Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Botswana’s digital migration hits a dead end

Government’s decision to choose Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting Terrestrial (ISDB-T) standard for digital migration originated in Japan has backfired with companies approved by the regulator to supply set top boxes unable to secure them from the market.

Companies that were approved by Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) for supplying and distributing the gadgets have turned on the heat on Government insisting on tax rebates, subsidy or market protection for certain periods because of the costs involved.

But Assistant Presidential Affairs Minister Machana Shamukuni informed member of Ntlo ya Dikgosi this week that the government was constrained to provide tax rebates, subsidy or market protection for certain periods.

Botswana is the only country in the SADC region which chose the Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting Terrestrial (ISDB-T) standard for digital migration originated in Japan over the European platform DVB-T2.

Reports indicate that the Southern African Digital Broadcasting Association (SADIBA) has blasted Botswana for its choice of the Japan-Brazil technology for digital migration, saying the technology will be costly for Batswana and warned that it could isolate Botswana in the digital migration effort.

This was after the announcement that the Botswana government has opted to adopt the technology developed by Brazil and Japan over the European platform DVB-T2, which has been adopted by a number of southern African countries including South Africa.”

Shamukuni said the infrastructure included upgrading of Botswana Television studio facilities, acquisition of content, 45 digital transmitters and satellite uplink system.

“… the project continues to experience challenges with the availability of set top boxes because companies approved by Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) for supplying and distributing the gadgets insisted on tax rebates, subsidy or market protection for certain periods, which government is constrained to provide,” he said.

According to Shamukuni, a total of P180 million has been spent on putting up infrastructure to facilitate implementation of the digital migration project, Ntlo ya Dikgosi has been told.

Botswana has on a number of times, failed to meet the 2013 SADC and 2015 world deadlines of migrating from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting.

In 2013 SADC countries considered the adoption of standards that could be agreed and were free to make a determination of a technology that they believed would best suit their interests, as long as it complied with the provisions of the ITU broadcasting plan.
Botswana chose the Japanese version, the Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial (ISDB-T) standard, for implementing digital TV, amongst others. The process would entail purchase of digital transmitters and Satellite Appling System, setting up of Data Broadcasting Unit and upgrading of Botswana Television (BTV) studio facilities amongst other cost intensive changes.

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