By Oluwatobi Opusunju
Insufficient supply of set-top boxes (STBs) by manufacturers has slowed down Nigeria’s Digital Switch Over (DSO) implementation. More than 3.2 million households across five cities where DSO has been implemented still cannot access digital terrestrial television (DTV) services due to scarcity of STBs.
An unhappy Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), MallamIs’haq Modibbo-Kawu is accusing STB manufacturers of sabotaging the country’s digital switch over target by unethical practices and insufficient capacity to meet rising demands. At a recent meeting in Abuja with manufacturers, he warned that licences of pioneer manufacturers may be revoked to allow for new players that could meet the county’s target as the scarcity has impacted negatively on efforts to switch Nigeria from analogue to digital broadcasting.
A set-top box is a device that enables a television sets to receive and decode DTV broadcast signals. STB also acts as the user interface to the internet.
According to Modibbo-Kawu, the commission is currently being inundated with daily enquiries from all over the country about the non-availability of boxes, adding that “these are boxes that we paid for, and which should have been supplied by you. Already questions are being asked. STBs are permanently in short supply or are unavailable, even in the cities where we have launched, an infuriated Modibbo-Kawu told the manufacturers.
“Most of the STB manufacturers are not up to scratch, and you really don’t seem to have the technical and financial capability to deliver the quantum of boxes that could help us accelerate the DSO process,” said Modibbo-Kawu hinting at the possibility of the regulator terminating the contractual agreements with some manufacturers.
Out of 13 STB manufacturers licensed to supply the STBs only about seven have set up plants in the country. NBC is considering authorizing more players to augment the apparent low capacity of the existing manufacturers.
“We have no power to continue to protect a monopoly that you enjoy as pioneers of the set top boxes manufacturing process forever,” he said.
“We must switch off Analogue, but first the set top boxes have to be available to the Nigerian people,” he added.
The NBC’s boss also accused the manufacturers of unethical practice which is affecting the progress of DSO. Manufacturers who refuse to supply the boxes that NBC paid for have been found to thereafter take the boxes to locations where DSO has been launched to sell to subscribers at hyper-inflated cost. He considered thisto be both unethical and a deliberate attempt to sabotage the country.
So far, DSO has been implemented across only five cities in five states. They include Jos, Abuja, Ilorin, Kaduna and Enugu. However, government hopes to have DSO completed in 12 states by ending of Q2 or beginning of Q3.
By Oluwatobi Opusunju