By Bankole Orimisan
GLOBAL satellite company, SES, in cooperation with Computer Warehouse Group Plc (CWG), a leading pan-African ICT company, launched a new digital television platform, on SES's ASTRA 2F satellite, at 28.2 degrees East that would provide access to a greater number of stations to households in Nigeria and across West Africa, at a relatively low cost.
The Launching, which took place alongside the Broadcast Summit, 2014 recently in Lagos, witnessed the attendance of broadcasters, IT professionals, advertisers and administrators from different parts of the country.
In his opening remark, the chief technology officer, CWG Plc, James Agada, disclosed that true to her vision, "CWG Plc is evolving away from the traditional IT Company in the Nigerian context to becoming a utility enabler, under the CWG 2.0 initiative.
According to him, "The brand new digital 'Direct To Home' (DTH) free-to-air platform is ultimately designed to help accelerate and alleviate the challenges broadcasters and content owners face in the digital migration process. The platform is packaged as an innovative approach in order to address the challenges of the cost of migration, operation, operational and support challenges, platform agility and flexibility and platform neutrality".
The digital TV platform is a product of a collaborative effort of SES and CWG. SES will provide the space segment and specific ground services, while CWG will manage the teleport services required to project the signals to users, using high operational standards.
According to Russell Southwood, CEO, SES Balancing Act, "SES shares a partnership history with CWG that spans about ten years and CWG has proven to be a dependable teleport partner for this project".
The SES Television platform will be the country's first free-to-air (FTA) DTH digital TV platform.
According to Theodore Asampong, SES sales Director, Africa, "All that the subscriber is required to pay for is the cost of acquiring a decoder and installing a dish to receive broadcast signals. After this, they will have access to all channels available on the platform, without subscription fees".
In addition, the new digital TV platform will afford broadcasters the opportunity of reaching a broader audience; millions of satellite homes in West Africa that receive broadcast signals with their dishes facing 28.2 degrees East.
This will in-turn extend their frontiers of influence and enhance their bargaining chances with prospects advertisers.
Speaking on the importance of the project, Austin Okere, founder and chief executive officer of CWG Plc, said, "For years, the majority of households in West Africa has been shut out of the digital broadcasting experience. Together with SES, we are excited to enable broadcasters to deliver their content cost-effectively, and in excellent technical quality to millions of households across the region."
"With the technology and platform that SES is bringing to Nigeria and West Africa, content can be made available to millions of household and with this system we will have over 400 channels available from the existing hundred and ten" , he said.
Ferdinand Kayser, chief commercial officer of SES, said, "Broadcasting via satellite provides High Definition (HD) picture quality and a100 percent coverage of even the most remote areas and regions. The long-term partnership with CWG will open up new possibilities for local and international broadcasters and allow them to drive digitalisation and reach their audiences across West Africa quickly and cost-effectively."
The platform offers end-to-end contribution, ground and space services to local, regional, national and international TV broadcasters across West Africa at cheap rates. It will also afford broadcasters the privilege to migrate from analogue to digital TV to meet the digital migration deadline of June 2015.
Moreover, the inception of the SES TV platform will have broader social impact on the region.
According to Andy Anderson, Marketing head for Africa, SES, the project is also aimed at providing employment for unemployed youths who will be trained to install the dish needed for signal reception, for free.
According to him, "being able to perform physical activities and communicate effectively at a minimal level is all an individual require to qualify for the training".
The Arab countries are part of the GE06 plan, and are therefore heading towards the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting. The plan for the digital broadcasting transition in the region is shown in the table below. Some countries are well advanced in the process, while others are still at the beginning or have not yet started. For example, Jordan has arranged for the digital transition in two stages. The first stage, covering the main television broadcasting stations (11 cities), started at the beginning of 2012 and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The second stage, covering rural and remote areas, will be implemented in 2013-2015. After the first stage, there will be a one-year overlap between digital and analogue broadcasting to allow end users to upgrade their receivers. Jordan Radio and Television is responsible for the transition, and a budget has been allocated for 2012 and 2013.
Digital broadcasting transition plan, twelve countries in the Arab region have deployed, or have transition plans for deploying digital terrestrial television broadcasting. Most of these countries have frequency plans, and have chosen to deploy the digital video broadcasting -- terrestrial (DVB‑T) standard. However, only a few indicated that a legal and regulatory framework is in place. The duration of the transition ranges from 18 to 91 months. With the exception of Morocco and Saudi Arabia, most of these countries have a limited number of DVB‑T transmitters on air. In contrast, direct-to-home (DTH) satellite broadcasting is available in all countries in the Arab region.
Country status in the transition in Algeria, the end of analogue television and full transition to digital transmission is scheduled to take place in 2014. Télédiffusion d'Algérie (TDA) announced that it has begun implementing the first phase of its three-phase action plan. Digital terrestrial television broadcasting is expected to be operational by the end of the first quarter of 2012. Internet protocol television (IPTV) has been operational in the Algerian market since February 2010, the service being provided by the Algérie Télécom Group.
Digital terrestrial television is not operational in Bahrain but Nuetel launched IPTV services in February 2007, and by September 2011 these services were being provided to Reef Island and Amwaj Island. At around the same time in September 2011 Batelco, the incumbent operator, launched its IPTV services to two newly developed areas of Reed Island. Mobile television services in Bahrain are provided by Viva.
Egypt has the largest number of direct-to-home (DTH) satellite channels in the Arab region. With regard to digital television, the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) is now considering the spectrum band 790-862 MHz as part of the digital dividend and will also consider the band 698-790 MHz as a future extension. Mobile operators are offering mobile television. The Egyptian Advanced Multimedia Systems (EAMS) will be the provider of satellite-based IPTV services, when they become commercially available. Mobile television services are provided by Mobinil and Etisalat Misr.