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DStv, Zuku users to buy new decoders for free-to-air TV

wangusi

CCK director-general Francis Wangusi at a press conference in Nairobi on Tuesday. The regulator set December 13 as the deadline for switching off to TV signal. Photo/Diana Ngila

Summary

  • CCK said on Wednesday that the present decoders provided by the two pay-TV operators would no longer transmit free-to-air stations after the December 13 switch-off deadline.
  • This means that the subscribers will have to either invest in new gadgets that convert analogue signals to digital format or buy upgraded decoders from service providers like StarTimes and GOtv.
  • The introduction of the new models by StarTimes and GOtv came on the backdrop of a demand by CCK that all pay TV providers give their customers access to at least five free-to-air channels regardless of whether they were up-to-date on their monthly subscription fees or not.

Thousands of DStv and Zuku subscribers will be forced to buy new decoders to access free-to-air channels after the December 13 switch-off deadline for analogue TV signals in Nairobi.

The Communications Commission of Kenya said on Wednesday that the present decoders provided by the two pay-TV operators would no longer transmit free-to-air stations such as NTV, KBC, KTN, Citizen and K24 after the switch-off.

This means that the subscribers will have to either invest in new gadgets that convert analogue signals to digital format or buy upgraded decoders from service providers like StarTimes and GOtv.

The regulator said DStv and Zuku’s decoders’ use a different technology from the Digital Video Broadcast Technology 2 (DVB-T2) linked to the migration, prompting a protest from the latter.

“We have only two pay-TV providers — that is StarTimes and GOtv — whose decoders are compliant with the DVB-T2 technology,” said CCK director-general Francis Wangusi.

He added that DStv and Zuku subscribers would have to invest in new set boxes to convert analogue signals to digital format. The subscribers will, however, still use the decoders to view the various pay bouquets. 

In August last year, CCK  revised the minimum specifications for DVB-T2 set-top boxes,  making the conditional access feature optional for DVB-T2 set top boxes intended for use to receive free-to-air TV content.

The conditional access feature allowed the pay television providers to control what their subscribers watch and the review was aimed at ensuring that pay-TV subscribers access the free-to-air channels even when in default of payment.

(Read: Pay-TV subscribers get free access to public channels)

This review has seen pay-TV providers such as Startimes and GOtv — a subsidiary of DStv — upgrade their decoders. StarTimes  launched  its new models retailing at Sh4,999 in May and said old subscribers who bought set-top boxes at a subsidised rate of Sh1,999 would have to pay the difference to qualify for the new model.

This was followed by the launch of GOtv’s new decoders in the market dubbed GOtv Open that allows viewers to receive local free-to-air channels in digital quality for a one-off administration fee. 

The introduction of the new models by StarTimes and GOtv came on the backdrop of a demand by CCK that all pay TV providers give their customers access to at least five free-to-air channels like KBC, NTV, QTV, KTN, Citizen, K24 and Kiss TV, regardless of whether they were up-to-date on their monthly subscription fees or not.

With the new model subscribers can access the channels without attracting monthly subscription fees.

The switch to digital signal is expected to boost investors in digital terrestrial TV, broadcast mobile TV, commercial wireless broadband services, as well as help in disaster relief while offering viewers wider choice.

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