The Digital Switchover as a “quick win” for the Buhari/Osinbajo Administration

I wrote this executive summary on May 1, 2015, and during a random Twitter chat today, @pdbraide asked if I would put it online. A year less a day later, here goes:

The Digital Switchover

What is known as the Digital Switchover was proposed by the International Telecommunications Union (“ITU”) in 2006. Following the approval of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Nigeria by the Federal Executive Council on 4th April 2012, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission set an initial deadline of 17th June 2012 for the migration. However, the date has been shifted a few times, most recently to 17th June 2015.

The implication of the Digital Switchover is that by the deadline, analogue TV receivers would no longer receive signals because the broadcasting stations will be transmitting on digital, and thus viewers must own what is known as a Set-Top Box (“STB”) in order to watch digital TV.

Impact of the Digital Switchover

The broadcasting value chain will have to invest in the technical upgrades that will support the digital switchover — transmission, reception, and the development of content; however, these investments will be the basis for expanded business activity in the broadcast industry. Other investments required for the Digital Switchover include enlightenment campaigns, and the specialised training for broadcast personnel.

Operators have begun to invest enormous funds primarily to improve upon their services and capacity whilst simultaneously expanding their reach to remote areas.

The Digital Switchover and Opportunities

With every disruptive policy, there comes some opportunities — some of these include the production of STBs, as well as the consequent creation of jobs.

There are about 40 million TV sets in Nigeria, each of which will require a STB in order to convert digital signals to analogue, in order for them to be shown on legacy TV sets. These STBs are inexpensive, and many manufacturers from all over the world have expressed their interest in setting up plants in Nigeria.

The immediate benefit of this for the Buhari/Osinbajo administration is the creation of jobs within six months, and the enhancement of Nigeria’s capacity for hi-tech manufacturing. In addition, the training of broadcast personnel and the engagement of transmission experts add to these jobs.

Further benefits of the STB

An STB is essentially a TV Set without a screen. Hence, having serviced the analogue to digital transition within the first one or two years, these manufacturing facilities can be easily upgraded to accommodate digital TV sets manufacturing capacity. Considering further that computer monitors are TV sets in essence, this also presents the opportunity of further upgrading these plants to become computer manufacturing facilities within a two year period.

Government support and the Digital Switchover

The Digital Switchover is an evolutionary process, which will continue to impact business models as technologies evolve and become more commonplace. Government support and massive public awareness campaigns are crucial for its success.

Action Plan

- Direct government interest towards the Digital Switchover

- Talk about it, thereby attracting attention of foreign STB manufacturers, and creating a market for local prospective manufacturers

- Reorganise the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission

By the first anniversary of the Buhari/Osinbajo administration, the proper handling of the Digital Switchover from 29th May 2015 would have yielded much fruit.

Thanks to Dr. Tunde Adegbola, for the conversations and readings that helped develop this.