Saturday, September 26, 2020

Deadline looms for Botswana to change to new television system

Government is expected to carry through the process of consultation with the public and other appropriate institutions, with a view to determine which of the recommendations made to her by the task force appointed to oversee the country’s migration into a new epoch of digital television, would be worth implementing.

“…it has been resolved and accordingly recommended to the Minister of Transport and Communication, by the Digital Migration Task Force (DMTF), that Botswana should have fully converted from Analogue transmission to the digital television system by the end of January 2014,” said Masego Mpotokwane, Chairperson of the task force.

Mpotokwane pointed out that the decision emanated from the resolution of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) made in 2006, to the effect that all the countries falling within the category of which Botswana formed a part, should have gone digital by 17th June, 2015.

To this end, some countries in Europe are reportedly on the verge of completing transformation movement, and have begun switching off from the old systems.

Central to the motivations that spurred the need for conversion, according to the Chair of the Task Force, who also happens to be the Chairperson of the National Broadcasting Board (NBB), was the recognition that there was increasing scarcity of the volume spectrum as a commodity.

Mention was made of the fact that, with introduction of the digital system of television, much better use would be made of the already allocated spectrum. Moreover the number of channels going out of a certain volume spectrum would be increased.

Also commenting on the benefits of digital migration, Solomon Monyamane, Botswana Confederation of Commerce and Industry Manpower (BOCCIM) Media Sector Officer had this to say, “The other important advantage of digital television is that there is much clarity in both audio and video satellite – broadcast images and messages.”

He added that, by the same token, the signals marking allocated volume spectrum at any point is concise, specific, clear-cut and fixed, unlike in the case of Analogue transmission, where one could take some time after leaving one channel before the channel could give out clear and audible sound in the case of radio or visual images in television.

Especially so given the growing number of electronic devises coming into use, such as cell phones and other remotely controlled appliances.

Mpotokwane indicated that all devises and appliances that operate on signals each do constitute elements of broadcasting and, are thus allocated in a coordinated way. This is in order that there is no interference on one another’s space.

“This is what is known as spectrum management, on the basis of which channels or signal boundaries are numbered or identified,” said Mpotokwane.

For this reason, the ITU has divided the world into a number of regions.
Incidentally, Botswana and Europe got classified as Region one, and a significant majority of them particularly in Europe are using a system known as Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial.

“Against this background, the SADC’s Communication Regulatory Association of Southern Africa (CRASA), of which the NBB is a part, has dealt with the issue of digital migration at one of its meetings last year, and came up with recommendations as to how the migration should be managed,” posited Mpotokwane.
In conclusion, Mpotokwane indicated that, basing on Botswana’s situation and needs, as well the system recommended by CRASA, and how much will be required in costs to achieve migration within stipulated timelines, the board compiled a report, which they submitted at the end of February, 2010.

“We take it it’s now a matter for the relevant ministry to pursue the normal consultative processes and determine which of the recommendations to adopt,” Mpotokwane explained.

Some of the recommendations made include, possible Government subsidy for procurement of compatible set top boxes for receiving the digital signals, “Because people do not have to throw away their television sets, as there are no digital television sets in the country.”

In case Government gives a nod to the idea, an appropriate criterion will have to establish who qualifies for the subsidy.

However, although January 2014, is the set deadline for Botswana to complete migration, the Task Force recommended what they refer to as “a dual illumination period” of at least for at least a year prior to the final date.

The idea of setting January 2014, for Botswana despite the June 2015 one by the ITU, is apparently intended so as to allow for sufficient latitude to deal with technical issues connected to the process well before the day of reckoning.

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