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Broadcasting Services in Uganda

Broadcasting services in Uganda started back in 1952 when the government first started radio broadcasting services and later in 1963 introduced television broadcasting services.  The analog broadcasting services were provided by only government until the early 1990s when the broadcasting sector was liberalized. Ever since the liberalization policy was put in place, there has been tremendous growth in private radio and television broadcasting services in Uganda

Analog television broadcasting services
The above services are offered in VHF and UHF frequency bands (174-230 MHz and 470-862 MHz respectively) in accordance to the 1989 Geneva (GE-89) agreement that provides for international protection to broadcasters against any interference from other users of the radio spectrum in contracting member countries of these treaties.

Digital broadcasting spectrum
It is currently fragmented into relatively narrow bands, scattered over many frequencies, and intertwined with digital broadcasting channels. This is a consequence of spectrum planning options adopted by various countries based on traditional use of broadcasting spectrum. The GE-89 agreement provided flexibility to open up the spectrum for other uses. However, this flexibility is limited under the existing technical conditions and, in practice, the current system is not conducive to the allocation of this spectrum to more efficient alternative uses.

Hence, the switch-over from analog to digital broadcasting by mid 2015, Migration from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting was agreed to under the United Nations (UN) umbrella with a deadline of June 2015 and is happening across the whole world.  Some countries have already begun using digital terrestrial broadcasting while others are still in the process of setting up their digital networks.

Types of Digital Broadcasting
There are two types of broadcasting content service packages or channels: Free-to-air and Pay TV.

For free-to-air, one can receive these TV channels on their TV sets without any subscription or paying a monthly fee. These include most TV stations in Uganda such as UBC, WBS, NTV, NBS, Lighthouse TV, Record TV, Capital, Bukedde TV, BTN TV, Bunyoro TV, EATV,h FamilyTV, Top TV, Kakira Sugar TV, Channel 44, Top TV, Urban TV, Northern TV, and TV WA.

These channels will continue to be free even after the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting (or digital terrestrial television – DTT migration as it is more commonly referred to).
On the other hand, pay TV (referred to as pay-per-view) is commercial and one has to subscribe (pay a monthly subscription fee) to watch the associated TV channels.  DSTV, Star Times, Mo TV and Go TV are in this category.

During the transition (2012-2015), the two types of broadcasting (analogue and digital) shall continue to exist but come June 2015, only digital broadcasting shall continue to exist.

Digital Broadcasting Standards
Uganda has made headway in implementing digital broadcasting in the country. Like in most countries in the developing world, Uganda has adopted DVB-T2 as the standard set-top box (STB).

DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) is a standard for digital television that has been adopted in many countries around the world. The “T” in DVB-T stands for terrestrial.  DVB-T is the more mature DTT standard that is being replaced by DVB-T2.  DVB-T2 is a newer system that provides the benefit of the best technical performance and the highest efficiency.

DVB-T2 not only offers an increased efficiency of 30-50% in its use of spectrum compared to DVB-T but can also offer a much higher data rate than DVB-T.  As a result, aside from the stationary or in-house TV reception, DVB-T2 supports mobile or hand-held TV and, therefore, targets innovative receivers such as computers, smart phones, and dongles.

Although DVB-T2 is supposed to be backwards compatible with the DVB-T standard, DVB-T receivers cannot use DVB-T2 signals.  It is, therefore, advisable when buying a digital TV or a receiver to check that it is based on the DVB-T2 standard not DVB-T.

It is worth noting that Uganda is among the first countries to go beyond trial and adoption to actual deployment of DVB-T2. Others include Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Kenya, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, Suriname, Sweden, UK, Vietnam and Zambia

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