxes (STBs) have been sold to the citizens and Tanzania currently enjoys about 51 digital channels; a feat which was impossible in the analogue period”.

Experience

Mukangara however shared experience of being in a digital broadcasting country. “Experience from my country shows that the analogue to digital transformation is an enabler. It has enabled many Tanzanians and foreign investors to be awarded new television broadcasting licenses. To-date, there are more than 28 television channels and TCRA is receiving new applications for content provision licenses, a demand which was not there during the analogue era,”.

She however warned that it was not all rosy but that other African countries across the continent have much to learn from the challenges the country has faced. She said Tanzania serves as a reminder that digital switchover (DSO) is primarily an exercise in changing consumer behaviour, rather than being a purely technical, regulatory or policymaking exercise.

Now  StarTimes, prides itself as the fastest growing digital TV operator in Africa, with the penchant to assisting to ensure that the African continent and media development progresses to the next level in digital television broadcasting.

According to the President of StarTimes, Mr Pang XinXing, ‘Nigeria can leverage on the support that StarTimes provide for Africa. ‘StarTimes is aimed at ensuring that every household in Nigeria can access digital TV, afford digital TV, watch digital TV and enjoy digital TV because we are passionate about the success of the country.

 


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