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Kenya Set for Digital Migration in December

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has set a December deadline for switching off analogue broadcast signals within Nairobi, 45 days before a three-month negotiation window period ordered by the Supreme Court expires.

This was said by Communications Authority of Kenya Director General Francis Wangusi during the grand opening of the 2014 Commonwealth Forum held in Nairobi.

Mr Wangusi pointed out that they had not settled on a particular date as yet since they are still going on with their stakeholder deliberations but added that 'the date shouldn't go beyond December 31.'

The rest of the country is set to migrate by March next year.

Mr. Wangusi also pointed out that as a nation, Kenya had put into place the right measures to roll out broadband, with one of the measures being the launch of the National Broadband Strategy, one piece of the nation's ambitious Vision 2030 program, engaging private public partnerships in the provision of broadband, provision of broadband connections to government and other key institutions, and also the improvement in the digital literacy of the masses.

However, even with the broadband strategy in place, the roll out has been faced with challenges, the main one being the lack of enough spectrum. But through Digital Migration, the digital broadcast signal can be compressed, spectrum can be freed up and this can be sold to communications operators who want to provide better wireless broadband services.

Due to this, Mr Wangusi asked broadcasters to release the spectrum by allowing the country to have the Digital Migration this year and to stop opposing the move adding that as per now, the regulator cannot give out more licenses as there is no more space left to air channels.

He also said that the regulator will take tough measures on the broadcasters that chose to decline the move and staying off air as it is against the broadcasters' strategy that states "unless there is a fatal condition to be off air for more than two hours, broadcasters must report to the regulator if not so, the regulator has a right to withdraw their licences."

The CA boss maintained that the regulator and the ICT Ministry have called for several meetings with the sector stakeholders to dialogue as directed by the Supreme Court, but broadcasters said they had not been party to any such meetings.

"We have held several stakeholder meetings as had been directed by the Supreme Court. However, there are some broadcasters who have not been attending these meetings. My message to them is that we are going to switch the analogue signals by the end of December," said Mr Wangusi during the ongoing three-day Commonwealth telecommunication operators broadband summit in Nairobi.

Mr. Wangusi also cautioned that failure to meet the international deadlines set for June 2015 would mean the country would have to switch off all its analogue signals within a 100km-radius from its borders so as not to interfere with the signals of other countries. He also added that Kenya was the only country in East Africa moving at a slow pace as Tanzania and Rwanda had already started the transition.

The key advantage of digital technology is since the information is in digit format, the information can be processed using computers, and be conveyed using digital transmission techniques. Digital information does not degrade easily and where it becomes degraded, particularly during transmission, it can be corrected and be restored to its original state. This enables the original quality of the information to be restored or maintained at the receiving end. The digital technology also introduces the concept of signal compression whereby only the amount of information necessary to reproduce the original signal at the receiver is transmitted. This concept, in digital broadcasting, enables a lot more programmes to be transmitted simultaneously on a single frequency using the same transmitter. The analogue technology could transmit only one programme on a single frequency, on the one transmitter. A separate frequency and transmitter would be required for any additional analogue services.

Advantages that come with Digital Migration include more broadcasting services can be accommodated, savings in infrastructure cost, new broadcasting business models, improved coverage quality, better picture and sound quality, mobile broadcasting can be introduced and provision of value added services

He also called upon the remaining telecommunication operators who have not paid the USF fund to do so as they are delaying the roll out of broadband to other marginalised areas. The regulator is expecting to receive 0.5 percent of the annual gross revenue from Safaricom, Airtel, Essar, and Orange about $120 million this year.

The USF fund is expected to help with network deployment and service provision in rural, outlying and economically unattractive areas, where telcos may not invest due to lack of economic viability./All Africa news

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