NBC to acquire DTT decoders from South Africa

Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek- The Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) is now looking towards South Africa for the supply of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) Set-Top Box decoders.

This comes to light after Namibia’s national broadcaster admitted that it can no longer afford to buy decoders from Chinese ICT giant Huawei Technologies. In 2011 the Namibian government offered the digital migration contract to Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies to install and commission Namibia’s Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), which included the migration of all analogue TV stations to digital (DTT), as well as the construction of new stations to increase the total coverage from 59 percent to 92.8 percent DTT coverage upon completion of the project.

Although Huawei has enough capacity to supply Namibia with decoders, the process was recently put on hold due to financial constraints.

Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology Stanley Simataa was quoted in the media saying that NBC owes Huawei R78 million in frequency modulation (FM) and television transmitters’ equipment already manufactured and delivered but awaiting payment. Simataa was addressing parliament on progress made towards DTT universal coverage.

Simataa said NBC, which also gets budget allocation from Government, purchased the first batch of 80,000 decoders whose delivery cost for each decoder was R1,500. Government then subsidized the cost and NBC sold each box for R199. This translated into a loss of R104 million, while Huawei made R120 million.

He further revealed that there is an undelivered consignment of 20 000 decoders ordered, the payment amount for the consignment is R29 million. Half of this amount was paid during the current financial year and the remaining balance will be settled in the next financial year.

NBC’s head of channel exploitation within the Office of Director General, Patric Mettler, last week confirmed that NBC has also run out of decoders and cannot supply any decoders to the public and that the organisation has depleted its budget meant for the DTT migration project.

Mettler added that although Namibia is among the countries, which successful met the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) digital migration deadline, the country is still unable to acquire DTT decoders at an affordable price as well as to meet local content requirements.

“Namibia could proudly say we have met the digital migration deadline, however some countries such as South Africa might not met the deadline but based on the intervention over the period of time and implementation based on lesson learned from other countries majority are now ahead of us.

“NBC is currently faced with shortage of DTT decoders. All companies that we approached requires us to purchase decoders in bulk which is very expensive for a public broadcaster that mainly depends on government subsidies for survival and that’s why we want to tap into South Africa to see if they can provide us with quality and affordable DTT decoders” he said.

Mettler said South Africa is the only country in Africa manufacturing its own Set Top boxes and during the SADC-SABA forum most of the countries that includes, Botwana Seychelles Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland expressed their interest in sourcing decoders if the company manufacturing them has capacity to supply the whole region.

Comparing 1.3 million viewers Namibia had on analogue broadcasting, only close to 80 000 people are currently connected to DTT broadcasting. Mettler said the situation has also made it difficult for the broadcaster to source funds from advertisers as the figures are not convincing enough.

Huawei is a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider. Its ICT solutions, products, and services are used in more than 170 countries and regions, serving over one-third of the world’s population.

October 2017
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