Digital migration: Is Zim ready?

Sanii Makhalima and Cindy Munyavi present an award at the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) held at the Rainbow 7 Arts Theatre in Avondale last weekend. Zimbabwe will need more events like Nama to feed the country’s many television stations that will come out of digitalisation
Sanii Makhalima and Cindy Munyavi present an award at the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) held at the Rainbow 7 Arts Theatre in Avondale last weekend. Zimbabwe will need more events like Nama to feed the country’s many television stations that will come out of digitalisation

ZIMBABWE will not rush to switch off its analogue signal on June 17 when the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) deadline for digital migration lapses. In fact, the country will extend the transmission of the analogue signal for a further six months.

Radical implementation of digital migration, like what happened in Kenya recently, has the potential to leave millions of citizens without television signal.

Media reports on the Kenyan debacle, which saw three national television stations going offline, were that 90 percent of Kenyans were left without access to television.

In the same vein, there is a danger that the phase-out of analogue technology in Zimbabwe, if not done properly, could leave millions of people without television signal as few people have television sets that are digital ready.

Worse still, the majority of television viewers will require set-top boxes, which could prove too pricey for ordinary Zimbabweans as they will cost anything between $30 and $50.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail Leisure last week, the chief executive officer of signal carrier Transmedia, Mrs Florence Sigudu-Matambo, said the ministry (Information, Media and Broadcasting Services) had put in place measures to ensure that no Zimbabwean fails to watch TV because of digitalisation.

She said the country had learnt from the Tanzanian and Kenyan experiences, how to deal with the issue of digital migration without having problems with the ITU or the citizens of the country.

Currently, the country’s major cities (Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Masvingo) and border areas have been made digitally ready as the deadline draws near.

Transmedia intends to add six more sites along Zimbabwe’s borders before June 17, to ensure that Zimbabwe’s signal does not interfere or does not get interfered with by other countries’ signals, as that is the ITU’s cardinal rule on digital migration.

Said Mrs Matambo: “Border areas are critical. These will be the first so that we do not interfere with our neighbours and they do not interfere with us.

“From June to December we will be simulcasting, that is, broadcasting on both digital and analogue frequencies. The ITU does not have problems with that.”

She said the country would then take its time to ensure that all its citizens, including those in the most remote of areas, are educated on the issue of digital migration and are assisted in the switch from analogue to digital. Mrs Matambo said the Government is in talks with Chinese, French and South African companies to find a partner to help with the migration.

Digital migration is the process of moving from analogue broadcasting to digital terrestrial television. Africa is expected by the ITU to be digitally compliant by June 2015.

Tanzania went ahead with its digital migration on December 31, 2013 and Kenya followed suit recently.

The five-member East African Community, which includes Kenya and Tanzania, agreed to an early switchover to fix any glitches ahead of the June 2015 global deadline to end analogue transmissions.

◆ See the full question and answer between The Sunday Mail Leisure’s Acting Editor Mtandazo Dube and Transmedia’s chief executive Mrs Matambo

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