The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has said it will determine and announce an analogue switch-off date (SWO) only after it has fully been satisfied with the level of public awareness about the digital transition.
In an email response to Business News on when Malawi will completely migrate to digital terrestrial television (DTT) from analogue, Macra’s communications officer Clara Mwafulirwa said the regulator wants to ensure that there are enough top-boxes available for the public to purchase.
Mwafulirwa said Macra is engaging stakeholders to ensure that this is done expeditiously.
She indicated that the mandate to determine the switch-off date rests with Macra as a regulator.
She said: “First, it was decided that the switch-off will be done in phases. To determine the analogue switch-off, Macra must first be satisfied with a number of variables to ensure that the consumer and the general public are well protected and properly covered.”
Mwafulirwa said among others the variables include adequate levels of public awareness about the transition, adequate set top box penetration into the market and prevalence of a stable good quality digital signal in the transmission catchment areas.
She said the absence of some of these variables is one of the reasons why deadlines that have been set for the switch-off in the past have not received the regulator’s nod.
Mwafulirwa said if the analogue switch-off is effected now, those households without appropriate receiving equipment will miss out on television broadcasts completely.
“As a regulator, Macra wishes to appeal to the general public to acquire for themselves appropriate set top boxes (STBs) now, so that they may receive digital terrestrial television,” Mwafulirwa said.
Mwafulirwa said the Malawi Digital Broadcast Network Limited (MDBNL), a signal distributor created to carry the content service providers, has almost completed most of the requirements of phase one of the switch-over to DTT.
She said there are 13 Malawi Channels featuring on the Malawi bouquet.
In an interview MDBNL coordinator Dennis Chirwa said his company has met the basic requirements for digital migration.
Chirwa said among others the company has created a call centre and has 24 000 set top boxes in stock out of the 45 000 which were supplied.
Malawi was supposed to migrate to digital on June 17 2015, but government shifted the switch-over to December 2015.
Secretary for the Ministry of Information, Tourism and Civic Education Justin Saidi was upbeat that this December Malawi should completely migrate to DTT.
So far, 300 000 families watch television, according to Chirwa.
Malawi is one of the five countries of the 15 in the southern Africa region to have switched on the digital platform within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) set deadline. n