Among member countries of the International Telecommunications Union, Nigeria is one of those struggling to meet the 2015 deadline for digital migration. With less than two years to the deadline, the country is still mired in the process.
Nigeria, alongside with other International Telecommunications Union (ITU) member countries, had earlier signed an agreement to transit from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting by June 17, 2015.
Although the country is making some effort to meet the 2015 transition date, some stakeholders are of the view that government is slow to implement certain policies that will drive its quick implementation before June 2015.
Stakeholders at a recent forum organised by Digital Dialogue Nigeria (DDN) in Lagos expressed fears that the Nigerian government was too slow in the implementation process. They were of the view that government must spell out the guidelines for the implementation in a white paper document that would guide Nigerians towards achieving its goal of digital migration.
However, StarTimes Nigeria, which is licensed to operate Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) in the country, has come out boldly to allay such fears, giving assurance that Nigeria is getting ready for the said migration, come 2015.
Digital Migration In technical parlance, digital migration is the transition from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting. The ITU, which Nigeria belongs to, had given orders that all member countries that were yet to migrate, should do so on or before June 17, 2015.
Digital television broadcast is a new and more efficient way of receiving transmission signals. The signals are broadcast using radio waves, which are picked up by an aerial and sent down to a connected wire to television sets. With digital terrestrial television, the same transmitter will send the signal to the same aerial for television broadcast, but in a digital format, and mobile phones, video games and computers, use the digital format.
Should Nigeria miss out in digital broadcasting, it will automatically remain an isolated island to other nations of the world, since the analogue television will no longer be compatible with digital broadcasting contents and will not be able to receive digital signals after 2015, when other ITU member countries must have migrated to digital broadcasting.
Nigeria's Readiness In response to the directive from the ITU for broadcast industry to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting come 2015, the federal government, had, last year given January 1, 2015 deadline for operators in the nation's broadcast industry to migrate from analogue to digital transmission.
Raising hopes that Nigeria will be among nations that will be ready to switch from analogue transmission to digital transmission, former Director-General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mr. Yomi Bolarinwa, told THISDAY that although there was some perceived delay in the implementation process on digital migration, Nigeria is sure to conclude all arrangements that would enable it transit from analogue to digital by 2015.
StarTimes Assurance As the nation's broadcast industry counts down to year 2015, when broadcast stations are expected to migrate from analogue to digital transmission, StarTimes Nigeria has assured consumers that Nigeria is on the path of meeting the 2015 deadline for digital migration. It promised it would not fail in its commitment of providing quality digital television transmission to Nigerians, come 2015.
Public Relations Manager of StarTimes, Mr. Irete Anetor, told THISDAY that the company was more than ready to meet the deadline. According to him, "One of the ways the company plans to achieve that is through its expansion drive, which has seen in the area of providing affordable quality digital signals to most of the nation's major cities. Before 2015, every Nigerian would be able to receive affordable quality signals from StarTimes."
Anetor added that in addition to the launch of its offerings in four cities - Abeokuta, Akure, Oshogbo and Lokoja, which held last month, the company would in the next few weeks launch its signals in 12 other cities such as Calabar, Warri, Owerri, Zaria, Minna, Lafia, Awka, Gusau, Katsina, Birnin Kebbi, Suleja, and Yenagoa.
He said the planned launch would bring to 32 the number of cities covered in Nigeria Digital Terrestrial Transmission. While reiterating the company's vision of making digital television accessible and affordable to every Nigerian, he insisted that the company still remained the only Nigerian company licensed to operate DTT in the country, while describing the tremendous support the company had continued to enjoy from the presidency as one of those inspirations that had kept it going in the nation's broadcasting space.
Advantages of Digital Broadcasting Aneto, who listed the advantages of digital broadcasting to include higher quality video and audio, expanded services, faster rate of data transmission, consistency of data flows over long distance and more spectrum efficiency that will bring about more channels and greater variety, said the company had started developing local contents that would be streamed on digital broadcast.
He debunked fears that Nigeria does not have enough local contents for digital transmission, and assured Nigerians that StarTimes and other operators had stared creating local contents that will bring satisfaction to digital broadcast viewing.
NBC and NTA's Commitment Aneto, who commended the partnership between StarTimes and the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), as well as the support from the NBC and the Ministry of Information, said government was already working with the private sector to achieve the 2015 digital deadline. He said StarTimes is presently working closely with Nigeria Digiteam, set up by the federal government, to promote the digitalisation of the Nigerian broadcasting space.
"By the end of this year we would have completed the coverage of the major cities in Nigeria with digital terrestrial television network. This will be the largest DTT network in Africa and Nigeria will take the lead in the whole of Africa as the Largest DTT network," Aneto said.
Acceptance Level More Nigerians are beginning to sign on to digital broadcasting, as more operators offer the service. Some operators have since switched to digital migration and have asked their customers to do so by changing their old decoders to new decoders that are digital-compliant.
For StarTimes, Aneto said in the past three years the company had been able to grow its subscriber base from Zero to over 1.5 million today, describing this as an attestation to Nigerians' continued acceptance of StarTimes digital broadcasting service offerings. Most of the local analogue stations already on the StarTimes platform, he added, include: Galaxy TV, Silverbird, NTA, AIT, TVC, MITV, OSRC, OGTV, Channels, LTV, and Kwara TV, among others.
While expressing the company's commitment to delight its teeming subscribers through constant innovation and introduction of new offerings for the viewing pleasure of its subscribers, Aneto said some of its latest channels, designed to enhance the viewing pleasure of subscribers include the Champions League (UEFA/Europa), French Ligue 1, Bundesliga and NBA with other top international sport programmes
The company's spokesman described the Best TV Satellite Provider of the Year Awards, won recently by the pay TV brand as an eloquent testimony to the fact that the company is committed to providing quality and affordable digital television services to every home in Nigeria.
The company's commitment is also extended to some specific cities this October alone in her recent "StarTimes Independence Offer" by getting a decoder, antenna, 10 m cables and one month Classic Bouquet (over 55 channels) for just N6,900 for customers. With the assurance from Star Times, coupled with the service offerings from most paid television stations, it is likely that Nigeria will not miss out in the planned transition from analogue to digital, by 2015.