Both analogue and digital television images will run for a minimum of six months starting in March 2012 as the country gears for a full shift to digital television transmissions.
According to the Director General of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), Regis Gatarayiha, the digital network is already operational and service providers can acquire licenses to telecast digital content.
“The plan is to support both analogue and digital transmissions for six months so that people can get enough time to adjust and get used to the new system. After that period, analogue systems will not be supported,” Gatarayiha said in an interview.
“We no longer offer licenses to analogue service providers; interested media houses were notified that they can acquire licenses and certificates.”
Earlier this year, Rwanda Bureau of Information and Broadcasting (ORINFOR) conducted studies in 14 sites that indicated digital images were accessible in 98 percent of the country.
The Chief Technician at ORINFOR, Innocent Nkurunziza, said digital TV transmission will be cost effective in the long run, and be more productive than analogue transmission.
“As technology changes, everything changes as well; digital transmission is one of those ICT friendly initiatives that will improve the media sector. When other television stations finally join Rwanda TV on the market, we shall observe healthy competition aided by improved picture and sound,” Nkurunziza said.
“The government ordered for 800 set-top boxes, which are decoding devices that convert analogue images to digital. Although we need more than 800 on the market, these converters will enable TV set owners to watch digital TV without having to buy new sets.”
Patrice Mulama, the Executive Secretary of Media High Council and also a member of the National Digital Migration Taskforce, said although the transition will introduce new costs to viewers, the government and regulators are looking into subsidizing the equipment.
“The government is looking for private suppliers who can import image convertors at a subsidized price so that people do not incur high costs,” Mulama said.
“Digital broadcasting will greatly reorganize the sector; under the framework, there will be one signal distributor who will be responsible for the infrastructure. Private investors in the TV industry will no longer need masts and antennas but only be required to set up studios where they can provide content, which will drastically reduce their costs.”
“Another cost effective advantage in digital broadcasting is that you can use one frequency to host at least five channels, whereas under analogue, one frequency is used by only one channel,” Mulama added.
The Geneva based International Telecommunication Union, to which Rwanda is a member, signed a treaty agreement in 2006, which set June 17, 2015 as the deadline for all countries to have phased out the analogue system.
Rwanda set its own deadline of December 2011, which is a year ahead of the EAC’s agreed deadline.Follow https://twitter.com/RushAfrican