By Babajide Okeowo
Ahead of the rollout of the Digital Switch Over, DSO in Nigeria, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) at the weekend said it expected that by the end of 2022, the country would have achieved a complete analogue switch off.
This is even as the commission disclosed that it was expecting about 22 million set-top-boxes (STB) for the initial rollout of Digital Switch Over (DSO) in the country.
Acting Director-General, NBC Prof Armstrong Idachaba made this known while speaking on the sideline of the tour of the digital transmitters of StarTimes ahead of the DSO at NTA, Tejusoho, Yaba, Lagos. He expressed satisfaction with the digital infrastructure he met on the ground.
Also called a cable box, an STB is a device that enables a TV set to receive and decode digital television (DTV) broadcasts. It is necessary for viewers who want to use their analog television sets to receive digital broadcasts.
“The challenge for set-top-boxes is actually huge. We are looking at about 40 million TV households in Nigeria, and what that means is that we should, at least be able to produce 22million set to boxes. That is huge. We have assurances from the box manufacturers that they will be meeting the demand but we also know that should there be any sign of incapacity, then we will license new box manufacturers so that we can meet the market.
“Between 2016 and 2017, NBC embarked on the tour of the sites of those we licensed to manufacture the STBs.
We actually licensed 13 indigenous companies to produce the boxes, because we believe that is also another strategy to transfer technology and create opportunities for manufacturing within the market.
Fortunately, a few of those companies are actually producing; there’s a big factory in Calabar that is run by Geofrey Nwabuwa. His company, I believe, is Gospel Digital Technology. There’s another in Abuja with a big production house and a few others within the country.”
Idachaba said DSO is a capital-intensive project all over the world, adding that it could not be an exception in the country. He however said the Federal Government has been forthcoming in releasing funds for the prosecution of the project.
He said: “In all honesty, the digital switch-over, as they say, is a revolution, but hugely capital-intensive all over the world. In America, UK, many developed and even emerging economies, the cost is massive. In Nigeria, we have invested a little. I wouldn’t say it’s huge, compared with what has been invested in other countries.
The government of Nigeria is also taking a decision, that the project itself, seeing how viable it is, can self-sustain itself. We are hoping that some of the component players will be able to, going forward, generate their own funds, and see how they sustain the rollout.
“But we must also acknowledge that the government has assisted greatly in terms of producing some of the seed grants, some of the initial seed money that is needed. Not long ago, the Federal Government approved about N9.4billion for the NBC to pay some of the players that may have contributed their resources or done some jobs for the government of Nigeria all that is to ease the rollout and give it a sort of sustainable financial valve for it to run on its own.”
He said the Federal Government has taken a decision to continue with the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. He recalled that the journey began in 2016 with the pilot roll-out in Jos, Plateau State, and two years after, the project is going into phase two.
“Under phase two, we are coming into Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, and many other cities, and following the roll out time-table released last week, we hope that by the end of 2022, we would have completed the digital rollout in Nigeria.
“The visit to NTA premises at Tejuosho in furtherance of that objective; we are glad that at this site, already installed some Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) technology, we have seen that the installed capacity for DTT transmission is very high and ITS, which is the government created technical operator from NTA is using this site,’’ he added.
I acknowledge the role of their partners which is StarTimes and I think that between NTA and StarTimes, there’s a great combined effort to ensure that the rollout happens in Lagos and other cities across the country quickly.
“This inspection for me is reassuring, it means that we are technically, infrastructurally ready to kick off and if we are able to take Lagos which is perhaps the biggest city, and biggest market in the entire ecology, then we will be glad that we have a great outing going forward and by the timetable released, we are supposed to rollout Lagos before April 2021, Prof Idachaba said.