DIGITAL TV GOES REGIONAL
Increasing regionalisation of the digital television migration process looks set to enable Southern Africa to leapfrog the West in the sophistication of its broadcast capabilities.
The shift in emphasis to a more multinational approach to the digital broadcasting migration was highlighted by a high-level forum hosted in Lusaka this week by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The three-day 6th SADC Digital Broadcasting Migration Forum gathered together government representatives and broadcasters from around the region to review progress on implementation of the SADC Roadmap for Digital Broadcasting Migration and the organisation’s Digital Terrestrial Television project management office (PMO).
The office, which is run under the auspices of the SADC Secretariat, is designed to be a one-stop-shop for advice, co-ordination, monitoring, evaluation and reporting on the implementation of the SADC Roadmap for Digital Broadcasting Migration. Its aim is to assist all SADC member states to meet the SADC Analogue Switch Off (ASO) deadline of December 31, 2013 or the 2015 international deadline for DTT broadcasting migration. Expertise has already been contributed by Angola, Botswana and South Africa.
“The Southern African region has a unique opportunity to lead the world in the implementation of digital migration,” said Huawei Technologies Vice President of Marketing for Digital Home Product Lines, David Strehlow, speaking on the side-lines of the symposium. “Deploying state-of-the-art technology is vital to ensuring the robustness of the system, but it is equally important to ensure that the right commercial aspects of the system are also adopted.”
The leading digital television expert, who was visiting Zambia this week from the US, stressed the need for an integrated approach to digital migration.
Countries such as Namibia have already begun the implementation process to move across to a high-speed digital format for television transmission, while Malawi’s preparations are also at an advanced stage; Partnerships were key to that integration, said Mr Strehlow, who welcomed the co-ordination between SADC, the Southern African Broadcasting Association (SABA), national broadcasters and service providers such as Huawei, which has been contracted as partner for the digital migration in many African countries.
In Namibia, Huawei has been working with the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation and other broadcasters to develop both the technological components of the migration and the commercial and content solutions to ensure a smooth transition.
In Malawi the company is working on a smaller scenario with the main national broadcaster.
Digital television migration involves the replacement of obsolete analogue technology with state-of-the-art digital equipment that will enable television stations to transmit clearer, stronger signals, which in turn will dramatically improve the standard of picture received by viewers, and provide additional capacity to enable broadband internet transmission and other services.
The migration will involve not only digitalisation of transmission equipment, but also of the programme content and production before transmission, thus requiring a complete revamp of the equipment and practices used in television production, and opening up avenues for production companies and broadcasters to develop new services and revenue generating opportunities.
The changeover is being co-ordinated by SADC, which is implementing a roadmap for digital broadcasting migration and proving a centralised point for advice, co-ordination, monitoring and evaluation.
Meanwhile, the Southern African Broadcasting Association (SABA) is providing market-oriented services to member broadcasters in order to provide a cohesive solution aimed at enhancing the region’s broadcast industry.
It aims to create a regional cloud-based content hub, television platform and digital ecosystem as well as a turnkey radio and television airtime sales and marketing system and a digital television migration implementation system / cloud monetisation service.