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Monopoly in signal distribution created by FG in DSO may collapse investment

Even though the Abuja Digital Switch Over (DSO) has come and gone smoothly, there seems to be a scenario already in place that may rather than grow the emerging sub-sector, create a confusion that may not only destabilize the target of meeting deadline but bungle the entire industry.

According to industry expert, the challenge remains issue bordering on fair competition in bidding for signal distributorship in regions of the country.

Several stakeholders who have been investing and getting ready for the digitization of the entire country are currently confused on the model of the government and the supervising agency, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in actually selecting a region’s signal distributorship. Their surprise seems to hang on why the Ministry of Information and Culture and NBC chose to

favour a particular signal distributor, at the detriment of others.

Some of them that spoke anonymously on the matter recalled that government had licensed two key national signal distributors  for the Abuja DSO only to favour one at the tail end of the deal.

They said ab-inito, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), an ICT based Solutions Company, and Pinnacle Communications Limited, a major signal distributor were drafted to drive digital signal distribution process across Nigeria, and to provide easy access to digital signals for Nigerians.

Available details show that ITS is a government creation through the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and operates as an arm of the television station, just as Pinnacle Communications is a private business which was finally favoured for the actual rollout.

Many of the DSO investors say the development may discourage the chain of multiplier effects expected from the DSO which analysts say will run into billions of naira if well managed.

It would be recalled ITS even though was denied the right to roll out digital signals in Abuja just few months it has successfully demonstrated service delivery by launching in Jos, Plateau State, where the pilot scheme for the roll-out of DSO was carried out, the group ought ot have been allowed to rollout in the FCT to deepen competition in the nation’s.

According to them, a strategic city like the FCT deserves to be fed by a competitive DSO structure so that TV viewers will have a lasting experience.

Currently several organisations have invested so much in ITS, and that it would be a wrong business sense for some people in government to limit ITS’ digital signal rollout, in an attempt to favour Pinnacle. This, they said amounts to policy somersault and could largely erode investors’ confidence.

Industry pundits currently query why both ITS and Pinnacle could not have been given equal opportunity to roll out together in Abuja, like GOtv and StarTimes are currently doing, in order to allow broadcasters and marketers decide which of the signal distributors to pitch tent with.

They are of the belief that if both have been allowed to run simultaneously, most broadcasters would have gone out for ITS over Pinnacle because of the strength of ITS through its partner’s presence in about 80 key cities.

In another development, industry observers argue that this is time for the NBC to limit differentials in giving out signal licenses in a nation that is critically behind schedule if we must tell ourselves the truth.

In their lead argument, a scenario where some operators are given lower frequencies with capacity to penetrate more and translate to better digital TV quality, and others are given upper frequencies with low penetration capacities which translate to poorer TV signal and viewing on the platforms may destabilize the target investment drive in the sector.

They are of the view that it would be better if market forces are allowed to determine the successful migration from analogue to digital migration.