Archive for category News

Uganda’s Digital TV Migration is complete but where’s the EPG Data?

Now that Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) says digital TV migration in the country is complete, its time to look at some of the benefits of using Digital TV.

One of the less advertised features of using digital versus Analogue TV is the extra data that comes with the signal. Among this data is the Electronic Program Guide (EPG) or in a lay man’s term – a listing of programmes and shows for each broadcaster with their respective airing times i.e. TV Guide. Forget that listing at the back of Uganda’s leading dailies – By the way, I can’t believe they still do that!

So why the fuss about EPG data? Other than the obvious, which is knowing when your favorite show will be on, EPG data can be used to schedule recordings on some smart devices. Knowing when a TV program will start and end is very central to most video recorder systems. Also, having this data automatically transmitted, takes the burden away from broadcasters from informing their viewers of any programming changes. It irks me every time I see “Coming Up,” “Up Next,” or “Programming guide” on TV.

As of today, the Free-to-Air mux(es) being used by Signet (474/594MHz) are not transmitting any EPG data. Only the Pay-TV providers are sending these data on the non-UCC frequencies.

It is time for Uganda’s TV broadcasters to start feeding EPG information along side their Free-to-Air TV channel streams. This is not an expensive proposition, and is in fact not optional for the Industry. This would be a small step, while we wait for all those extra channels resulting from the freed spectrum.

Uganda’s analogue TV stations switched off in Kampala

In one of the first major moves to migrate the country to Digital TV, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) on Monday 15 June 2015, ordered broadcasters to switch off their analogue transmissions in and around Kampala. As expected most of the broadcasters complied, and Television consumers in this market who had not transitioned from their old analog TV sets will now have no TV.

It is too early to tell what sort of reaction Ugandans have about the switch-over. Also, the rest of the country still remains on Analogue, and will be phased into the migration on 31 of July and August 2015.

For now, the majority of TV channels, including NTV, NBS, WBS, Urban, UBC and others are using the 474MHz multiplex on the Free-To-Air feed around Kampala. For a detailed list of what channels are available, please check out Availability.

Uganda’s popular TV channels currently off the Digital TV (OTA) spectrum

Uganda’s traditionally most watched TV stations, Nation TV (NTV) and Wavah Broadcasting services (WBS) are currently off the UCC assigned Over-the-Air digital TV frequency, 474MHz. WBS TV has been off for nearly a month now, while NTV’s feed went off last week, with a brief return on Tuesday evening. Since, most Ugandans are still using analogue (and a few using Pay-TV-services), these blackouts on the Kampala Free-to-Air Digital TV transmission multiplex have gone pretty much unnoticed. Check out the current status for all Free-to-Air Digital TV Channels.

With all the questions surrounding the ability of Signet, the sole distributor of the Digital TV signals in Uganda , it is sad to see that some of Uganda’s major digital TV channels are off or barely on at this very late stage.
Signet, which was spawned from the national public broadcaster, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) and contracted to handle the Digital TV signal distribution through out Uganda.

It would be nice to see all the parties responsible for digital TV migration in Uganda (i.e. Signet, Uganda Communications Commission, and broadcasters) aggressively updating the country, on where we are regularly especially now that we are quickly approaching the June switch off deadline.

Uganda’s digital TV Migration – A status update

With only 5 months left before the international deadline for analogue TV switch off, here is where Uganda stands in the move from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.

As of January 2015, the following areas have access to the Over-the-Air digital TV signal: Kampala, Entebbe, Bombo, and Mityana. Basically only a small part of central Uganda is covered. Also DVB-T tuner tests indicate that depending on your location, you may still not be able to access the DTV signal which is being transmitted from Kololo. For example in areas East of Naalya an Outdoor Antenna may be required.

Also, only a few TV stations are currently broadcasting in Digital TV. For example,
NTV Uganda, Bukedde TV 1, WBS TV, Urban TV, UBC etc. For a specific status on each of the local TV channels, take a look at the Digital TV Migration Status page

With regards to equipment, some merchants in Kampala have already started to sell analogue-to-digital TV converter boxes, which is what the majority of household with require. However, at prices of up to 150,000/=, this might still be prohibitive for the majority of homes in the country.

With the the looming deadline, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), has promised to start rolling out Digital transmission to other areas of Uganda. We look forward to that.

Uganda’s Digital TV migration: Still a messy, on and off affair

digital_tv_migration_ug_1

With the June 2015 international deadline for TV migration only a year away, Uganda’s digital TV migration process is still very much a messy affair. Very few Ugandans know that in a few months, they could find themselves not able to watch their favorite TV programs.

The pilot testing phase in the greater Kampala area continues to be an on and off affair. Not all TV stations currently broadcasting in analogue format are on board the digital train. For example, only the following are currently being transmitted via DVB-Terrestrial.

Bukedde2
EATV
LTV
NBS
NTV
Record
UBC
Urban
WBS

For all channels broadcasting, the reception has somewhat degraded when compared to last year. The audio and video quality is also generally poor. For a complete status, please check out the Digital TV in Uganda Status page.

As for consumer awareness, there are very few Ugandans who are aware of the migration process. Uganda Communications Commission(UCC) (UCC), the body in charge of steering the digital TV migration, has in the past few months been running Ads on local TV, but it looks like even those Ads, have not had a change in the awareness and preparedness of the masses.

Compounding the problem is the lack of Analogue-to-Digital TV converter boxes (or decoders) on the market. As of today, the only providers of these boxes have been the pay TV providers such as Star Times and Go TV. Yet, these providers require you to subscribe to their services on a monthly basis. It seems the providers, have ignored the call by UCC, that they de-scramble the Free-to-Air channels on their boxes. This effectively means that for the ordinary Ugandan, moving to digital TV today means subscribing to a pay TV provider.

It is hoped that in a few months, the decoders will be available on the market.  This after five firms were approved to import and sell these devices.

My advice to early migrants, is that while not available locally, take a look at hardware known to work on the Digital TV Uganda site. We’ll continue to update the list as more people come on board.

Digital (Free-To-Air) TV now available in Uganda

Finally, Digital TV broadcasting has started in Uganda. Below is a list of channels I was able to scan for the Kampala area. See my previous post on how to scan for these channels.

service = UBC TV (UCC)
service = UBC STAR TV (UCC)
service = East AFRICA TV (UCC)
service = ITV (UCC)
service = CITIZEN TV (UCC)
service = WBS TV (UCC)
service = BUKEDDE TV 1 (UCC)
service = BUKEDDE TV 2 (UCC)
service = URBAN TV (UCC)
service = RECORD TV (UCC)
service = TOP TV (UCC)
service = NTV (UCC)
service = UBC TV (UCC)
service = LIGHT TV (UCC)
service = MIRACLE TV (UCC)
service = CCTV (UCC)
service = NBS (UCC)
service = CAPITAL TV (UCC)
service = BOUQUET SERVER 1 (UCC)
service = BOUQUET SERVER 2 (UCC)
service = RTV (UCC)
service = KBC (UCC)
service = TBC 1 (UCC)
service = BBC WORLD (UCC)

Of these, only six (TV: UBC, EATV, ITV, WBS, BUKEDDE-1, and NTV) are currently broadcasting via DVB-T.

And the fun part for the Linux people out there – How to play these channels.

If using VLC, create a channels.conf file (i.e. scan using Xine format). When done, simply run:

#> vlc .xine/channels.conf

All the channels will be populated as a playlist. Then select your favorite channel to watch.

NOTE: If you are playing using a remote SSH session i.e. embedded device: something like this will work:

vlc -I dummy -V xv -f --width 1024 --height 768 dvb-t:// :dvb-caching=300 :dvb-frequency=474000000 :dvb-inversion=-1 :dvb-bandwidth=8 :dvb-a-fec=2/3 :dvb-transmission=8 :dvb-b-modulation=QPSK :dvb-guard=1/4 :dvb-hierarchy :program=ENTER_PROGRAM_NUMBER_HERE e.g. for UBC enter 1 (see channels.conf file)

Initial observations: Audio quality is a bit off for some channels like NTV – I guess this will improve over time as the broadcasters get their act together.

Uganda’s Digital Free-to-Air TV is almost here

With testing for digital TV transmission for the greater Kampala area under way, Uganda’s migration to digital TV is back on.

For the open source geeks out there, I have re-published a script I wrote some years back to scan for DVB-T channels. If you live in the greater Kampala area; feel free to check it out from my GitHub repositories.

To use this tool, you will need a DVB-T2 tuner – USB dongle or PCI-based card.

So far, Broadcasting is currently on the frequency 674000000; in addition to the already existing pay tv frequencies of 490000000 , 498000000 , 522000000, 538000000, 546000000, 570000000, 586000000, 634000000, and 690000000.

We are really in the initial stages, as most broadcasters are not yet on at this time. Also analogue TV users should expect to be temporarily switched off this week as transmission masts are re-fitted with new panels.

Happy testing

Do the NSA revelations matter for developing nations?

I never thought I would comment on the continuing NSA revelations by Edward Snowden on this blog.
Considering how deprived most developing nations like Uganda are when it comes to ICT, one would brush off such leaks as a problem for the west.

But then again, due to our dependence on IT products and services (think Google, Microsoft, etc) from the US, IT users need to seriously reconsider what services and products they use.

If you are still using any of Microsoft’s products e.g. Windows, I recommend you take a look at this and other articles on Microsoft and the NSA.

Why We Can No Longer Trust Microsoft – John C Dvorak

Turns out Microsoft has been helping out the NSA and its surveillance work – confirming what a lot of us in the open source community always thought.
This might be a good time to migrate your systems away from those proprietary vendors unless of-course you don’t mind having ‘back-doors’ in your software and possibly being monitored.

The Raspberry Pi and Uganda’s Digital TV Migration Update

A raspberry pi kit just got delivered to the labs for testing. I’m looking forward to see what sorts of things a raspberry pi can do for us here in our Uganda.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock; the biggest news this past year in IT hardware has been the raspberry pi. Initially meant to help school kids learn how things work. This project has been a wild success, but mostly with the adult kids. Most appealing is the very small form factor and the $35.00 cost. With all these features, this little board gives you all the computing power you need to do your work plus some pretty cool stuff. Some of the interesting projects out there using the raspberry pi include: a web server to store all you files, a router, a webcam server, a weather station controller, a game arcade system, etc.. You can read more about the Pi here

Meanwhile, Uganda continues to struggle with the Digital TV migration process. After failing to meet the December 2012 regional deadline to switch from analogue to digital TV, the Uganda Communications Commission has now set tentative dates with an assurance that by December 2013, all of Kampala, and major towns in the country will have switched. In my opinion, the targets while attainable are still very ambitious considering that there has been very little done so far to prepare Ugandans for this change. It is hoped that testing of digital TV transmission will begin in May this year. Lets wait and see.

Open Source and Digital TV Migration Updates in East Africa

Some interesting news stories in our neck of the woods that caught my attention recently:

Kenya is considering moving away from proprietary to open source software solutions for government bodies. As the article suggests, this move is not only a cost saving measure, but opens up opportunities for local software developers. I think other economies should follow this example. Read more

Also in Kenya, the migration to digital TV is moving rapidly, as the authorities increase incentives of importing digital TV ready equipment. Vendors are now able to import either over-the-air channels only set top boxes (STB) or premium channel STBs. This move means the prices of digital TV equipment will go down. Read more

Locally in Uganda, there’s still a whole lot of talk on digital TV migration, as providers still fight over who will distribute the signals. It looks likely that the initial switch date of December 2012, will be missed. A ban on TVs that do not have a DVB-T2 chipset is being implemented starting next year. Read more