Skepticism still trails Nigeria’s march to digital switch-over
Lately, there has been upbeat of activities scaling up Nigeria’s digital transition programme. And coupled with the commitment and purposeful leadership from the Ministry of Information and Culture, the tendency is strong that the country should meet the new deadline of June 17, 2017 to complete the digital switch-over (DSO) process.
But the slow pace of development and the non-availability of the essential facility such as Set-Top-Boxes (STBs) have continued to give stakeholders concern that the June 17, 2017 deadline may not be realizable. The country had missed two deadlines previously.
While the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) set June 17, 2015 for all countries of the world to perfect the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, Nigeria began the process in 2008 targeting June 17, 2012 as country-specific deadline ahead of the ITU mandate with a view to use the three years to attend to hiccups that might have arisen from the process. However, both deadlines were not realized. Point of reference is the inability to move the DSO pilot scheme to other city, six months after it was launched in Jos last April 30.
Last week, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said that the Federal Government was ready to launch the Digital Switch Over (DSO) in broadcasting in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, by the end of 2016.
He expressed the optimism that the DSO would revolutionise broadcasting in Nigeria, thereby unleashing the creative potentials of youths, and creating one million jobs in three years.
Mohammed said it was imperative to ascertain the level of preparation of all the stakeholders in order to ensure a successful roll-out in Abuja. “We are very much on track but I think it’s important to understand what the Digital Switch Over entails. It entails that all the component actors be ready.
Abuja will be the second city to launch the DSO, eight months after the first city. A source close to the minister said the federal government took so long for the second launch, because the pilot was meant to test the success and correct all the problems encountered. “So that when we eventually roll out, we don’t run into any difficulty,” the source said. Another source from regulatory environment said the pilot gives the opportunity to test and correct the system. “When you are doing a pilot, you take a smaller city with diverse population, which Jos readily provided; with a lot of broadcast organisations that can support the process, then you go to somewhere bigger; it could be Abuja or any other city.”
He also said that Abuja being the second city to launch was obvious, being the nation’s capital, and that DSO was a gradual process that needs to emerge from smaller cities to the bigger ones. He said it was important for Abuja to launch as the input of the policy makers who reside in the capital was vital to the scheme.
The Minister on his part said the Abuja launch would be the most ambitious project so far in the DSO, because of its (FCT) strategic location as the nation’s capital.
According to the source, Nigeria will beat the deadline of June 17, 2017 considering the effort the minister is putting in place for its take off. The regulatory body source also said no country had met the deadline completely, adding, “The digital switch over is a long-term project, and any project that has to do with mass population, there are shifting terms. The whole idea of DSO is that nobody is cut off from information; everybody should have access and there should be diversity. If we are able to achieve a certain high percentage, we can call it a success. I can assure you that we are moving massively towards that.”
Alhaji Mohammed expressed satisfaction with the Set Top Box manufacturing process, arguing, “The first Set Top Boxes were actually imported but there is a proviso in the award letters that consequently, every licenced manufacturer will have to manufacture his products here and we are happy that Trefonics is doing exactly that,” he said.
He said with about 24 million TV households in Nigeria, and with proper marketing strategy and quality control, there will be a huge market for the Set Top Box manufacturers in the country, commending the patriotism of the Chairman of Pinnacle Communication Limited, Sir Lucky Omoluwa whom, he said, had remained focused on the project despite the initial hiccup that almost derailed the DSO.
Omoluwa assured that 100 per cent of all the equipment required for the successful launch of DSO in Abuja was on ground and that test transmission would commence in four weeks. Also speaking, the Managing Director of Trefonics, Mr. Onochie Amasiani, said the company has already manufactured 50,000 Set Top Boxes, using only one of its six production lines.
The Minister, who was accompanied by the Directors General of NTA and NBC, Mallam Yakub Ibn Mohammed and Mallam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu respectfully, as well as the Chairman of the DigiTeam Nigeria, Mr. Edward Amana, among others, inspected the mast foundation, control room, dish farm site and transmitter building at Pinnacle Communications Ltd, as well as the production line and manufactured Set Top Boxes at Trefonics.