New timetable for Nigeria uncertain as Ecuador postpones DTT migration to 2018

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As Nigeria has yet to explain why the switch over from analogue to digital television broadcasting, earlier rescheduled for Saturday, June 17, 2017, Ecuador’s telecommunications ministry Mintel has announced that the country’s analogue switch-off, scheduled for the end of this month, will now be delayed until at least June 2018.

In a statement, the ministry said it took the decision to delay the switch-off date to ensure that DTT coverage reached at least 90 percent of the population.

Mexico remains the only Latin American country to have fully completed the migration to DTT, with Brazil gradually switching off analogue TV and Costa Rica scheduled to start this year.

The Guardian reports that should Nigeria fail to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting come June 17, it will be the third time the country’s attempt at migrating is coming to naught after having failed in 2012 and 2015 respectively. Although there have been assurances from the Federal Government that Nigeria will not miss the deadline this time around, which is just a couple of days away, facts on ground, however, indicate the contrary.

For instance, there are still issues around Set- Top- Box (STB) manufacturing; poor awareness still envelopes the whole process; epileptic power supply in the country remains a major issue. Only few pilot phases have been conducted and concluded and, above all, funding remains the biggest limitation. Funding and lack of political will marred the whole process in 2015.

Indeed, the transition to digital terrestrial television broadcasting is a complex process, requiring the involvement of legislators, regulators, broadcasting companies (content producers, broadcasters and network operators), manufacturers and viewers. This year is critical for Africa to meet the analogue switch-off deadline and by following a pan-African approach to technology, financing and content development – all citizens can be guaranteed enjoyment of a digital life.

Besides, the world-wide digitisation process is being undertaken to free up spectrum for the growth of the information technology industry.

But the huge challenges, which have been accentuated by the lack of political will on the part of African governments, have been a major hindrance in this part of the world.

This, as identified by the Managing Director of Integrated Television Services (ITS), one of the signal distributors licensed for the DSO in Nigeria, Rotimi Salami, makes the whole process tiring, emphasising that funding and adequate infrastructure are very crucial to achieving fully digitised television broadcasting in the country, cum Africa.

Already, with STBs identified as critical components of this transition, 30 million would be needed for the Nigerian market. As such, the Federal Government in its bid to promote local industry and create jobs, through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) issued licences to 13 indigenous companies to locally manufacture STBs in Nigeria, which paid N50, 000,000 each for the Licenses.’

Totaling N650 million, 10 million of these STBs were proposed by government white paper to be subsidised for identified poor households all over the country. Already 1.2 million have been subsidized under the first phase, leaving a balance of 8.8 million STBs for subsidy. Overall, 28.8 million STBs are required nation-wide for a successful DSO. So far, industry sources, who spoke to The Guardian, claimed that the status quo has not changed; meaning that shortage of STBs and other limitations may actually stretch date of DSO in Nigeria.

With Nigeria taking the old part of failure and with the transition process threatened, the country, just like a few other sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, may miss their own share of the $82 billion ‘digital dividend’ by 2025, as forecast by the Global System for Mobile Telecommunication Association (GSMA).

According to the GSMA, if the transition is properly and timely executed, it anticipated that the sale of analogue frequencies no longer used by broadcasters could bring the government over $2 billion.

Additionally, GSMA research indicated that through the release of digital dividend spectrum, SSA stands to increase its yearly regional GDP by $82 billion by 2025, while in the process earning $18 billion in incremental tax revenues and creates 27 million jobs.

In an interview with The Guardian, Policy Manager Africa, GSMA, Shola Sanni, said there was need to understand that digital migration is a complex process that requires consideration and implementation of a broad range of issues, ranging from policy to market factors, funding and stakeholder engagement.

Sanni said it is critical for any country undertaking this process to get it right so that the benefits of digital migration can be realised. “That is why the GSMA published the report on Kenya’s digital migration process, which provides useful information and guidance to regulators and policymakers across the continent, which, as in Nigeria, are planning or currently undergoing a similar migration.”

But responding to The Guardian enquiries on readiness of Nigeria to meet the deadline which is just one week away, the Head, Public Affairs, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mrs. Maimuna Jimada, said the commission’s main focus is the benchmark date of June 17, 2017, which was agreed upon by the countries in the West Africa sub-region for the switchover from analogue to DTT platforms.

According to her, the commission has continued to engage the various stakeholders including legislators, government officials, broadcasters, educational institutions, marketers and suppliers of broadcast equipment, the international communities, among others on the success of the DSO.

She said the NBC is mindful of the importance of the DSO to Nigeria and “that is why we are taking our time studying the experiences of other nations to learn from their processes and procedures. Our DG, Mallam Modibo Kawu, is now in China with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, attending the 7th African Regional Digital Development Seminar in Beijing.

“We do not want to give Nigeria a digital transition experience that will be found wanting. That is why we are doing our best not just to meet time, but to give Nigeria the best DSO. The Nigerian delegation led by the minister will meet with members of the international broadcast community to discuss in a bid to achieve a seamless transition from analogue to digital terrestrial TV in Nigeria.”

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