Safaricom Digital Decoder, The big box what to expect plus what are TV bundles


In case you didn’t know Safaricom will soon launch digital decoders next month (April 2015). The digital set-top-boxes will be available through the company’s existing distribution network, that we all know as Safaricom shops everywhere at a cost of Ksh3499. At least they will avoid the situation like the one Bamba TV had when they were launching. Safaricom CEO  told Bloomberg News in an interview last year  that the  TV product will allow consumers to buy a preferred program such as a documentary or a movie and watch it through devices like tablets, smartphones or televisions. “People want to decide when they want to consume; they don’t want you to tell them. That immediacy is, I think, how the future will be defined.” he said.

Francis Wangusi, the director general of the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), said Safaricom applied for the licence two weeks ago complete with approval for a set-top box.

“Safaricom is the latest firm that has sought type approval for a set-top box. They have also applied for a digital broadcasting license but we have yet to approve that,” Mr Wangusi said, adding that the regulator was still considering the possible impact of television signals on the quality of telecoms services. Once approved, Safaricom will venture to content provision through their own channel. Imagine having the Safaricom TV channel on your set top box?

So how will the Safaricom set top box be?

I have read some articles on the internet that claim that Safaricom’s new set top box will be like the Zuku triple play, which offers Telephone, High speed internet and Cable TV all in one package. I think this is somehow misguided because probability of the decoder being a cable set top box are very small. The reason being that cable decoders are very limited when it comes to area coverage. For example Zuku cable does not even cover a fraction of Nairobi leave alone the whole country. That said I expect the following from the Safaricom decoder:-

  1. A normal Digital set top box which can be connected to a normal aerial; for viewing free to air dvbt2 channels.
  2. The decoder will have a SIM slot which will enable the decoder to access the internet. As we already know Safaricom has invested heavily on the 4G network in Kenya so I also expect the decoder to be 4G compatible. (Talk of an STB with an inbuilt modem)
  3. The decoder should have a USB port capable of driving very large capacity Hard Disk Drives like 500GB or even 1TB. Its either this or because of copyright, the HDD will be internal.
  4. Because the decoder is internet enabled, Safaricom has confirmed that the STBs will come with an additional functionality which can be used as a hotspot to connect to internet. In simple English they will provide you with WiFi right in your own house.
  5. I also expect a Smart TV user interface on the decoder where a person can be able to watch YouTube videos, surf Google Maps, listen to international radio using vtuner, chat on twitter and facebook and also the ability to download and play games. I do not expect any browser.
  6. The ability to stream movies and music using the inbuilt apps as well as record programs using the PVR functionality.
  7. Over the Air or should I say Over the Internet software upgrades.
  8. The ability to send and receive text messages but not to make phone calls.
  9. Video on Demand, this is where you watch what you want when you want. It’s very simple just search and stream or search, pay and stream. This is where the TV bundles come in

The TV bundles on the Safaricom bundles website are very expensive 2GB peak/1GB off-peak FOR kSH499 4GB peak/2GB off-peak for Ksh299 8GB peak/4GB off-peak for Ksh2999 A normal 1 Hour 30 min movie is around 1GB. So is Safaricom suggesting that we are going to pay Ksh500 for only two movies? This is the equivalent of 10 5o bob movies available at the movie dens, which by the way is also Video on Demand.

So what are TV bundles Safaricom, I one asked them on twitter and the reply was just wait. Well we are waiting.