Zim imports 400k set-top boxes

George Maponga recently in Mberengwa
ZIMBABWE has started importing 400,000 television set-top boxes from China to enable locals to continue watching TV after switching from analogue to digital.

A set-top box enables a TV receiver to receive and decode digital television broadcasts and Zimbabwe is currently in the process of installing digital transmitters as the country battles to complete broadcasting digitalisation before year-end.

George Charamba, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, on Wednesday revealed that the government had already ordered the TV set-top boxes from Huawei in China as the country geared up for digitalisation.

Speaking during a tour of digital transmission site at Buchwa peak in Mberengwa, Charamba said testing of the TV set-top box was already underway to make sure Zimbabwe was not a dumping ground of poor quality equipment.

“For our people to be able to continue watching TV in their homes after we have completed the digitalisation programme, they need TV set-top boxes and we have already started importing them from China because we want them in the country long before the switch to digital broadcasting,’’he said.

“We’re currently testing the TV set-top boxes model that we want to use in this country because we want to set a certain standard. There will be tests and retests because we have had a situation in other countries in Africa that have switched to digitalisation and ended up being a dumping ground of sub-standard set-top boxes.”

Charamba said the government wanted Zimbabwe to have the right gadgets for accessing digital broadcasting, adding that the number of imported set-top boxes was four times the penetration rate of TV sets in Zimbabwe that was about 100,000.

He said the set-top boxes being imported from China would be sold at affordable prices to cater for the country’s rural population.

“We’ve been advised by the government that the set-top boxes that we’re importing should be subsidised so that they’re affordable especially to rural consumers. We’re quite aware of the need to make profit, but there’s a lot of money that will be made through the sale of broadcast airtime once we’ve digitalised,’’ he said.

Charamba said that customers who failed to pay for their licence fees and subscription fees would be switched off. The subscription fees are set to replace compulsory ZBC television licences.

Zimbabwe is modifying and installing broadcasting transmission infrastructure at various sites as the country prepares to switch to digitalisation that will result in improved television quality and reach.

After the digitalisation programme, most areas – especially along the country’s borders – that were not accessing local broadcasting services such as radio and TV will be fully serviced.

Said Charamba: “The 24 new digital transformers will be shipped into the country in batches of six while work on the 24 existing transmitters that will undergo some fine-tuning and slight changes will be continuing.

“We expect to start testing the digital transmitters by October, our target is to have completed most of the works that are sensitive to the weather before the onset of the rainy season. There are some activities that are going on in the studio right now and work on the head end system is almost complete.

“For the first time in the history of this country, we’re witnessing a new development model where development is starting from rural areas going to urban areas instead of the other way round. The rural area is getting priority for the first time because the digital transmitters will open up opportunities for access to Internet on facilities such as schools in rural areas.”

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