By Magnus Eze
With projections that at least 24 million households in Nigeria are expected to transit from analogue to digital television soon, many had thought that Abuja, the nation’s capital, would pioneer this phase of broadcasting in the country.
However, Jos, Plateau State, home of Nigeria’s Television College and Africa’s first television station to launch regular colour broadcasts, made history with the launch of the pilot programme in April. The colour test transmissions commenced October 1, 1975.
However, indications emerged last week that the FCT would be the next in line by December, if all goes as planned by the Federal Government and Pinnacle Communications Limited, the licenced signal distributor of the digital switch-over (DSO) in the FCT.
The company had been embroiled in litigation with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over some disagreement on spectrum licence but its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Sir Lucky Omoluwa, told Daily Sun in May that they were engaging very seriously with the minister and the NBC and were optimistic that all the issues in court would be resolved as quickly as possible.
True to his expectation, the issues were amicably settled, enabling the company to mobilise to its Mpape hilltop complex that would host the DSO hub for the FCT.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and his entourage were impressed on seeing the extent of work at the site during a guided tour of Pinnacle Communications, and he gave the assurance that FCT residents would begin to enjoy digital television by the end of this year.
“We are very much on track but I think it’s important to understand what the DSO entails. It entails that all the component actors be ready. Here is the signal distributor and we are quite impressed that before the end of November this facility will be ready to distribute signals to the entire FCT,” the minister said.
Mohammed, who described the Abuja launch as the most ambitious project so far in the DSO, because of the strategic location of the FCT, commended the patriotism of Omoluwa who, he said, had remained focused on the project despite the initial hiccups that almost derailed the project.
Accompanied by the Directors-General of NTA and NBC, Mallam Yakub Ibn Mohammed and Mallam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, respectfully, as well as the Chairman of the DigiTeam Nigeria, Mr. Edward Amana, among others, the minister inspected the mast foundation, control room, dish farm site and transmitter building at Pinnacle Communications before heading to Idu Industrial Layout for on the spot assessment of the production line and manufactured set top boxes at Trefonics.
The minister expressed satisfaction with the manufacturing process at the complex of Trefonics, where the Managing Director, Mr. Onochie Amasiani, said the company has already manufactured 50,000 set top boxes using only one of its six production lines.
“The first set top boxes were actually imported but there is a proviso in the award letters that, consequently, every licenced manufacturer will have to manufacture his products here and we are happy that Trefonics is doing exactly that,” he said.
With about 24 million TV households in Nigeria, Mohammed was upbeat that, with proper marketing and quality control, there would be a huge market for set top box manufacturers in the country.
He strongly believes that the DSO would revolutionize broadcasting in the country, thereby unleashing the creative potentials of youths, and creating one million jobs in three years.
The chairman of Pinnacle Communications said all the equipment required for the DSO launch in Abuja was on ground, but the company would need four weeks to do the installation and two more weeks for test transmission.
He assured residents of the FCT of high definition pictures and clear signals, given the company’s state-of-the-art equipment and expertise.
Daily Sun gathered that the milestone achieved by the company in just five weeks was like magic to many. Chairman of DigiTeam Nigeria, Mr. Amana said, “it was an impressive development considering the short time frame.”
But for Abuja residents, what they need is real action given that government had earlier indicated that Abuja and Lagos were to follow consecutively immediately after Jos was switched over.
Nigeria has a deadline of June 2017 next year to switch over totally from analogue to digital broadcasting and so far only about three local government areas in Plateau State have been covered.