As the deadline for Rwanda to shift from analogue to digital broadcasting looms, it has emerged that the process suffered delays owing to challenges involving the procurement procedures.
In January this year, public broadcaster, Orinfor, said it was set to start broadcasting digital content in March 2012, well ahead of the December 31 deadline set for East African Community (EAC) countries to have switched to digital broadcasting.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) set 2015 as the global deadline for switching from analogue to digital broadcasting, which uses rare frequency resource efficiency while allowing the introduction of additional services such as high definition television and pay TV on standard TV.
Orinfor missed out on its initial deadline due to delays in identifying a “competent” supplier for devices to convert analogue images to digital ones.
Last year, the country opened the first tender for the supply Set Top Boxes (STBs)—decoding devices that will convert analogue images to digital and allow TV set owners to watch digital content without necessarily buying new sets.
Orinfor, which is responsible for overseeing the digital migration process, says none of the bidders met the specifications provided by the technical team. Government had to issue a new tender.
Despite the setback, government officials are positive about the December 31 deadline.
“…no one had what we need; we had to tender for the second time. All the other challenges and delays are related to the absence of STBs but I am optimistic that we still have room to meet the deadline,” Innocent Nkurunzinza, the Technical Director of Orinfor told Business Times in an interview.
Government is expected to take delivery of the STBs ordered from China by June 20, 2012. While Rwanda is set to rollout Digital Video Broadcasting Terrestrial (DVBT1) technology the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recommended that countries should upgrade to DVBT2.
The DVBT1 can host eight channels on one frequency under standard resolution and only one channel on a high definition as opposed to DVBT2, which is capable of broadcasting up to 24 channels on one frequency.
Nkurunzinza said Rwanda would upgrade to the DVBT2 in the near future.
“With the DVBT2 viewers or services providers will be able to watch or host more channels on one frequency,” he said.
Over 800 STBs are expected to be delivered this month will comply with the two technologies, he added.
“They are cost effective.”
Government plans to launch a countrywide awareness campaign once it takes delivery of the STBs, a move aimed at ensuring that Rwandans embrace the new technology.
The targeted areas where the digital screens will be installed include major public areas like schools, hospitals, sector offices and commercial centres.
Despite the hiccups, the official says Rwanda is one of the regional countries on target to meet the deadline alongside Kenya and Tanzania.
Uganda and Burundi are set to miss out on the deadline.