Tanzania's switch to digital television broadcasting

Tanzania Soddjartj PendharkarTanzania's has faced a number of challenges in its digital transition programme, according to Robert Schumann. (Image source: Siddharth Pendharkar)Following the digital switchover in Tanzania, Analysys Mason manager Robert Schumann discusses a case study that examines the challenges faced by the country in terms of the number of TV viewers, and how, where and when they watch TV

Tanzania became the first country in mainland sub-Saharan Africa to switch off its analogue television signal for a digital switchover (DSO). 

The activities during 2011–2012, when the digital platform was switched on and marketed to viewers, are then reviewed, including a look at costs for consumers and channel providers, and some of the non-cost challenges that arose.

The final part of the study reviewed the outcome of analogue switch-off (ASO) as it proceeded in phases during the first half of 2013.

The government and the regulator have been clear and firm about the process, and stakeholders were involved from an early stage. This encouraged investment by the private sector and avoided an excessive burden on public finances.

The relative size of the challenge was, however, lower than in some other countries, due to the limited geographical coverage of terrestrial broadcast and the widespread use of free-to-air satellite TV.

Tanzania’s pioneering switch-off of analogue TV was, however, achieved at the expense of an appreciable number of viewers who lost access to TV for at least some time – estimated at around 20 per cent in one city.

Although politically undesirable, this loss of viewers may be necessary in other African countries if they are to meet the June 2015 deadline for analogue switch-off; mitigation strategies such as starting in regions with fewer viewers may be more effective than avoidance strategies such as delaying ASO.

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