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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Coming Digital TV Revolution



Except something unexpected happens, by July 31 next year, all analogue TV transmission in Nigeria will cease. Essentially all our existing TV stations - Channels, NTA, State TV stations and several others will cease to broadcast signals that can be directly received on our television sets. The world is transiting to digital TV broadcasting and July 31, 2015 has been set as Nigerias cut over date. Every television signal will have to pass through a set top box or decoder before being received by a television set.

The most obvious impact is that Nigeria will have to spend an estimated 700 billion naira to purchase decoders if they plan to continue watching television! The big question is how will this come about? Can Nigerian families really afford this, should they spend that much and what can anyone do to ameliorate the expenditure. The elephant in the room question is will it all be worth it?

To answer this question, let us look at the digital satellite TV service currently in the works from CWG and SES. SES is one of the leading communication satellite operators in the world. Her fleet of satellites include the Astra 2G craft whose foot print on the ku-band covers Nigeria and the rest of West Africa with high fidelity signals. SES also has considerable expertise in digital broadcast including operating the HD+ high definition service in Germany as well as being the partner of choice for a variety of other operators. SES expertise extends beyond satellites to also include content management and integration into worldwide content distribution networks. CWG has been SES partner in data communications for the past 20 years. CWG operates both a teleport for the upload of signals to SES satellites as well as a Tier 3 Data Centre that provide hosting services for storage and management of content and signals.

CWG and SES have introduced a service that allows any broadcaster to broadcast digital satellite signals that will be received using a variety of standard decoders. These signals will be received all over Nigeria and West Africa. The broadcasters will not need to change their existing equipment but will only need to make minor investment in digital encoders and they are good to go. This means for instance that Zamfara state TV can be received all over Nigeria as well as Osun State TV or Channels TV. IT means State TV broadcasting stations will no longer need to invest in expensive repeater stations in order to cover their states. The Enugu man in Lagos will happily see Enugu State TV in Lagos as well as the Enugu State man can easily see Lagos State TV. 

This is a staggering saving and expansion of reach for the regional or local broadcasters without the attendant significant cost outlay. For this alone, the television viewer will have received the value of digital television. Consider that as at today, it is impossible to keep up with local news if you leave the locality.

The CWG and SES service introduces a totally new dimension to television broadcasting. They are making it possible for any content owner - say a movie producer or a journalist or entertainer or school or church or consultant or government entity - to be able to broadcast 24 hour television which is viewable anywhere in Nigeria. We could be watching National Assembly TV as easily as we could be watching Open University TV or Catholic TV or NAFSAT TV. This is achievable because the CWG/SES system can accept live content as well as recorded content. It can also broadcast standard definition as well as high definition picture quality. We should be expecting an explosion of content of various forms.

TV can be used for not only entertainment but also for education. Chinas education system utilizes TV heavily to reach remote locations with standard curricula. This can also be the case in Nigeria. Our falling standard of education can benefit a lot from standard curricula delivered by properly equipped teachers to all school classrooms. This immediately reduces variation in the quality of teaching and also improves the quality of the teachers.

The coming digital television revolution will bring incredible value and opportunities for both viewers, broadcasters and other content owners. CWG and SES aim to be at the centre of this revolution, working with other stakeholders to make the switch to digital TV worth every effort and expense.

*This piece was contributed by the Chief Technology Officer, Computer Warehouse Group Plc, Mr. James Agada.
 

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