Wednesday, January 19, 2022

World experts question Botswana’s Digital Migration choices

Experts converging at the United Arab Emirates for a Digital Dialogue conference in Dubai have anonymously expressed shock and surprise at the decision by Botswana Government to adopt ISBD-T as its preferred technology in the ongoing Digital Migration.
The world has decided to switch broadcasting technology towards digital so as to create more spectrum room and efficiency.
It is expected that once migration is completed there will be more broadcasting channels, more services and less costs.
While conceding that Botswana is, like all countries of the world well within its rights to make a technology choice of its own, experts are united in stressing that given Botswana’s peculiar circumstances, especially a small population and an even small number of households with television sets, the choice made by government is most likely to prove costly for the consumers.
Two months ago Vice President, Ponatshego Kedikilwe launched the Digital Migration process with the switch on of a DTT signal using the new ISDB-T International standard for 8 MHz.
Initially Angola had said it would join Botswana, but has since changed to join the rest of the world in adopting DVB-T technology option.
That has caused a stir among the world’s engineering experts that Botswana Government’s decision to go it alone will come at a much heavier cost with no added benefits had other technology option been adopted. Doubts have also been cast on the extent to which Botswana consumers have been informed on the full implications on the decision by their Government.
Peter Siebert, a German based physicist working in the field of broadcasting told the conference that the world over, Botswana has been the only country to adopt ISBD-T running on 8 megahertz.
Dr. Siebert said after a careful analysis he could only attribute the decision by Botswana government to “misunderstanding.”
He said the decision by Botswana government will deny television users the benefits that come with economies of scale. He said compared to DVB-T, Botswana’s choice was limited including on functionality.
“Other regions of Africa have chosen to harmonise the transition, with neighbouring countries adopting similar technology so that their people could enjoy the low prices that come with economies of scale. Botswana has a small population with an even smaller number of households with television sets,” said Dr. Siebert.
He said it is important that Botswana Government avoids reaching “a point of no return” where going back on its decision might prove even more difficult.
“Please get me right. I am not saying the technology adopted by Botswana Government is not going to work. It will work. But the costs will be too much for the consumer. Producing this technology just for a few users as is the case with Botswana will be expensive.”
Dr. Siebert said he is aware that the Japanese have been very aggressive in marketing this particular technology, including possibly offering political benefits to accompany it.
He emphasized that the other option (DVB-T) which the Botswana Government has spurned offers a much more competitive edge on efficiency, cost and functionality.
These he said converted into enhanced spectrum, enhanced capacity and greater robustness for the user.
Already dominating 70% of the world market, DVB-T allowed for economies of scale which means low prices for the consumer, said Dr. Siebert.
“DVB-T2 is much more robust than ISDB-T. With DVB-T2 there is a cost saving case including on electricity. DVB-T2 is also good on mobile phones including at higher speed of 134 km/h,” said Dr. Siebert.
The fact that DVB-T2 covers both fixed and mobile uses is very important, he said.
He said this kind of technology is ideal for a broadcast network planning to start mobile services as well.
“There is definitely a misunderstanding on the part of Botswana Government what ISDB-T means. For the people of that country it will be good if this technology misunderstanding is corrected,” said Dr. Siebert.
Another broadcasting technology expert, Gerhard Petrick said compared to ISDB-T, the option of DVB-T yielded 67% more payload at equivalent coverage and network cost.
DVBT2 is a second generation standard that performs much better and has more services.
“By its decissiuon Botswana is well within the SADC Ministers statent on Digital Migration. But there is need for clarity on the position adopted by Botswana. This is not just a technology project, it has huge social, economic and political aspects. Transition is all about home,” said Petrick.

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