Zim looks East for digital migration: BAZ signs on Huawei, says deadline will be met

Nigel Gambanga Avatar
BAZ digital migration

What’s the latest on digitisation? There’s a lot of activity that we are starting to see regarding this project, but I’m one of the many people that have doubts that this going to happen on time. Still, the people involved are out to allay our fears.

Today we attended a Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) media briefing on the progress that has been made towards digital migration. Winter Is Coming (literally), so there’s going to be a lot of awareness on this issue.

This digitisation issue has been gaining a lot of media scrutiny because of an impending deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). By the 17th of June 2015, all countries should have completed the fundamental aspects of analogue to digital migration, an arrangement that will mean a new approach to signal transmission for television.

Speaking at the media briefing, the CEO of BAZ, Mr Obert Muganyura went through the phases that had been completed together with an expansion on the reasons behind the digital migration that BAZ is viewing beyond just meeting the ITU deadline.

One major disclosure was that the Broadcasting Authority signed a contract with Huawei to handle ZImbabwe’s digital migration project.

This contract is valued at $155 million which is meant to cover the entire project cost. It was signed towards the end of February 2015 following a feasibility study carried out by the Chinese firm and a display of its aptitude in delivering a full digital solution for Zimbabwe. A huge consideration for this was the impending ITU deadline that BAZ felt would be difficult to meet.

This puts Huawei in the driver’s seat of two state projects; the national digital migration and the $200 million NetOne network expansion project. It’s also worth noting that NetOne received funds for this project from the Chinese government with conditions that placed the rollout in the hands of a Chinese firm.

NetOne has also played a part in this digital migration project, having paid $200 million dollars to ZBC for analogue frequency which it will be using for datacasting services.

The NetOne network expansion project had a lot of ambitious VAS services lined up since it will focus largely on LTE. This is what probably explains the investment in frequency and the investment in a datacasting licence which, according to Muganyura, was only pursued by NetOne.

Huawei has cultivated a strong relationship with the Zimbabwean government and the firm has been given free reign because of an existing track record in other countries’ public sector projects. It remains to be seen though if it will be able to meet the digital migration deadline which has been a challenge for other African countries.