Digital TV Migration in Uganda: A beginner’s guide to switching from Analog to Digital TV

Television in Uganda and the world over is getting a makeover. Digital TV will once and for all put an end to those “snowy pictures” that have been gracing your screen for very long. We are in the new era of HD and it’s not a fading fad. This is real.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has for a while now threatened to make the transition from analog to digital for a while now but nothing has materialized since.
Putting UCC’s always extended deadlines aside, Here’s everything we think you should know about switching from analog to digital TV in Uganda.

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The basics: Why switch from Analog to Digital TV

Simple: Better reception, quality, sound and pictures.

How To switch to Digital TV

There are two ways to switch to digital TV. One of them is purchasing a digital Television set that comes right out of the box with a digital TV receiver.  How do you know if the TV you’re buying is a digital TV? More on that later.

The second option is making your analog box-like tube TV which you most likely have in your living room to receive digital TV signals. To achieve this, you simply have to purchase a decoder often called a set-top box. The decoder will convert digital TV signals into a form that the old school TV set understands.

How to tell if your TV is ready for Digital TV

There’s is really no one single way to determine whether or not your TV is digital or not. However, one of the ways to tell is if you have a box-like TV with a protruding back, then that’s an analog TV. Examples include the Sony Trinitron and the Panasonic Sophia among others. TV sets made 5-10 years ago are most likely analog TVs.

Another pointer is to look for labels such as “HDTV”, “Smart TV”. According to eHow,  all DTV sets have such a labels or markings that may contain the words “Integrated Digital Tuner,” “Digital Tuner Built-In,” “Digital Receiver,” “Digital Tuner,” “DTV” or “ATSC.”. If you can’t find one of these logos, you might have an analog television.

Most, but not all, flat screen TVs (that is Plasma and LCD TVs) include built in digital tuners and are therefore digital TV ready.

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Where do I purchase Digital TV sets and how much do they cost?

There are a number of stores that are selling digital TV sets. You can find them at mega supermarkets such as Quality supermarket in Namungongo and Lubowa, Nakumatt at Oasis mall, Game Stores at Lugogo Mall all have a wide variety. You can also find them at vendor authorized distributors such as Aninsuma Traders along Kampala road that sell Sony among other brands. You can also Visit appliance World which deals in LG appliances, Transtel and UGASUNG that sell Samsung appliances

These TV sets range from about UGX 700,000 to more than UGX 10,000,000 depending on the screen size and a number of other features. As you can tell, they are way more expensive than the good old analog sets.

How to receive digital TV signals using analog TV set?

Okay, so you have an analog TV set, but you want to receive digital TV signals. You have to purchase a decoder as explained above. The decoder will pick digital signals from the TV stations and convert them to analog ones that your TV set understands.

Now in Uganda, You can purchase a decoder from Pay TV providers. These providers charge a monthly subscription fee to access a certain set of TV channels.

Where do I purchase decoders from and at how much?

You have to purchase decoders from Pay TV providers currently. The prices fluctuate depending on the season and promotions. However, the decoders start from  about UGX 150,000 and on promotion go for even as low as UGX 60,000

Besides Pay TV providers, you will be able to purchase free-to-air decoders from Widestar Digital (U) Ltd, Icomsys Africa Ltd, Brivid Uganda Ltd, Syscorp International Ltd and Trans-African Container Transport Ltd who are among the 5 companies approved by UCC to deal in the DVB-T2 decoders. When you purchase decoders from these vendors, it means you can watch Free-to-air TV channels such as NTV, UBC, WBS without paying subscription fees as is the case with Pay TV providers.

This site by technical blogger Joseph Zikusooka has a list of known DVB-T2 tuners that currently work in Uganda.

Who are the digital TV providers in Uganda

There are currently about 5 pay TV service providers. These include DSTV, GoTV, Zuku and Startimes. The latest entrant to the market is Azam TV.

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Do I still pay to watch Free-to-air TV stations on pay TV providers

Yes, You still have to pay to access Free-to-air TV channels such as UBC, NTV, WBS among others. Some Pay TV providers allow access to select channels like GoTv allows access to UBC without subscription. UCC claims that free to Air channels are free on any decoder but in practice, this hasn’t materialized yet

How to choose a digital TV provider suited for you

This is not an easy question. First of all, we have terrestrial digital TV providers and satellite providers. DSTV and more recently, Startimes broadcast using satellite channels, meaning you need to install a dish on your premises.

With terrestrial broadcasters such as GoTV, Zuku and Startimes, you don’t need an outdoor satellite dish. You simply need a decoder and maybe an outdoor antenna (GoTV sells one ) to improve on reception.

Each provider has a set of packages loaded with a list of select TV channels broadcasting specific kind of content. DSTV is for instance known for providing premium sporting and Movie channels such as Super Sports  and Movie Magic. GoTV is leaned more towards entertainment channels. Therefore, you simply have to look through the various packages and price points from the different providers to make your choice.

When is Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) pulling the plug on Analog TV

UCC started the Digital-to-analog TV migration guide in July 2011. If UCC was to stick to its deadlines, you shouldn’t be receiving analog TV by now. The deadline for pulling the plug was December 2012 which is two years back. The global deadline is next year June 2015 which is less than a year from now. Having failed to beat its extended deadline, will the commission manage to beat the global deadline? That’s a no-brainer I hope.

Image: Flickr


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