By Magreth Nunuhe:
Windhoek — The Minister of Information and Communications Technology (MICT), Joel Kaapanda, says Namibia's progress to switch from analogue to digital television is phenomenal when compared to most other African countries and is optimistic that the country would meet the global International Telecommunications Union's (ITU) deadline of June 2015. Kaapanda made this remark after returning from a China-Africa ministerial media workshop in Beijing, which focused on content development and where each African country also reported on the progress made on digitalisation.
"I am reliably informed by National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) that we are on course," he said, adding that Namibia could compare with the top two African countries, Mauritius and Tanzania which finalised their switch over to digital terrestrial television (DTT). DTT refers to the broadcasting of terrestrial television in digital format. Currently, terrestrial broadcasting in Namibia is in analogue format and the country is preparing itself to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting. Analogue will eventually be switched off, in which case all Namibian households will need to switch to digital in order to watch television. The NBC finalised the digitalisation of its networks last October and has requested households to purchase the required decoders that would enable them to watch digital free-to-air television. Kaapanda said some African countries were struggling with a lack of technical expertise on the switchover as they were asking exorbitant fees. The minister beamed with pride, saying that Namibia has used own resources through government budgeting to get there.
According to MICT statistics, 67 percent of Namibian households have television sets operating on analogue and for the country to switch over to digital, at least 80 percent of Namibians in a given area should have purchased NBC decoder. The decoders are available at N$199 and customers are required to present an identity document and a receipt of the 2013/2014 TV licence payment in order to purchase the new decoder. Television set owners who live far from NBC transmitters might need antennae, preferably out-door VHF ones, while for those living closer to the transmitters, an in-door antenna might be sufficient. Hans Matthei, NBC Consultant and Project Manager, said that they had a slow start with selling NBC decoders but it is now going very well with sales and they have been marketing the product on road shows.
He said that there was, however, a misunderstanding with the switchover as some people think that all analogue transmitters would be switched off at the said date, which is not the case.
He explained that the deadline meant that the ITU would no longer protect analogue transmitters from interference after June 2015.
"We are aiming to cover a big number as possible, but some areas might still be switched on digital (after the deadline) as long as that doesn't cause interference with other DTT transmitters and other countries," he added.