Nigeria urged to tap from Kenya’s successful digital migration

Digital Migration

Although the country is doing everything possible to meet the June 17, digital switch over (DSO) target, but to avoid a repeat of 2015, when the country failed to migrate like other countries, Nigeria has been urged to tap from the experience of Kenya.

This call is coming from the Global System for Mobile communications Association (GSMA), which said Kenyan government had a powerful vision that the migration would be a vehicle to deliver improved audio-visual content to consumers. It would also more efficiently and effectively utilise spectrum, freeing up the Digital Dividend band for mobile.

Nigeria missed the June 17, 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for countries to migrate due to lack of funds and the political will on the part of the then government in power. As such, the digital dividend spectrum that should have been freed from the broadcasters to the telecoms sector to aid faster roll-out of broadband was not released, this impacted negatively on improved Internet connections and roll out of more digital services in the country.

However, the process, which is now being supervised by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, seems to have prospect, as many pilot phases of the process have been carried out in Jos and Abuja, ahead of nationwide target.

But the GSMA in a new report, “Digital Migration Process in Kenya”, highlighted the valuable lessons that can be derived from the country’s experience with its DSO in the last 10 years. It equally provided useful information and guidance to regulators and policymakers from other countries where similar migration processes are ongoing or being planned.

Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA, John Giusti, said for countries that want to connect more of their citizens to the enabling power of mobile technology, making the so-called Digital Dividend spectrum (700/800 MHz band) available is key to expanding coverage.

“As one of the largest and most diverse economies in East Africa, Kenya is a hub for technology and innovation in the region. One thing the country’s digital television migration shows are that, irrespective of the challenges faced, they can be overcome.”

According to GSMA, the Digital Dividend is so important because is ideal for reaching more people with mobile broadband, as these lower-frequency bands can cover wider areas with fewer base stations than higher frequencies. This reduces deployment costs and allows operators to provide broader, more affordable coverage, especially in rural areas where connectivity can be a challenge.

“But it is about more than just rural areas; Digital Dividend spectrum also delivers benefits in urban areas, providing improved indoor coverage as these frequencies can more easily penetrate buildings,” it stated.

In Kenya, as in other countries, the digital migration process required consideration and implementation of a broad range of issues including policy, the state of the broadcasting market, funding for the migration, public outreach, consumer equipment availability and the inclusion of stakeholders in the planning process.

According to the GSMA, lessons to be learnt from Kenya’s migration experience include that it started with a well-planned roadmap; the process was transparent; there were industry inputs, chosen technical standards with international backing; increase in consumer awareness campaign and only delayed the process when absolutely necessary.

In an interview with The Guardian, Policy Manager Africa, GSMA, Shola Sanni, said there’s need to understand that digital migration is a complex process that requires consideration and implementation of a broad range of issues, ranging from policy to market factors, funding and stakeholder engagement.

Sanni said it is critical for any country undertaking this process to get it right so that the benefits of digital migration can be realised. “That is why the GSMA published the report on Kenya’s digital migration process, which provides useful information and guidance to regulators and policymakers across the continent, which, as in Nigeria, are planning or currently undergoing a similar migration.”

On how government’s support can turn things around for Nigeria, Sanni said it’s more a case of government support underpinning the entire process from end to end. This should include such things as developing a well-planned roadmap for digital migration with the steps required in the process and clear timelines, seeking and taking into account input from stakeholders. It should ensure there is buy-in across the ecosystem and also addressing consumer-side issues like the need for awareness campaigns and the affordability of set-top boxes.

According to her, it is also critical that the government is careful to make the process as clear, simple and straightforward as possible. For her, actualising the digital switchover and using Digital Dividend spectrum for mobile broadband will be a massive step forward towards realising full digital inclusion and the national objective of achieving the 80 per cent mobile broadband penetration target that the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2012-2018 had set ria.

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