Technology

Uganda approves five firms to deal in free-to-air decoders

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Eng Godfrey Mutabazi, UCC executive director. He said EAC communication regulators have agreed to go digital by end of 2014.

Eng Godfrey Mutabazi, UCC executive director. He said EAC communication regulators have agreed to go digital by end of 2014.  

By ISAAC KHISA

Posted  Thursday, February 13   2014 at  02:00

In Summary

Among others, move meant to reduce pay-TV monopoly.

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Kampala

Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has approved five firms to deal in the importation and sale of free-to-air decoders, opening up a market that has been dominated by pay-tv providers.

The companies allowed to deal in the DVB-T2 devices include; Widestar Digital (U) Ltd, Icomsys Africa Ltd, Brivid Uganda Ltd, a source familiar with the deal at the communications regulator told the Daily Monitor.

Syscorp International Ltd and Trans-African Container Transport Ltd are the other companies that have been given a a go-ahead. “We hope that free-to-air decoders will start arriving in the country either this month or early next month,” the source said, adding that the price for the device is yet to be determined as the country is a free market economy.

Uganda’s decision to open up the market for dealers in the devices stems from unwillingness by the pay TV providers, including Multichoice, StarTimes and Zuku, to sale free-to –air decoders to TVviewers.

Uganda switched to digital broadcasting in August last year, starting with the central region, with Uganda Broadcasting Corporation as signal distributor running on both analog and digital platforms simultaneously. This was meant to allow more consumers acquire decoders ahead of the overall digital switch slated for December 2014.

Currently, Uganda uses only pay-TV providers who require subscribers to either pay a one-off subscription fee or pay for one of the packages they sell to access the TV signal.

This means that while TV viewers may have DVB-T2 decoders-now ranging between $30 and $40 depending on the service provider, they still cannot access TV signals without a monthly subscription when the country switches to the new broadcasting platform.

Eng Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director at UCC, earlier said the regulator and other communications authorities in the East African Community — with the exception of Tanzania — had agreed to switch to digital broadcasting by the end of this year, having failed to meet the December 31, 2012 EAC deadline.

So far, Kenya and Rwanda have set June and July 2014, respectively as the deadline for the digital switch. The International Telecommunication Union set June 17, 2015 the a deadline.

ikhisa@ug.nationmedia.com