Market Insight

Tanzania migrates to digital

April 19, 2012

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The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) announced they remain confident of their plans to switch off analogue TV on the 31st of December 2012. This is precisely 3 years earlier than the DTT deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITT) as per the Geneva 2006 agreement requesting frequency region 1 countries to migrate to digital TV by 17 June 2015. The rest of the East African nations including Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda have also announced similar plans.

There are a number of challenges in Tanzania's plans of an early migration. Although several pay-TV channels, including Agape TV and Easy TV are already offering their programmes in digital, the majority of people are still unaware of this transition. This is why TCRA and the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology formed a committee to educate people about digital broadcasting.

IHS Screen Digest estimates that out of the 7 million Tanzanian households, only 20% own a TV set. Arguably, this is because of the low electricity penetration (14% recorded in 2009 as per the World Bank) where the majority of people living in rural areas still use kerosene and firewood as alternatives to energy.

For a smooth transition to digital television TCRA would also need to ensure STB distributors provide accessibility to all free-to-air TV channels on a single box. Currently, there are about 11 distributors and not all provide full access to the nearly 15 national, regional and local free-to-air TV channels. This requirement is essential for a country of 26 regions and 120 ethnic groups. Not enforcing this as a standard would result in Tanzanians having to buy more than one STB to access all TV channels.

With 75% of Tanzanians working in rural areas in agriculture and earning an average of $50 a month, it would not be surprising if the current set-top box retail prices of 50,000 - 100,000 Tanzanian shillings ($31 - $63) prove unaffordable. Back in October 2011, TCRA advised the government to waive import duties of decoders in an attempt to minimise costs for consumers. This is something the government of Kenya has already accepted when they recently agreed to waive the tax of 25% for the devices so that the poor could have access to digital television.

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