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Nigeria, Ghana commit to digital broadcast transition by 2017

Nigeria, Ghana commit to digital broadcast transition by 2017.

With only five of Africa's 54 countries having completed the migration to digital broadcasting to date, after a decade after the the initial agreement was tabled and signed, according to the International Telecommunication Union, some countries including Nigeria and Ghana have indicated their readiness to ensure a digital migration before 2017.

In June 2006, an agreement was reached at the ITU Regional Radio Communication Conference (RRC-06) for countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East to migrate their broadcasting services from analogue to all-digital terrestrial broadcast services by June 2015.

The migration results in the release of frequency bands which can be redeployed to other users such as mobile communications and wireless broadband Internet services to achieve what is known as the digital dividend.

This ensures the advancing of existing technologies to connect the unconnected in underserved and remote communities and further increases opportunities for the provision of ICT applications and multimedia services including high quality video and interactivity.

Tanzania, Rwanda (Republic of), Mozambique, Morocco (including Western Sahara), and Malawi have completed their migration in Africa, while the process is ongoing in other countries except for Central African Rep., Comoros (Union of the), Eritrea, Liberia, Libya, Sao Tome and Principe, and South Africa (which, according to ITU data, is yet to start the process) and Djibouti, Mauritania, and Somalia whose statuses are unknown.

However, more should be expected from the continent as nine of the 14 countries that launched their transition last year – the highest since 1997 – are from Africa.

Pressure on spectrum

Nigeria this week inaugurated an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Digital Switch Over to ensure the transition before 2017 to avoid TV sets "being useless" as stated by the country's information minister, Lai Mohammed.

Ghana has contracted a local company K-NET on a nine-month transition process.

Unlike the analogue system which can only transmit one service per frequency allocation, digital broadcasting allows several services in the same frequency.

It increases the number of channels accessed and enables innovative services such as interactive TV with special features for persons with disabilities, mobile TV and the ability to transmit image and sound in high quality.

It also requires less energy to ensure the same coverage as the analogue system and cheaper to transmit.

According to the Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Brahima Sanou, the rapid spread of ICT infrastructure and devices is accelerating global connectivity and putting pressure on the available spectrum hence the need to free up the limited resource to boost connectivity especially in the world's poorest and remotest regions.

Relatedly, the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Mexico's Carlos Slim Helú this week reached consensus after their 13th full meeting in the UAE on the need for a new set of connectivity targets to help governments effectively harness broadband networks and services to drive progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

They agreed, among others, on the importance of developing National Digital Scorecards to measure national progress towards achieving broadband targets.

While celebrating the 10-year deadline last year, ITU published that since the deadline was agreed by a consensual decision of all member states participating in the RRC Conference, no extension was discussed as modifying the decision would require convening another conference which it says is neither envisaged nor necessary.

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