The government will completely switch off analogue transmission by July 31, according to Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura). A TV cameraman at work. Digital migration starts this month. The New Times/ J. Mbanda.
Rwanda postponed the initial December 31, 2012 deadline to migrate from analogue to digital in TV broadcasting, set by the EAC partner countries because of lack of digital broadcasting converters.
The country has now set fresh deadline ahead of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) transition time limit of 2015. Rura justified the July target, citing the availability of Set Top Boxes (STBs) that will enable viewers access digital TV images.
"Initially, the scarcity of digital TV converters had hampered the migration process but with the commitment shown by the authorised vendors of STBs with regard to importation and shipping, we have decided to permanently switch over to digital broadcasting by the end of July," said Regis Gatarayiha, Rura director-general.
He was speaking yesterday at a meeting, at town hall in Kigali.
The forum, dubbed "Digital migration roadmap and analogue switch off in Rwanda," focused on enabling Rwandan citizens to understand the process about digital transmission.
The meeting brought together government officials, media, ICT enthusiasts, including authorised vendors of digital broadcasting converters such as Tele10 Group Ltd, Trans-African Container Transport Ltd, Sorim Ltd and Star Times.
Gatarayiha said the switch-off date will be preceded by intensive awareness campaign on radio, TV talk shows and social media to inform the public the benefits of digital TV broadcasting system and sensitise them to buy decoders.
"We can estimate that the number of STBs required for analogue switch-off to be around 80,000 because the 2011 survey made by the National Institute of Statistics showed that the number of households owning a TV set was at 144,192," he said.
"Since many TV owners in Kigali are subscribers of Star Times (a Chinese-owned pay-per-view TV) we will start by switching off analogue transmitters in Kigali by end of January 2014."
According to Rura, about 21,000 decoders have been shipped into the country and are already with authorised distributors.
The Rura chief said the switch off of analogue transmitters will be done progressively in several areas across the country until July when it will be completely switched off across the country.
Presently, Rwanda Broadcasting Agency, the country's sole signal distributor, transmits both analogue and digital content.
Juma Jafar Bagonza, the business development director at Trans-African Container Transport Ltd, said: "We have imported 5,000 digital converters and looking forward to distribute them to citizens at a fee of Rwf32,000 each."
He said they have started setting up STBs distribution centres across the country and already had one in Kigali market (Nyarugenge District).
Kim Kizito, the marketing manager of Tele10 TV, said they have so far sold 6,500 decoders.
"We have centres across the country where people can find the decoders besides our Kimihurura offices," he said.
A decoder from Tele10 TV costs Rwf28,500, Sorim Ltd sells it at Rwf28,000 and Star Times at Rwf23,500.
"We have seven free-to-air TV channels that are currently broadcast by RBA. People should buy STBs to access these channels," said Innocent Nkurunziza, the technical director of RBA.
He said the digital broadcasting network of RBA presently covers about 95 per cent of the country.
RBA digital broadcasting hosts several channels, including TV5, MTV, France 24 (English and French), TV10 and Rwanda Television.
Gatarayiha said those buying Star Times decoders will be accessing seven free-to-air channels but if they want more channels they will subscribe for them.
"Regulations governing digital broadcasting have been established and technical specifications for STBs published to allow importers and vendors know the right decoders," he said.
However, he said eight broadcasters such as Contact TV, Lemigo TV, Light House TV, Super TV, Rwanda Holdings, Capital TV and Max TV have already received authorisation from Rura to set up their studios.
In Africa, less than one-third of households had a television set by 2012.