Expedite action to meet digital migration deadline — Panellists
African countries have been urged to expedite action towards the implementation of plans to migrate from the analogue to digital television platform by the deadline of 2014.
According to panellists at a conference dubbed: “Digital Dialogue” held in Jumierah, Dubai, meeting the deadline will prevent interference of television signals from countries that would be able to migrate by the set date.
The call comes on the back of lackadaisical attitude being exhibited by some countries on the continent as far as implementation of programmes to meet the deadline is concerned.
A consultant in digital technology, Mr Greg Bendsburg, warned that the nature of the technology to be deployed was so powerful that the channels of those who migrate from the analogue to the digital platform would interfere with those of the countries that do not move.
He said, for instance, that deployment of Long Term Evolution (LTT) using such base stations are predicted to cause interference to some DTT viewers who live close to the base station.
LTE is a wireless broadband technology designed to support mobile broadband Internet access through cell- phones and handheld devices.
“This effect is expected to be worse for viewers who are receiving services broadcast on frequencies higher than what exists presently,” he said.
One challenge identified with the implementation process has to do with funding.
On the continent, governments seem to have many priority projects to undertake and these include the provision of water, electricity, hospitals and roads.
But the panellists were of the view that it would be necessary for all countries on the continent to have close dialogue with their neighbours to agree on a new DTT plan. They also needed to agree and coordinate a clearance timetable that would take into consideration the availability of funds for implementation.
West Africa situation
To ensure easy implementation, the panellists advocated the need for countries to go along as regional blocks rather than individuals.
In the West Africa sub-region for instance, member states agreed at a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, in July, this year, on the deadline of December, 2014 as the date for the completion of Analogue Switch-Off (ASO) in the UHF band.
They were also of the view that the minimum specifications for Integrated Receiver Decoders should be harmonised by ECOWAS member states in order to create economies of scale to drive down prices.
Presenting an update on what the West Africa member states were doing, Mr Edmund Yirenkyi Fianko, Manager, Engineering at the National Communications Authority (NCA), said “member states again agreed in Accra, in August, 2013 that,the first draft on common specifications should be translated into French and circulated by September 10, 2013”.
“Each member state shall apply for Original Network Identification (ONID) from DVB Services”, he said adding that “Each member state shall also provide language character codes and power supply plug in the country specific annex of the draft Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) receiver specifications”.
Mr Fianko said the representatives were expected to present a full report on the progress so far after a meeting in The Gambia by close of this month.
Benefits of migration
The migration is expected to free more spectrums for use by mobile telecommunication operators to enable them to provide much more improved services. This is what is described among others as the digital dividend.
It will also provide opportunity for viewers to have multiple channels as digital television will free up more broadcast space.
Compared with terrestrial analogue television, digital terrestrial television (DTT) offers an improved spectrum efficiency which can be used to provide a variety of new service that include mobility, interactivity, high-definition TV, enhanced video and audio quality as well as increased programme choice.
According to Mr Gerrhard Petrick, Manager, Research and Development at Multichoice Technical Operations, South Africa, “The transition to DTT is about the consumer and the home environment”
“All implementation factors must be considered and must be in place to ensure success”, he said.
By Charles Benoni Okine/Daily Graphic/Ghana
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