Nigeria’s digital migration achievable in 2017, says Mba
NIGERIA’S journey to Digital Switch Over (DSO) is back on track after the country missed the June 17, 2015 deadline of transiting to digital terrestrial broadcasting set by the International Telecommunications Union. Speaking at a briefing in Lagos last week, the Director General of National Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Emeka Mba, laid out a new plan to achieve the new switch over date and was optimistic that the new date is achievable. He said the commission was working assiduously to achieve the date, saying it was why it looked away from direct government funding to achieve the new date.
According to him, it was when it was obvious that the government was not willing to provide the funding that his commission looked for an alternative. “When it became obvious that government could not spare the money, and in order to avoid missing another deadline, we began to consider other options. Our broadcast frequency, which is to eventually form part of the digital dividend after the DSO, had portions of lying fallow while our broadcasters were still using parts of it. We therefore proposed and got proper permission from government to license part of our spectrum lying fallow and to use the proceeds to finance the DSO.”
Providing insight into how funding frustrated the earlier plan to switch over on June 17, 2015, Mba said, “You were all witnesses to our helplessness when on June 17, 2015 we had to eat the humble pie and admit to the whole world that Nigeria could not meet that deadline of transiting to digital terrestrial broadcasting set by the International Telecommunications Union.
“On that day we copiously explained how much work we had done since June 2006 when the deadline was announced, using our meagre recurrent resources while waiting for government to provide both direction and financial support to enable us meet the high expense elements of the transition.
“It was not until June 17, 2012 that the White Paper giving direction to the process came out. Again, we continued doing those things we could which included engaging and sensitising the broadcast sector, setting out the technical specifications for the set top box and putting in place then Electronic Programme Guide system, in addition to a successful pilot project in Jos, Plateau State. All this while we were waiting for the financing of our budget of N70 billion from Government.
“Meanwhile, we have now coordinated another agreement with our West African neighbours and have agreed on a new deadline of June 20, 2017 to complete the digital switchover and achieve analogue switch off.”
While giving a breakdown of the new switchover critical milestones towards achieving the new date, he said there would be off-shore mass production and delivery of initial subvented boxes for Jos pilot project as envisaged to be completed by end of October, while the local manufacture of the set top boxes is expected to begin in April 2016.
On Signal Transmission Infrastructure, Mba said the critical activities for this segment include publishing the RFP, concluding the National Signal Mapping, awarding the transmission MDAs, designating the ITS for Jos and beginning live digital transmission could be done by the end of December 2015.
As part of efforts to ensure the sustainable funding of the national digital terrestrial infrastructure, the government approved a fixed annual service charge payable on all DTT set top boxes and TV sets. This fee, known as the Digital Access Fee (DAF), shall also be paid by all current operators on the DTT spectrum.
Channels RFP: By the end of December 2015, we intend to have, through due process, allocated the Freeview licences and launched the Jos pilot channels.
CAS/Data Centre: This is part of the brain box of the nation’s digital operations. In this segment we plan to have the building works, the commissioning of the data centre mother integration of the head end and the live deployment of the Central Authentication Service by the first week of November.
Contact Centre Set Up: By the end of November 2015, we plan to complete the process of setting up the Contact Centre, which becomes available for all enquiries from members of the public regarding the implementation of the DSO.
Mba then stated that with the new plan, the DSO is a self-funding project that would create N320 billion per annual revenue for the critical stakeholders within the project.