Kenya to start testing digital TV in October

Kenya is gearing up to commence testing of digital TV transmission in October, Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said today. The tests will be conducted by state broadcaster Kenya Broadcasting Corporation which has been mandated to offer digital multiplexing services for all TV stations in the country, in readiness for a complete switchover in 2012 from analogue to digital transmission.

“We shall have a simulcast of both digital and analogue signals until 2012,” said the PS, explaining that owners of television sets would now be required to purchase a digital signal converter – commonly referred to as a set-top box – in order to receive the signals.

“All the TV sets in Kenya currently are not digital-enabled,” said Francis Kibe, the director of Frequency Spectrum Management at the Communications Commission of Kenya. Kenyan TV owners will therefore have to install a set-top box for every set owned.

Kenya intends to beat the international 2015 deadline by which all countries should migrate from analogue to digital transmission. Under the newly segmented model, licensed TV operators will only be required to concentrate on content generation and broadcasting, while another company will be given a separate licence to operate as a multiplexer – transmission and distribution of the signals.

Initially, the State broadcaster will be mandated to run a signal multiplexing company (MUX). KBC has already established a separate firm, Signet, to handle this business. “The MUX will be required to guarantee slots for all broadcasters and distribute their signal countrywide. It should also have the technical capacity to manage subscription requirements for pay-TV stations,” said Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Director General Charles Njoroge. “CCK will still be the one assigning channels to individual stations.”

The Information Ministry has written to Treasury seeking incentives for set-top boxes which will have to be imported and sold to consumers. “We want to make them affordable and easily available to all users in the country,” said the CCK boss. The business community is now being urged to source and import set-top boxes.