National Broadcasting Board (NBB) Chairman, Dr Masego Mpotokwane has said that the process to switch from analogue to digital broadcasting transmission is deeply involving, hence the need for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to achieve the goal.
Speaking at the launch of the Digital Migration Task Force in Gaborone last week, Mpotokwane said that as a signatory to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Botswana is obliged to effect the migration from analogue to digital transmission and that failure to do so by the stipulated time could result in the country failing to benefit from some of the digital services that are on offer around the globe.
Digital switchover is when the current analogue terrestrial television broadcasting switches to digital. Digital television is an advanced broadcasting technology that transmits TV pictures and sounds as computerised bits of information. The main advantage of digital television is that it requires much less space in the airwaves than the current analogue television channels. Digital television will enable broadcasters to offer television with better picture and sound quality with interactive capabilities similar to ones currently realised on the satellite television broadcasting networks.
With this technology, Botswana will be able to have six times more channels of broadcasting than we have with analogue. The migration results in availability of more spectrum as broadcasting services moves from frequencies, which were hither to allocate for analogue transmission.
This means other services can be licensed to use such spectrum. This is known as digital dividend.
The television services that would have not migrated to digital by the stipulated time would not be protected from interference by other digital services if any occurs.
Several years ago in Geneva, the ITU resolved that the broadcasting transmission should move from analogue to digital within a specified period.
In Africa, Mauritius was one of the first countries to go digital while South Africa, the process of switching over was officially launched in November last year and is expected to be completed in 2011.
Many countries in Europe and Asia have already moved to the digital mode of broadcasting. Some countries have switched off their analogue transmission while others will be switching off this year.
The Digital Migration Task Force is mandated to spearhead the migration process and will advice the Minister of Science and Technology on policy-related issues, standards and other issues that need attention during the process to migrate from analogue to digital transmission.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology, Festinah Bakwena said this change was necessitated by the rapid development in the technologies that drive the Information Communications sector in
"The date that was agreed for the region one, being Africa and Europe was August 2015. By this date it is anticipated that all countries should have moved all their broadcasting services, especially television to the digital mode".
Bakwena stated that the migration is not an option but an obligation as the digital transmission presents greater opportunities for information communication service delivery than analogue.
Bakwena stated that as a consumer of technology, Botswana is obliged to move to digital transmission because the manufacturers of the equipment being used for broadcasting will no longer be making analogue equipment.
Bakwena added: "The television sets we use were made for the analogue era. They will not be able to receive digital signals".
She called for the initiative to engage members of the public on the migration process so that they do not become victims of unscrupulous retailers selling equipment that are obsolete or fake digital equipment.
She appealed to all stakeholders to support the Digital Migration Task Force in all possible ways that would make the project a success.
The Digital Migration Task Force has a website on which information will continue to be made available on pertinent issues affecting the migration process.
Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) Chief Executive Mr. Thari Pheko said that the launch of the Digital Migration Task Force shows the ministry's commitment to ensuring that the migration from analogue to digital is a reality, adding that this would also ensure that Botswana is not left behind as the world benefits from the digital dividend.
Pheko saluted the National Broadcasting Board and the Botswana telecommunications Authority for providing the Secretariat for the work of the Digital Migration Task Force.
The Digital Migration Task Force is a composition of MISA, GBC, MABC, MultiChoice, DBS, AG's Chambers and the Department of Youth, Sports and Culture.
He added: "A lot is expected of them in delivering a comprehensive plan and implementation of the strategy to migrate from analogue to digital transmission".
He also thanked exhibitors from South Africa who have been supportive in sharing examples of the tools that would be needed for digital broadcasting.
The Set Top Box Manufacturers and Altech UEC & Arion Bomema Technologies were invited to avail stakeholders the platform to learn more about the array of equipment, which were displayed, and are effectively used in the digital transmission.