African countries “way off” reaching ITU targets

22 August 2012 | Kavit Majithia


A leading executive at the world’s largest satellite company has claimed that the majority of African countries are way off reaching targets set by the ITU for terrestrial roll-out.

The telecoms body has set the region a 2015 target to complete the digital switch from analogue to digital transmission.

So far, none of the African countries in question have conceded defeat to the ITU’s goals. However, as the 2015 deadline nears, there are increasing concerns that the majority of the region will fall short of reaching ITU provisions.

Christoph Limmer, senior director market development at SES World Skies, claimed only two or three countries in Africa will be able to reach the target because “most countries do not have the knowledge to roll-out digital terrestrial networks across the region”.

Limmer continued: “The governments and regulators have still not decided which technological standard they want to follow. There is confusion between whether to follow the Japanese standard Digital TV (DTV) and Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVBT) and they are now running dangerously close to the deadline without making a decision.”

It is likely that if 80%-85% of countries miss the deadline the ITU will grant an extension, but Limmer warned even a two or three year delay will not be enough: “Some countries do not even have a basic plan in place for digital migration.”

Drawing on the example of the French market, where even a mammoth €600 million investment didn’t achieve 100% digital terrestrial roll-out, Limmer said ITU’s targets for Africa are “ambitious”.

“Implementing set top boxes in the region, considering the size of Africa would cost hundreds of millions of Euros and this is expected to be done without any sort of funding.” Limmer added satellite is in no way bound by frequency or border issues.

If the ITU were to switch off frequencies following an extension of the 2015 deadline, Limmer warned it could change the way the majority of consumers watch TV in the region.