With the Dec.31 deadline for Ugandan TV owners to switch to digital television looming, the level of ignorance in the population about the issue is unbelievable. Yet, having failed to meet the previous deadlines, the
Countries that do not meet the international deadline to switch off their analogue will have to bear with the interference from their neighbors who have completed the process because the
Irene Karungi, a retailer at Kasubi, a
To her, migration means buying a decoder from one of the pay TV service providers, which she says is out her reach.
When the first deadline was announced almost a year ago, Aziiz Kasirye, a vendor at Kisekka Market, panicked and bought a decoder speculating that prices would shoot up towards the deadline day. He got frustrated with the service from his pay TV provider and went back to analog.
"Apart from the unaffordable monthly fees, the decoder had very many problems including hazy images and going off completely in case of the rains. I was frustrated but luckily someone bought it; now he is one complaining," Kasirye says almost casually. He vowed not to buy a decoder again saying if they switch off he'll watch movies on his DVD player.
A mini survey by The Independent shows that barely four months to the deadline, people still don't appreciate the essence of the migration apart from the fact that they should start paying for TV services even for free to air TV stations.
The implementers of the migration (UBC and UCC) are in the second phase and working around the clock to ensure that all Ugandans are enjoying digital television by the end of the year.
Will we beat the deadline?
Angello Nkezza, the managing director of UBC, says the process was delayed as
Also, the government gave a tax waiver of 25% in import duty for the importation of set-top boxes, which ran from
She is probably right. In August last year, TV owners got a taste of what is to come when 19 television and radio stations using the signal distribution services of the UBC mast at Kololo were switched off as engineers installed digital transmitters; sending all analog TV sets in the country into a total blackout. Only those with a decoder were able to watch TV. In the three days of the blackout, hundreds of TV owners thronged the offices of the digital TV service providers to buy decoders. However, the majority had no choice but abandon TV because of the high cost involved.
For Star times, the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) decoder costs Shs 86,500 and the cheapest bouquet goes for Shs 16,500 whereas Direct To Home (DTH) decoder, which picks signals using satellite dishes can be bought at Shs 180,000 where the cheapest bouquet goes for Shs 25,000.
Otunnu admitted that if the switchoff is implemented now, millions of Ugandans would be left out since Ugandans but was still hopeful that
He advised people purchasing decoders to buy those with the DVBT2 technology. DVB-T2 is a digital terrestrial transmission system with the latest modulation and coding techniques to enable delivery of audio, video and data services to fixed, portable and mobile devices.
Also, he said it's a must for every Pay TV decoder to carry free to air channels on their platforms such that people can have access to TV even if their subscription has expired. However, most pay TVs carry only the national broadcaster UBC TV as the only free to air station, though it is not all that popular among TV viewers.
Why the migration?
The push for the switch is informed by the 2006
Otunnu says digital migration is crucial as it will help improve broadcast quality as well as free the currently over-congested spectrum. The freed space (digital dividend spectrum) is expected to be offered to mobile telephone companies to improve their voice and data connections.
"Presence of a digital dividend spectrum would mean that less infrastructure would be required to provide wider mobile coverage, all resulting in lower costs for communication services, especially in rural areas," he explained, adding that delayed digital migration, would mean continued poor mobile phone network in the country, in addition to poor quality of television pictures.
Digital television provides better picture and sound quality as opposed to analog, and it also offers opportunities like multiple programming called multi casting, and interactive capabilities.
Under multi-casting, any existing channel, for instance NTV, will be able to provide many more channels on their own, like NTV - Sports, NTV - News, NTV - movies all as dedicated channels. This means more programming choices for viewers and an opportunity for local content production.
All indicators show that from the remaining two million TV owners, maybe another 300,000 will get set top boxes within the next four months, and probably another 700,000 within the next ten months ahead of the
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