Malawians owning Malawi Digital Broadcast Network Limited (MDBNL) Kiliye Kiliye decoders will have the flexibility to access pay-TV channels as the State-run body ponders extending its bouquet.
Dr Benson Tembo, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) technical advisor on digital migration, offered a glimpse of the income generation path on Tuesday when he briefed the Nkhata Bay district executive committee about the renewed effort to switch-off analogue transmitters in Mzuzu on June 30.
Minister of Information and Civic Education Patricia Kaliati is scheduled to launch the rebranded Kiliye Kiliye decoders at Mzuzu Upper Stadium today.
Tembo said: “Don’t throw away the TV, but buy a new Kiliye Kiliye decoder. A day is coming when people will not be able to watch TV without the rebranded decoder. When we fully migrate, those who won’t will experience darkness.”
The touted decoder offers 18 local channels, with room for more since one analogue channel accommodates up to 20 digital ones.
MDBNL envisages the released frequencies accommodating some more relevant content, including local and international channels for subscribers.
MDBNL marketer John Mchilikizo said the commercial channels will be restricted to interested holders of hybrid decoders with a slot for cards.
“Those with hybrid decoders will not need to buy new ones. They will continue watching the free channels on the decoder and they will only have to buy a card to access the pay-TV bouquet when we introduce it,” he said.
However, Mchilikizo disclosed that the State-owned company has imported a new consignment of decoders with no slot for a pay-tv card.
The landing cost of duty decoders—which are selling at K15 000 (about $22) in post offices among other offices—is almost K33 000 (about $49), said Tembo.
Macra director of broadcasting Zamdziko Mankhamba assured Malawians that all local channels will remain free of charge for life regardless of the planned commercial bouquet.
“The new lot of decoders will be cheaper than the hybrid type. So this will offer those who cannot afford pay-TV the opportunity to enjoy the crystal clear pictures and sound typical of digital signal,” he said.
The country switched on its digital signal on December 30 2013, but was supposed to discard analogue transmitters on June 17 last year when the digital migration deadline decreed by the International Telecommunication Union dawned.
However, government opted for simulcasting (the use of both analogue and digital signals) to avoid excluding those without requisite knowledge and decoders.
A recent survey on use of ICT facilities shows about 22 in 100 Malawians have knowledge of digital migration, but Mzuzu will be the first to experience the analogue switch off though the Northern Region has the least awareness levels (21 percent) countrywide.
Tembo said they decided to start with Mzuzu because the majority of 30 000 decoders sold had been bought by the residents of the city.