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Information Technology


Is Africa Ready for Terrestrial Digital Broadcasting Technology?

HD is the buzzword in the new world of technology. From the smallest gadgets, huge projection displays to DVD decoders and anything else that has a screen, HD is the word. The way we communicate is quickly being transformed. Manufacturers are outdoing themselves to get your dollar. They want you to toss away your old TV sooner, to enjoy ‘real cinematic’ experience: the kind you would only experience from a HDTV. Unfortunately, they are winning in BIG numbers and will get to you sooner than you thought.

What is HD?

HD is an acronym for High Definition. With a HD Television, you can view up to four times sharper, high resolution, detailed, crystal clear digital pictures and surround sound. HD Technology is also used in media storage devices and players such as HD-DVD and Blu-ray whose capacities can stretch to over 50 Giga bytes. Do we really need all this high tech sophistication when conventional televisions seem to be working perfectly well? As with most answers, it depends.

At the conclusion of the International Telecommunication Union’s Regional Radio communication Conference in 2006, governments signed a treaty to adopt terrestrial broadcast services for sound and television in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Iran by 2015. The treaty will affect all of us because most governments have approved the digital switchover timeframe which coincides with the MDGs. It is also meant to bridge the digital divide in Africa.

Digital broadcasting has an expanded potential for more innovation and services such as efficient use of available band spectrum which will allow more channels to be carried across fewer airwaves at low cost. The technology also enables transmission of higher quality video and audio, consistency of data flow over long distances and capacity to support mobile reception of video, internet and multimedia data thus enabling real-time easy access to information anywhere and at anytime.

Kenya has already set a commission to facilitate a smooth transition by 2015. South Africa has set 2011 as its roll out date with a three year transition period where both analogue and digital terrestrial broadcasting will co-exist before a full switch by 2015. Most countries in Africa are advising their citizens to prepare for the switchover by either acquiring or budget to acquire HD ready television sets and/or decoders.

Switchover cost

The switchover will cost you money. The amount will depend on several things such as the size and functionality of the HD receiver that you intend to acquire and how tech savvy you are or intend to be. At least you have a range of choices to ponder before you eventually pay or not. A typical HD Set Top Box (a digital signal decoder) may cost you a bit less compared to a fully compliant HDTV set. A digital decoder will convert the digital signal received into a signal that will be displayed correctly by an analogue TV set. Smaller HDTV sets with standard functionality will definitely cost you much less than large sophisticated display systems. You may also need a HD media player to play the new media formats. Either way, you must part with some coins if you ever intend to watch TV after 2015.

By Ken Teyie
Ken Teyie works for All Times Media, Nairobi Kenya

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