Zuku cable TV showing on a TV in Nairobi

Kenyan Digital Migration Acronyms explained – what do they mean


By now you must heard of terms like ITU, BSD, MPEG 4. DVBT2,. PPV and all other manner of acronyms that you never heard of or do not know what they mean.  Arising from the Agreement known as Geneva 06 (GE06 ), Kenya set up a multi-stakeholder national migration task force constituted in March, 2007, comprising of the then Communication Commission of Kenya; CCK now the Communications authority(CA), representatives from the then of Ministry of Information and Communications (now Ministry of ICT)-, Media owners Association (MoA) and the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) to advise the government on a framework for migration so as to meet the international deadline of 17th June, 2015 deadline. Wow what a mouthful of a paragraph from BAKE inviting me to the Communications Authority Forum on Digital Migration.

Another acronym you might have heard is ITU which stands for the International Telecommunications Union which is the United Nations specialized agency for information and Communications technology, ICT. The ITU in August 2012 published the Guidelines for the Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting, which many countries use to seamlessly migrate  Digital Migration.

Now the Regional Radio Conference 2006 (GE06) was an ITU conference that replaced parts of the Stockholm Agreement of 1961 for the European Broadcasting Area and parts of the Geneva Agreement of 1989 for the African Broadcasting Area.

GE06 established frequency plans for analogue and digital broadcasting in Band III (174–230MHz) and Band IV/V (470–862MHz). GE06 also established 17 June 2015 as the end of the transition period for the phasing out analogue television. Countries began implementing the GE06 process from 17 June 2006, and many countries have done so including Kenya (somehow).

For Digital Migration to happen, the signal must be distributed and thats where BSD comes in. BSD stands for Broadcasting Signal Distributor. There are only two licensed BSDs in Kenya namely PANG (Pan African Network Group) a Chinese owned company and Signet, a subsidiary of KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) in other words Govt. Now there is another type of license known as a Free to View license given to a broadcaster but the end user must use the broadcasters decoder in order to view their channels even though they are FTA, free to air channels. Bamba TV owns one such license.

Yet another type of license is known as the self provisional license like the one ADN has. With this license you can broadcast your content but not from any other party.

STB stands for set top box which is basically a decoder. The name comes from the place most consumers place this box – on the TV. All STBs should be connected to an antenna in order to receive DTT, Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasts from a transmitter site. The transmitter usually transmits UHF, Ultra High Frequency signals that usually carry up to 16 channels per frequency as opposed to a  single channel from an Analogue broadcast. The SI it of Frequency is Hertz often shortened as Hz. Now UHF frequencies are in the range of between 300 MHz and 3 GHz. The extra M and G stand for Mega and Giga. For example from this post I did about the list of digital TV frequencies in Nairobi you can see that I have used MHz.  The other frequency band used for Digital TV is VHF, very high frequency which ranges from 30 MHz to 300 MHz.

In the future FTA Digital TV will not be limited to your house only but also on the Road thanks to MTV, Mobile TV.

When Digital Migration broadcasts started they used MPEG2 (Moving Pictures Experts Group), an international standard for encoding and compressing video images. But this later changed to MPEG4, a much better standard that used even less resources to achieve exactly what MPEG2 did. Now this can also translate to the terms that CCK ordered BSDs to migrate from using DVBT to DVBT2. DVBT stands for Digital Video broadcasting – Terrestrial. The 2 in the latter represents that MPEG4 technology is being used and terrestrial denotes that the frequencies are transmitted from the ground unlike what Dstv and Zuku use which is DVBS. The S at the end stands for satellite. Dstv was started in Kenya around 1994, did you know that Dstv stands for Digital Satellite TV? Its quite clear that some sonkos migrated to digital almost more than 20 years ago. So if you own Zuku, Azam or Star TV then you have already migrated to Digital too.

This is the end of part one, now in Part two I will explain what all the following terms mean. Notice that they all have to do with STBs and their features?