Status of the Digital Migration in Kenya
Today is 17th June, 2015. At 23:59, it will be global deadline for analogue switch-off as per the International Communications Union (ITU) Geneva 2006 Agreement. And as chaotic as it has been, Kenya made it. This is the last thing anyone would expect from a country not so keen on meeting deadlines. Kudos Kenya! Or maybe this should be thanks to Francis Wangusi General Director-General Communications Authority of Kenya.
This is therefore a very important milestone in the development of the broadcasting industry in Kenya. It is not the end of an era as such, but the new beginning for the ICT sector in our country. From 9th December 2009 when digital broadcasting service was first launched in Kenya, the Authority had to overcome many hurdles mainly legal ones in the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Financial constraints, lack of political will and resistance to change are some of the challenges Kenya has had to conquer all through the phases of migration. However, the challenges have not been unique to Kenya as many countries continue to deal with similar issues on their path to full digital TV broadcasting.
Digital migration will see more than 2.2 million households enjoy the benefits of digital television because they own a set top box. Many more continue to cross the bridge with more than 3.2 million set top boxes having been imported into the country. As demand goes up, the industry can only but makes gains.
Not fully digital
Just because the analogue signals have been switched of, it does not mean the country is fully on the digital signal considering some parts of Kenya have never seen the light of any signals not even analogue. From a constricted space of a few analogue broadcasters with limited content offerings, we now have over 40 broadcasters with an ever increasing varieties of content offering and the consumer is getting spoilt for choice.
Television viewers today and the industry alike are already reaping the fruits of migration. The Authority has collectively licensed more than 79 set top box vendors, more than 70 broadcasters, 50 of whom are on air. The industry has other players who are hardly talked about, for instance aerial installers, promoters/ push personnel/merchandisers, amongst other that provide direct or indirect support to mainstream operations.
On broadcasting infrastructure development, the government has put in place resources to ensure that the public signal distributor, SIGNET, expands TV coverage to areas of the country that previously did not enjoy TV reception.
In the next few months, installation of digital TV transmitters will start in Kitui, Lamu, Lodwar, Lokichogio, Maralal, Marsabit, Mbui Nzau, Wajir, Kabarnet and Garsen. This project is being done in collaboration between the Government of Kenya and the Government of Spain. Further, KBC is in the process of acquiring additional digital TV transmission equipment to expand TV coverage to even more part of the country.
The regulator is also working with the private signal distributor to ensure they expand their infrastructure to previously underserved areas of the country so that Kenyans can have access to information as required by law.
During the press conference, Mr. Wangusi cited on the immense potential of the broadcasting landscape to be one of the largest contributors to the GDP of this country as a source of employment and a creator of wealth. “As a country, we can tap into the potential of the broadcasting sector to provide employment whether working as content creators, aggregators, distributors or producers.” Said Mr. Wangusi