Tanzania Takes The Lead In Digital Migration

Tanzania has moved ahead of other major market s in Sub-Saharan Africa in the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting following the switch off of analogue transmitters in Dar es Salaam on January 1 2013 . This development presents significant investment opportunities in the entire value chain of the broadcasting sector and, perhaps more importantly, strong prospects for investment and growth in next generation wireless broadband technologies.

A framework for the transition to digital broadcasting shows that at least seven regions are expected to complete the migration in H113. The process will be staggered across other regions, which have already been provided with necessary infrastructure for the transition. The other regions will have to wait for the deployment of digital broadcasting infrastructure before making the transition. There is no timeframe for the completion of the process in Tanzania, although we expect the cou ntry to work toward s a December 2013 deadline in line EAC and SADC guidelines on digital migration.

First Phase Of Digital Migration
Region Migration Date
Source: BMI
Dar es Salaam January 1 2013
Dodoma, Tanza January 31 2013
Mwanza February 28 2013
Arusha, Moshi March 31 2013
Mbeya April 30 2013

The launch of the digital broadcasting system in Tanzania amid earlier concerns about the pricing of decoders is testament to the government's resolve regarding implementation of the process. BMI notes that such concerns are largely responsible for the delay in the switch off of analogue broadcasting systems in many other major markets in the region, including Kenya and South Africa. In June 2012, the Tanzanian government abolished value added tax (VAT) on digital decoders as part of a strategy to encourage viewers to migrate to digital services. This appears to have paid off as local media reports, citing dealers and service providers, suggest strong volume sales of decoders and set top boxes in the latter part of 2012. This development creates huge investment opportunities in the entire digital broadcasting value chain, including the production and distribution of consumer and broadcasting equipment.

Arguably the most significant outcome of the migration will be the freeing up of frequencies, potentially for wireless broadband services. The ITU, which set a 2015 deadline for all member countries to complete the migration, has recommended the use of frequencies vacated by analogue broadcasters for next generation wireless broadband technologies, including LTE. Low frequency bands, notably the 800MHz band, are well suited for LTE network deployment in rural areas. With more than 70% of Tanzanians living in rural areas, the availability of spectrum for cost effective deployment of wireless networks is an important step in the government's ICT inclusion strategy. BMI notes that two operators - Smile Telecoms and Telesis - invested in LTE networks based on the 800MHz band during 2012. However, we opined that LTE services are less likely to take off until the country's major mobile operators, including Vodacom, Airtel, and Tigo, venture into the market. We believe the availability of spectrum following the digital migration will be a significant factor in their investment in LTE technology.

This article is tagged to:
Sector: Telecommunications
Geography: Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa

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