Uganda has began its migration to digital broadcasting, after the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) officially received the signal distribution equipment, marking the commencement of simultaneous broadcasting of the digital and analogue signals in the country’s capital.
Commenting on the migration process, Engineer Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), told East African Business Week that the migration process will come to a completion by end of 2014, implying that Ugandans have at least a year to purchase Set Top Boxes.
The Uganda Digital Migration Policy states that UBC is responsible in the supply of subsidized Set Top Boxes to the citizens, in a bid to make the gadgets more affordable to the people. Despite the policy in place, Pay TV operators Zuku, Multichoice and StartTimes still remain the main distributors of the decoders as UBC is yet to implement the guidelines.
Pay TV operators will however be required to carry free to air channels, with Eng Mutabazi saying, “The free to air channels must be carried on their platforms even if one’s subscription to the Pay TV has expired.”
This requirement to allow access to free-to-air channels uninterrupted has been a bone of contention in the neighboring Kenya, where the same Pay TV operators have been at loggerheads with the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK). The operators have always argued that allowing the channels to air even after expiry of subscription period will kill their business.
Borrowing from the experiences and the challenges faced by communication regulators in Kenya and Tanzania, UCC should brace itself for more challenges in its bid to beat International Telecommunication Union’s migration deadline of 2015.