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Nigeria stumbles on path to digital migration

Nigeria , 25 May 2015

Nigeria stumbles on path to digital migration

Nigeria's National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has announced the country cannot meet the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) global digital migration deadline of 15th June 2015. Instead, the director general of the commission, Emeka Mba has set a new deadline of 17 December 2016.

The failure of the Nigerian government to effect the migration could mean that up to 80% of Nigerians would be cut off should the ITU direct automatic switchover to digital broadcasting.

Furthermore, there are risks of signal interference if Nigeria continues to transmit analogue signals while neighboring countries have carried out the switchover and are transmitting digital signals instead.

There are also concerns about a potential ITU sanction, as well as Nigerian television stations not being able to broadcast foreign digital contents.

To deal with this, Mba said NBC is holding talks with relevant bodies including the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) and the ITU. It is believed the commission will also unveil contingency plans to deal with the potential effects of the switchover.

In an explanation of why Nigeria could not make the June 15 deadline, Mba said it was due to non-availability of the required funds to complete the digital migration exercise, in spite of efforts by the commission over the past nine years to convince the Nigerian government to consider the ITU-directed digital migration as very important.

"NBC, through internally generated money from within the broadcast industry, was able to set the roadmap for the actualisation of digital migration and provided some skeletal infrastructure that will help drive the exercise, while awaiting the release of funds by government. But the funds are yet to be released three weeks to the June 15, 2015 deadline given to Nigeria by ITU to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting," Mba said.

On June 17, 2006, Nigeria signed international and regional agreements to complete digital migration by June 15, 2012. In 2007, the digital migration process got the approval of the Nigerian government even though the country could not meet the June 15, 2012 deadline, forcing it to shift to a new deadline that will expire this year.

Mba believes Nigeria will be able to migrate by the new deadline, if the required funds of approximately NGN60 billion is made available.

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