Since about 2015, there have been talks of a national switchover of television viewing from analog to digital with deadlines missed severally in 2016 and 2017 and now virtually in 2018 with a new timetable of switch over. In summary, Digital Terrestrial Transmission, abbreviated as DTT, is a technological evolution of broadcast television and an advancement over analog television which involves the use of technology to transmit several channels over one transmitter and antenna system. Let me just draw the attention of all of us to the enormous benefits industry players, consumers and government stand to gain if this process is taken more seriously and implemented.
- Consumers would now have the luxury of as many quality picture channels as are licensed by the regulator to watch without having to change antenna positions to watch their favorite channels.
- There’s no longer the strain challenge posed by analog television channels where one struggles to view pictures amidst snowy transmission. With digital transmission, it is clear pictures or nothing at all.
- The industry players (content providers), now have an equal platform in terms of reach, and quality of pictures to reach consumers.
- It reduces the proliferation of TV masts and the associated effects of the radiation, which has been a challenge for the environmental agencies to deal with
- Industry players also have one major headache of operations costs associated with the installation and maintenance of transmission sites taken off their shoulders, hence releasing enough cash to provide better content to the consumers
- The government now has some superintending level of control and can hence implement any tax or license regime using easy control measures to switch on or off any defaulters from both provider ends and customer ends
- For statistical purposes, it is easy to estimate any data related to television viewing with easy deployment and the use of the software and hardware packages available
- Government has enough spectrum frequencies released for other transmissions after the switchover that will rake in more revenue into the national coffers
- Other service providers, like data services (internet), could also take advantage and reach a larger population of viewers through technologies available in the digital stream, increasing revenue for the government
- The technology will promote the businesses of indigenous companies who are into the production of set-top boxes and digital sets, hence increasing job creation to a high crescendo
- It saves the government some power from the generation mix, hitherto over 20 transmitters per region would have consumed
- Competition amongst content providers will improve content greatly and provide viewers with the satisfaction desired
- Regulators can then monitor and enforce regulations regarding local content, alcohol time bands, parental control, and any other regulation aimed at sanitizing television broadcasting
- For the frequency regulator, it saves time and energy retrieving subscriptions since, at the click of a button, defaulters could be reached with ease
The most important ingredients, however, lie within the implementation process. If all stakeholders (consumer representatives, industry players – GIBA and GBC, government and regulators – NCA) will continue to dialog with effective timeliness, the country will benefit tremendously from the switchover and on the world stage be recognized as one nation ready to embrace technology to enhance growth. The experts in every sector of the process must be engaged to ensure a smooth switchover.
In Kenya, for example, the initial push for the Digital Switchover three years ago was stiffly resisted by many industry players but having been implemented has proven to be a great success to both Spectrum managers and content providers or the mainstream media. Quality of transmission has improved while costs have reduced and also frequencies have become available for other uses to raise more revenue.
In Ghana, GBC has been able to successfully run tests with their T1 transmissions over Accra and Kumasi, which currently handles over 20 channels. GoTV runs a paid T2 system nationwide and has a larger number of channels. First Digital also runs a paid T2 system which has proven to be successful and provides equal viewing opportunities to all within the transmission catchment areas. It is time to switch over, yet we must ensure the topical issues posed by industry players are effectively addressed.
Author: Michael Nornudzor Djokoto – Broadcast Engineering Consultant (Member, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)
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