What do we need to know about Digital Migration, really? Well, quite a bit actually. OK, so the whole exercise that was brought upon us by ITU has ZBC written all over it, but it will affect the whole country, including the multitudes that turned their back on local TV.
So for those who are too busy or that disengaged from Dead-BC to care, here are just 8 facts about this project worth remembering.
1.The Government is broke, so who picked up the bill?
The last time we checked, this project required $173 million. The figure has changed mysteriously over the past couple of years and has now ballooned from an initial 8 figure total to the current number.
The money was sourced through an auction for LTE spectrum. NetOne was the only applicant and it received a datacasting licence for this. The cost was $200 million which NetOne acquired through a loan facility from China. This is the same loan dedicated to NetOne’s network expansion, which is largely focused on LTE.
2. Huawei is running point on this
On the 25th of February 2015, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe signed on Huawei as the technical lead partner for the project. This was attributed to the feasibility study findings presented by the Chinese firm plus its strong case as an experienced contractor that can help Zimbabwe meet the 17 June 2015 ITU Deadline. It’s worth noting however that the money for this project has come from the Chinese government, which insists on Chinese companies executing projects it pays for.
3. The ITU deadline still stands; we need to be ready by 17 June 2015
The ITU, the global body that started all of this, has given every nation until the 17th of June 2015 to be through with this project. According to authorities on this matter the extension granted earlier on to 30 African countries was not for provisional migration activities. These include securing signal from transmitters at border points around the country.
4. Winter is coming, but Zimbabwe is ready
One important aspect delivered by Digital Migration Project lead Gelfand Kausiyo at the Digital Future Conference was how Zimbabwe will meet the provisional requirements for securing the digital signal at all transmitters located at national border points. This will be done by 17 June. After this period, the work will be focused on internal transmission signal migration from analogue to digital. Analogue transmission won’t be turned off immediately, it will run along the new digital signal for a while.
After this period, the work will be focused on internal transmission signal migration from analogue to digital. Analogue transmission won’t be turned off immediately, it will run along the new digital signal for a while.
5. Six channels are on the way
The move to digital means that there is capacity to broadcast a lot more content in significantly better formats. ZBC will have 6 channels that are going to be broadcast nationally. It won’t be a Joy TV arrangement. Some outlying parts of Zimbabwe will actually receive local broadcast for the first time thanks to digital broadcast.
Even if you are on DStv you will still need to pay your TV licence for these channels.
6. Web TV is also on the way
In addition to the 6 channels, ZBC is going to launch its own Web TV service. this is essentially an online streaming and VOD service which actually becomes another channel in its own right.
7. A lot of channels need a lot of content
There are going to be six new ZBC TV channels that are mandated to broadcast at least 75% of local content. This means that content producers have to come in and fill this huge space. We will need a lot of content which also has to be of a high standard.There has been a call for independent producers to submit their pitches and work. If you are interested you can check here for the requirements ZBC has for having your work taken up by the broadcaster.
8. Everyone will need a set-top box or a TV set that is ready for the new format
Now that everyone’s signal is going to be transmitted, everyone needs to be able to receive the digital signal. This can be done through a set-top box (or a decoder as they are more widely known) or through a later version TV set that can support the digital signal.
This is one sticky point about digital migration because a mass distribution of those decoders isn’t an easy task. Getting people to buy them will be a bit of a challenge unless the State massively subsidises them.
It’s likely going to be an open market distribution system, so the enterprising ones among us should consider looking at where these boxes can be bought at a discount. It’s something that a lot of people will need, so there is a huge need that is being created there.
You can listen to the presentation made by Gelfand Kausiyo, the project lead for ZBC’s Digital Migration here.