Greetings from the Uganda Communications Commission!
With the June 17, 2015 deadline for migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting around the corner, we wish to remind of what is expected of you as a user /owner of a TV set.
It’s important you buy a Set Top Boxes (decoders) for FTA (Free to Air) broadcasting.
These decoders, in contrast to PPV (Pay Per View) ones, do not require monthly subscription; they are a one-off purchase. They enable you to watch FTA channels/stations such as WBS, NTV, NBS, Bukedde, etc, free of charge.
By contrast, the decoders sold by DSTV, Star Times, Zuku, Azam, Siti Cable – just to mention a few – are for Pay Per View i.e. subscription.
These are commercial entities, whose services are generally based on monthly subscriptions. When your subscription expires, you’re automatically disconnected till you renew your subscription.
Furthermore, the FTA decoders are for DTB (Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting) i.e. across the geographical terrain – you do not need a satellite dish. All you need is a simple aerial (any aerial you have been using on your TV set).
This contrasts to other digital broadcasting formats (e.g. satellite, cable) employed by commercial service providers.
It’s important to note that UCC has so far licensed 11 companies to import, sell and distribute these STBs. All STBs have been type approved by UCC (they bear a UCC logo with the word Approved and a tick on each box)
The price/cost of an STB ranges from 80,000/= to 240,000/= depending on the functionality and usability of the decoder. However, this price is expected to decline as more companies are licensed and more STBs imported.
Please, note that the Kololo mast has a capacity of 97 channels (TV stations). However, only about 24 channels have so far been connected on it. These include most of the local channels and foreign ones such as BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, etc.
Greater Kampala region has been having a digital signal since October 2013, when the Kololo mast became digitally functional. However, the Commission has not yet switched off the analogue signal. This region, therefore, is enjoying simulcast broadcasting (both analogue and digital broadcasting going on concurrently).
In addition, UCC and UBC (Uganda Broadcasting Corporation) have imported digital tuners and down links that will be fitted on the 17 UBC masts spread throughout the country. Each of these masts has a capacity of 25 channels. Therefore, anywhere in Uganda people will have the opportunity to watch 25 TV stations at any given time.
This exercise (fixing the 17 masts), estimated to last three weeks, will be completed by end of next month (May). Currently, this equipment is in transit. Therefore, almost all parts of Uganda will have access to a digital signal by June 2015.
However, there will be need to erect booster stations for those shadow areas (places which hitherto have not been having UBC analogue signal, e.g. Karamoja. We hope this won’t take a long time as such places are few.
Therefore, we are optimistic that we shall meet the June 17, 2015 international switchoff deadline.
Please, note that people have the option of buying an IDTV (Integrated Digital TV set). This set has an inbuilt digital tuner, hence do not require an STB. These sets, however, are still few and expensive. Of the 11 licensed firms, only Hisense (based in Industrial Area), is assembling IDTVs in Uganda so far.
Note his: Not all flat screens are IDTV. In fact, most flat screen TV sets are analogue. Therefore, before you fork out your hard-earned cash, ensure what you’re buying is an IDTV.
When buying an IDTV set, please check on the packaging as well as the Instruction Manual. Also, get assurance from the salesperson. Of course, buy from a credible outlet.
It’s important to note that these 11 firms must display their licences on their premises. When in doubt, contact UCC. Our Toll Free Line is: 0800133911.