Kampala. Uganda Communications Commission will next month officially launch the digital migration project to mark the start of the country’s long awaited switch from analogue to digital broadcasting as the deadline looms.
The Commission’s executive director, Eng Godfrey Mutabazi, who acknowledged that the project has suffered numerous challenges told Daily Monitor that all digital equipment has been procured and is ready for the switch.
The project will first be rolled out in Greater Kampala (Kampala city and the surrounding districts of Entebbe, Mukono, Bombo, Mityana) while the rest of the country will be switched to digital broadcasting by December this year.
“We are behind schedule; time is running out. So, the earlier we get everyone on board the better. Our target is to switch off the entire country by December,” Eng Mutabazi said.
Rolling out digital migration will require broadcasters to shut down their analogue TV transmitters and adopt digital TV signals.
Although the global deadline is June 2015, UCC says the early switch seeks to mitigate any challenges that may arise before the deadline.
This means households with analogue television sets have about three months to upgrade to digital lest they be left behind.
Statistics from the UCC show that Uganda had five million TV sets as of December 2012, and analogue accounted for more than 90 per cent.
This means only a handful of Ugandans use Pay TV services as majority cannot afford the high installation costs and the highly priced monthly subscription.
For instance, the initial charge for installing a PayTV that uses a dish ranges between Shs120,000 and Shs300,000 depending on the service provider while the Digital Terrestrial Transmission (antenna powered) service providers charge between Shs65,000 and Shs80,000.
Digital broadcasting will offer television viewers better quality pictures, improve TV reception signals, and also free the spectrum for other users.
High taxes stifle pay tv penetration
Mr Simon Arineitwe, the Azam TV general manager, however, attributes the high initial installation costs to high taxes, which he says have stifled penetration.
“Pay TV service providers pay 49 per cent of revenue in taxes that include 25 per cent import duty on dishes, 6 per cent withholding tax and 18 per cent Value Added Tax.
“This is in addition to the 0.5 per cent Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) levy and the Railway contribution levy which is passed on to the final consumer in form of high prices,” he said.
Although government waived the 25 per cent import duty on decoders, Mr Arineitwe notes the waiver should cut across all equipment.