General News of Monday, 25 February 2013

Source: myjoyonline

Digital TV rollout to cost Ghana US$95million

Reliable information reaching Adom News indicates the rollout of the digital terrestrial television (DTT) network infrastructure across the country would cost the taxpayer an estimated US$95million.

The network infrastructure rollout includes two multiplexes each at 53 transmission stations across the country, plus an additional redundant transmitter each to ensure that reliability and seamless transfer of load to standby transmitter in case of damage on one transmitter. Each transmitter is expected to carry at least 20 TV station.

The stations would also be fitted with backup batteries banks and standby generators to ensure that in times of power outage, TV stations could still broadcast.

There would also be remote monitoring equipment and mobile monitoring vehicles to ensure that all transmission stations across the country are monitored 24/7 from Accra, and mobile monitors could also be discharged for troubleshooting and quality assurance.

The first phase of the rollout, which would cover 66% of the country, is expected to be complete before December 31, 2014 when the country would begin to switch off the analogue television systems in phases as part of the migration from analogue television system to the digital one.

But the US$95million is just the cost of network infrastructure rollout, as more money has been earmarked for public education campaign and other factors involved in the whole migration process. There is also the cost of financing the project, which would also be additional debt for the taxpayer to pay.

Meanwhile the migration from analogue to digital TV system would mean all Ghanaian homes would either have to purchase digital television sets or buy decoders (like Multi TV digi-boxes) for their current analogue TV sets before they can watch TV in the near future.

The switch off, scheduled to begin December 31, 2014, would be in phases but would eventually affect the whole country, and no one would be able to watch TV without a decoder or a digital TV set.

Under the digital system, each TV frequency would be able to accommodate between eight and 22 high quality channels, depending on the advancement of equipment that a TV station uses to transmit signals.

The picture and sound quality would also be better than they were under the analogue system, and TV viewers would have a better viewing experience. Digital dividend

The other benefit from the migration is that lots of frequencies would be freed and Ghana would harvest up to 168MHz of spectrum from which the country could generate income directly or indirectly.

The freed spectrum, described as digital dividend, would become a resource to improve wireless broadband and expand internet access for Ghanaians. And it is estimated that every 10% improvement in broadband access triggers a one per cent growth in GDP.

Already, the only CDMA telecoms operator in Ghana, Expresso is holding 10MHz out of the 168MHz digital dividend, and the other telcos are lining up to acquire some of the remaining 158MHz when the regulator gets ready to sell.

It is estimated that a direct sale of the freed spectrum would bring some US$19million income to the country, but Manager of Engineering at the National Communication Authority, Edmund Yirenkyi Fianko told Adom News the country has a number of options that could lead to better benefits from that digital dividend.

Fianko said Ghana could choose to auction the freed spectrum on highest bidder basis, to generate maximum revenue in the short-term, or adhere to national policy of wireless broadband expansion for universal access so the country could generate long-term benefits.

He said the crossover to digital would for instance mean lots of low income homes across the country would have to buy decoders, so government is weighing options of providing subsidies for homes to be able to acquire affordable decoders so no one is left out.

The NCA has already given standards for the type of decoder or set top boxes (STBs) that Ghana would be allowed in Ghana, and already some stations such as Multi TV, Multichoice, GTV and others are distributing approved decoders.

Fianko said so far all stakeholders are aware and are generally involved in the migration process under the guidance of the government’s migration guidelines designed in 2010, but there are still a few commitment issues from some stakeholders.

Meanwhile, Multichoice has started the process towards public awareness by organizing a workshop for Ghanaian journalists to equip them to educate the public on the coming DTT system.

Dean of the Network of Communication Reporters (NCR), Charles Benoni has pledged the commitment of the NCR to public education campaign on the migration from analogue to digital television system to enable the public know what they need to do to benefit from it.