As FG Connects Lagos to Digital Television Broadcasting

May 6, 2021

The second phase rollout of Digital Switch Over, which commenced in Lagos last week, with over 60 digital channels, is expected to boost job creation through digital content development, writes Emma Okonji

Last week, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, launched the second phase of the country’s Digital Switch Over (DSO) from analogue broadcasting to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) broadcasting.

With the Lagos launch of free DTT viewing, analogue broadcasting in Lagos will be switched off by October this year and for the entire country, analogue will be switched off by December 7, 2022, if the rollout plans are fully implemented.

The Lagos launch is coming five years after the pilot launch of DSO from analogue television broadcasting to digital broadcasting, in Jos, Plateau State. The federal government launched the second phase of the country’s DSO in Lagos, with a plan to cover 13 other states in the second phase rollout before the end of this year.

The federal government, through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), had on April 30, 2016, launched the pilot programme of the DSO in Jos, Plateau State, and thereafter, began the phase one launch of DSO in four states and in Abuja, the federal capital territory. The states included: Kwara State, which was launched on December 20, 2017; Kaduna State on December 22, 2017; Enugu State on February 12, 2018 and Osun State on February, 23, 2018.

Following the success recorded in the pilot and phase one launch, the federal government, last week, commenced the phase two launch of DSO, beginning with Lagos.

Speaking at the Lagos launch of DSO, the minister said although it took the digital television train over three years to arrive in Lagos State, after the phase-one launch, the train would now move faster.

“The DSO train has now changed from narrow gauge to standard gauge, meaning it will move faster to cover 13 states across the country this year alone in the second phase of the DSO rollout, which begins in Lagos. From Lagos, the DSO train heads to Kano State on June 3rd; Rivers on July 8th; Yobe on July 15; Gombe on August 12; Imo on August 24; Akwa Ibom on August 31; Oyo on September 9; Jigawa on September 23; Ebonyi on October 17; Katsina on October 21; Anambra on November 4; and Delta on November 18.

This may looks like a daunting task. Indeed, it is, but the fact that we have launched in Lagos, is a testimony to our resilience and determination to ensure the success of the transition from analogue to digital television across the country,” the minister explained.

DSO journey since 2004

The journey of DSO started in 2004, when a regional radio conference for region one of the International Telecoms Union (ITU), was held in Geneva, a city in Switzerland. The conference set up the technical parameters for the basis for a regional agreement for DTT broadcasting in ITU region one.

Two years later, in 2006, a second regional radio conference was held in Geneva, and the conference carried out the planning exercise for the ITU Region One, and the plans were based on specified digital standards for sounds and television broadcasting, and it covered specific frequency bands.

The second conference also resorted to the signing of an agreement by the member states of ITU in Region One, which Nigeria belongs to. One of the key elements of the agreement, was that all analogue television transmitters operating in the UHL frequency band must be switched off by June 17, 2015. The agreement was referred to as ‘Geneva 2006 Agreement’, and Nigeria was a signatory to the agreement.

After the World Radio Conference of 2007, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), initiated the setting up of a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC), to drive the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting in Nigeria.

The committee submitted its report to the federal government on June 20, 2009, with a well-defined roadmap that would see Nigeria complete the DSO by June 17, 2012, but unfortunately, for political reasons government could not address the recommendations of PAC until late 2012, precisely December 2012, when DigiTeam Nigeria, which is the Presidential Implementation Committee for digital transmission was inaugurated.

However, the DigiTeam was set up with no take-off grant and no budgetary allocation in the 2013 federal budget to actualise the implementation of the transition from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting, despite the fact that the white paper document on the transition specified some policy decision of government for the successful transition, which stipulated that television stations would be responsible only for the content of their broadcast, while Signal Distributors would be responsible for the transmission of the broadcast content to viewers.
A new switchover date of January 15, 2015 was then fixed. Nigeria, however, missed out on all deadlines for DSO rollout, until the pilot launch of DSO in Jos, Plateau State on April 30, 2016, with 16 digital channels on the platform of Integrated Television Services (ITS), one of the licensed Signal Distributors, by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. After the pilot launch in Jos, NBC commenced the actual rollout of Terrestrial DTT in other locations, beginning with Abuja with over 30 channels on the platform of Pinnacle Communications Limited, another licensed Signal Distributor, on December 22, 2016. Subsequent DSO rollout was held in Kwara, Kaduna, Enugu and Osun states.

Lagos DSO rollout

Speaking at the Lagos DSO launch, which marked the commencement of the second phase rollout of DSO in the country, the minister said: “The switch-on of Lagos is unique and epochal, because it marks the first time that the DSO project would be beaming 60 choice channels to television households. Lagos is Nigeria’s creative hub, hence it is important to harness the creative talents that abound in the state through this project. Also, the DSO provides us with a great platform to key into the Lagos Smart City Project, which seeks to use technology to enhance service delivery in all spheres of life.”

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the state would be committed to the DSO project for many reasons. According to him, the DSO would enhance job creation and content development, and it would empower many youths, especially those in the entertainment and tourism industry. The governor added that the project would also provide opportunity for the government to use the content to inform and engage the citizens as well as bring governance closer to the people.

“Being a forward-looking state, we are in partnership and we see it as bringing the future to our citizens, so we are really game on this. In the last two years, we have been developing our metropolitan fiber optics to provide fiber connectivity as one of the solutions for our citizens to have access to cheaper data. Being the nation’s ‘Centre of Excellence’, it is our desire that Lagos will continue to set the pace for the nation,” Sanwo-Olu said.

The governor urged the Ministerial Taskforce on the DSO to make the FreeTV box and after sale support easily accessible.
Director General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, who also spoke at the Lagos DSO launch, said Lagos, being the commercial hub of Nigeria that is hosting the largest demographics of Nigeria, was deliberately left for second phase rollout after experimentations of other cities in the country.

“The digital terrestrial TV project is unique because it has our indigenous culture and traditions and the empowerment of the mass of Nigerians, as a core value proposition. I want to say that the constant policy direction and support from President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration led to the conscious transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, which began in 2016, and I thank President Buhari for his commitment to bring information and access to Information to the mass of Nigerians. I also thank the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed for delivering the DSO proposition to Nigerians,” he said.

Benefits of DSO

The DSO television platform, which is branded as FreeTV, offers its Lagos viewers about 60 digital channels, including sports, music, movies,

and news, as well as Value Added Services, such as: enforcement and collection of TV Licenses, Premium PayTV channels, Push Video on Demand, Information Services and Audience Measurement.
The federal government is of the view that the DSO project would cover the entire country by December 7, 2022, after which it will switch off completely, all forms of analogue broadcasting in the country.

Speaking on the benefits of DSO, Idachaba said the digitisation of broadcasting would bring lots of opportunities for Nigerians, since it is the fastest and safest way to leapfrog those at the lower run of the digital divide.

“With the second phase rollout in Lagos, a projected five million Nigerians will be accessing the digital television services, not only for broadcasting, but will also converge opportunities for telecoms and other ancillary services. It will bring about additional creation of jobs for Nigerian engineers and content creators and small scale businesses are going to be stimulated around this proposition,” he said.

Since the implementation of DSO in 2016, NBC has licensed over 140 digital terrestrial television channels, cutting across regional and national local channels and we expect that Lagos will quickly scale up to over 60 channels within the next few weeks.
“Six months from the date of the launch in Lagos, analogue broadcasting in Lagos will be switched off, and I encourage all Lagosians to get the Set-Top-Boxes that are produced in Nigeria. I also appeal to the manufacturers to make the Set-Top-Boxes affordable for Nigerians,” Idachaba said.

Set-Top-Box

A Set-Top-Box (STBs) is a little decoder, with which viewers could have access to digital contents from different digital television channels, free of subscription.

STBs offer the same experience like the decorder of the pay TV and it offers over 60 channels in Lagos free of charge. STB allows viewers to have access to all free-to-air channels free of charge, including sports channels, entertainment, music and other family programmes.

The box comes digitally ready and allows viewers to receive broadband connectivity. The box is self-installed and can be operated with in-house antennae or outdoor antennae. It has a yearly activation fee of N1,500. The box is available everywhere in Lagos at a cost of N12, 000.

Giving details of STB, the Head of DigiTeam Nigeria, Mr. Edward Amana, said in order to benefit from the economy of scale, DigiTeam developed a common ECOWAS standard for transmission, digital receivers and STB for the whole of the ECOWAS sub region and that in line with the policy decision of government, two signal distributors, Integrated Television Services (ITS) from the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), and Pinnacle Communications Limited, a private entrepreneur, were licensed and they had since been rolling out their terrestrial digital television transmission networks.

According to Amana, “A total of 13 companies were approved for the manufacture of Set-Top-Boxes (STBs) and conditional access software was introduced to protect the STB manufactures in Nigeria. It is for this reason that all STBs purchased by consumers, must be activated with the software, before it can function effectively in Nigeria, and this will help control STBs that may be smuggled into the country or produced outside of the 13 approved manufacturers. Two companies, Inview Nigeria Limited and Renmore Nigeria Limited were licensed to provide the STB services from among the 13 that were approved. An Abuja-based company has been contracted as a call centre operator to handle the STB activations, using the access software,” Amana said.
According to Idachaba, “Our indigenous STB is a melting point and a point of convergence of our collective heritage. I say this because the STBs were produced in Nigeria, by Nigerians, using local content.”

“As at today, STB manufacturers have set up their assembling plants in Abuja, Calabar, Lagos, Ogun and Osun States and they have since commenced production of STBs and generating employment for the country,” Idachaba further said.

Local STB manufacturers

Chairman, STB Manufacturers in Nigeria, Godffery Ohabunnwa, who also spoke at the launch said: “I am proud that I am a Nigerian, and Chairman of one of the licensed STB manufacturers for our DSO. This simply shows that good things can still come out of Nigeria, despite the difficult times we are passing through as a nation. We have capacity to produce over two million STBs when we begin full capacity production.”

thisdaylive


technology

Technology

C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute A...
June 14, 2021
Thales and Google Expand Partnership to ...
June 14, 2021
Nexo Engages Leading Accounting Firm Arm...
June 14, 2021