Momentum gathers for DVB-T2 in West Africa
The turn of the year has seen DVB-T2 networks switched on in a number of West African countries, indicating that 2018 could be a landmark year for digital terrestrial television (DTT) in the region.
Straight to HEVC
While the island nation of Seychelles, located in the Indian Ocean, became the first African country to launch a DVB-T2 network with HEVC video coding, in early December, Benin followed soon after as the first mainland African country to launch with this specific combination. One advantage of launching DTT services somewhat later than other countries is the ability to jump straight to the most advanced and efficient video codec.
The DVB-T2 network in Burkina Faso, implemented by the Spanish system integrator BTESA, had its official inauguration on 28 December 2017. (The photo above shows implementation work in Burkina Faso.) In neighbouring Niger the service was scheduled to be switched on during January 2018. (At the time of writing it’s unclear whether this deadline will be met.)
Ghana has arguably the most well-established DTT service in West Africa, having started DVB-T2 broadcasts in June 2016. A full analogue switch-off (ASO) has been postponed for technical reasons, but it seems likely that this aim will be achieved during 2018. The network was built by an indigenous Ghanaian company K-Net Ltd.
Working towards ASO
Other countries in the region with DVB-T2 services already on air include Cape Verde, Senegal, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire, with all four working towards an ASO. Cape Verde, being by far the smallest of these four, is making fast progress and is likely to complete the process within the coming months.
In Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, the DVB-T2 network is being rolled out on a region-by-region basis. As in many African countries, the cost of set-top boxes is seen as a significant barrier to a speedy rollout. In Burkina Faso, the authorities have capped the price of set-top boxes at 10,000 FCFA (15 EUR) in an effort to encourage take-up.
Role of PayTV
PayTV services using DTT networks – typically DVB-T2 – are on air in at least half of the countries in West Africa. The three main players are China’s StarTimes, EASYTV from France's Canal+ and South Africa-based MultiChoice (GoTV). All three also have satellite-based PayTV offers.
GoTV was the first operator in Africa to deploy HEVC on a PayTV DTT network, in South Africa in 2016. StarTimes is preparing to deploy HEVC on their DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 platform, and have since August 2016 been rolling out a new HEVC DVB-T2/-S2 "Gemini+" combo set-top box in West African countries and other countries as Kenya, Rwanda & Congo DRC.
StarTimes' sister company StarTimes Software Technology has reached agreements of one kind or another with several African governments to implement national DTT networks. In West Africa alone, the Chinese company is in some way involved in rollouts in Benin, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and, potentially, Liberia.
DVB Members can obtain regularly updated information about the implementation of DTT globally in our DTT Implementation Status database. Another excellent source of information is the DVB-T2 LinkedIn Group, managed by Kenneth Wenzel (U-Media).
Photo: courtesy of BTESA