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Why Migrating To the Digital Platform Is Important For Kenya

We have all seen the drama between the government and the three TV stations (NTV, Citizen and KTN). The three stations were opposed to shutting down their analogue signals in Nairobi coming up with various reasons and excuses why they need the signals. So why was the government interested with migrating to the digital platform? Does digital broadcasting have any benefits for us as a nation? I will look at what digital migration is all about and some of it benefits to point out why it is so important for Kenya to embrace it.

The Agreement

In June 2006, the ITU held the Regional Radiocommunications Conference in Geneva to map out a way for countries to embrace Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting Service. At the end of the conference, an Agreement, which Kenya was a part of, was drawn. This agreement covered the use of Terrestrial Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB-T) standard for Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Service and Terrestrial Digital Audio Broadcasting (T-DAB) standard for Digital Terrestrial Sound Broadcasting Service. This agreement came into force on 17th June 2007.

Since Kenya is party to the agreement, migrating to the digital platform in a must.

Why Migrate Now?

Digital tv in kenya

Digital tv in kenya

The agreement signed in Geneva pointed out the transition period to be from 17th June 2006 to 17th June 2015. During this period the existing analogue will be protected from interference, after that, no protection will be offered. As the drama between the government and the 3 TV stations was happening last month, the ITU came forward and reiterated that it will not no longer intervene to protect analogue signals from disruption once the dealine is up.

Why Migrate To Digital

According to Digital Kenya, migrating to the digital platform results in more efficient use of the broadcast spectrum. This leads to more valuable spectrum released and used by other services such as 4G LTE. Analogue signal uses a big chunk of radio spectrum compared to digital broadcasting.

The deadline for Kenya to migrate to digital broadcasting was initially set for June 2012 but was delayed to give the government enough time to educate consumers and to give consumers time to acquire the necessary set top boxes.

What Are Set Top Boxes

StarTimes decoder

StarTimes decoder

A set top box is a receiver that converts digital signal to analogue signals. The reason for this is to allow analogue TV sets to still display the channels that are broadcasted in digital form. This means that you do not need to purchase a new TV set.

Do I Need To Pay To Watch TV?

No, you do not need to pay for TV. In the digital broadcasting space, you will still be able to get the Free to air channels (NTV, KTN and Citizen) free of charge. Of course there are the pay TV broadcasters such as GOtv who encrypt their services requiring you to get their branded set top boxes and pay a monthly subscription fee to get their channels. Pay Tv broadcasters offer more premium channels and not just the local free to air channels. If you feel like you need these channels, then go ahead and pay to get them.

Broadcast Signal Distributors

As you already know (or not), the digital signals for all channels are distributed by a few Broadcast Signal Distributor. These are authorised entities that set up infrastructure for the distribution of broadcast content. The distributors are able to use fewer transmitters to broadcast content from different broadcasters. With this plan, broadcasters focus of content production while distributors make it available to the end consumers.

The Broadcast signal distributors are bound by law to provide fair and non discriminatory access to the digital platform to any licensed broadcaster who expresses interest. If an entity wishes so, they can apply for a Self-Provisioning Broadcasting Signal Distribution (SPBSD) license through which they can use their own infrastructures to distribute their own content. If the entity gets the license, they will be required to have a broadcast content license.

Benefits of digital TV

Below are some of the benefits we as a nation will get from digital TV:

  1. Better picture quality
  2. More channels to watch
  3. Better viewing pleasure including viewing High Definition content
  4. Using set top boxes to access a few extra services not available in analogue broadcasting

So there you have it, digital migration offers more than just the TV. The migration will happen this year so we have to be prepared. For more information on the digital migration in Kenya, head over to

About author

Editor at TechArena. I cover all things technology and review new gadgets as I get them. You can reach me on email: kaluka@techarena.co.ke
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