digitalUganda has decided to embark on a phased approach to the migration from analogue to digital transmission of signals, having failed to meet an ambitious December 31, 2012 deadline set by the East African partner states.

The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology together with the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) have set the end of April 2013 as the time to begin the process with the Greater Kampala Metropolitan area being the first to migrate.

“Work is in progress and implementation of the phased approach will start at the end of April and early May.” Mr. Fred Otunnu, the Manager Communications and Consumer Affairs at UCC said.

This period will have simulcast (where both digital and analogue signals will be transmitted) and so they will not be cut off from watching their favourite programs on the free to air channels.

In an earlier interview , Hon. Nyombi Tembo, the Minister of State for ICT said that Kampala and the neighbouring areas will be switched on and this would help cover up over 60% of all TVs in the country.

“Yes we have delayed because of procurement challenges and the policy which had allowed for only one signal distributor. By extending the transmission to a radius of 150km from Kampala, we shall have covered over 60% of all TVs in the country,” he said.

Operators had opposed government’s move of making Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) the sole signal distributor but the Minister said, “We are reviewing that policy so as to allow for a second signal distributor so as to allow for competition. As you know competition brings out the best results.”

The UCC has been blamed for not properly disseminating information regarding the process with StarTimes’ Country Sales Manager, Simon Arineitwe in an earlier interview saying that the information that was being passed to the public was not very clear as to why they should embrace the migration.

“The role of the UCC and the Ministry of Information Communication Technology is to take the message out to the public. We as vendors want to sell the digital equipment but we cannot do so if the population is not fully sensitized as to why they should purchase,” Arineitwe said.

He said that only about 30% of the population was aware of what the process actually involves. Multichoice Uganda’s General Manager Charles Hamya also in an earlier interview had said that government’s role would be to ensure that the free to air channels are available even after the switch happens.

The government has also not made it clear as to how they will subsidize the Set Top Boxes that are to be distributed to the public.

Digital migration became a reality at the 2006 Regional Radio communication Conference where it was resolved that the digital migration process should be completed by June 2015.

The benefits according to proponents of digital migration, subsequently digital television (DTV) will transform the broadcasting industry and bring more channels which will allow viewer choice, better picture quality and sound, more flexibilities-like the choice to have multiple sound tracks or choose a language of the viewers’ choice- as well as interactivity and more capacity to deal with specific needs like the blind and deaf.

Credit: Business week