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STB manufacturers’ key component group in Nigeria’s DSO eco-structure—NBC boss

…Lists newer phase of challenges, prospects

The Director General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mallam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu has reminded Set-Top-Boxes (STBs) manufacturers that they remain a strategic component of the nation’s drive to a successful home-grown Digital Switch Over (DSO).

Addressing the manufacturers at a meeting in Abuja on Wednesday, the DG and former ace broadcaster revealed that “When the policy frame work of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) was being articulated, little did we all know that the STBm was going to be such a major stakeholder. Today you have emerged as a key component group in the DSO eco-structure.”

He commended the manufacturers for collateralizing their assets in order to make your contributions to the DSO work.

Kwau recalled “When I came on board as Director General of the NBC in May 2016, your proposition was at a critical state; the DSO was embroiled in crisis of funds and many of you had monies and even goods tied down. In the hot emotions of the moment, some of your members launched all manners of attacks against my person on the pages of newspapers and on social media, while a petition was even sent to the National Assembly against me, for not releasing your funds in time. We eventually cleared the indebtedness to you all, and I am glad today, that we understand ourselves better, and to a very large extent, the initial animosity has disappeared”.

However, he was quick to highlight newer challenges facing the DSO progress in Nigeria that are relating to the STB manufacturers.

According to him, “these tasks include how do we get your different factories working to be able to meet the production requirements of over 22 million TV homes?;  How do we make the boxes affordable without compromising quality and also ensuring that your operations are reasonably profitable and on a long term, sustainable?; How do we maximize the opportunities for members of your association, as business people, and in the interest of the vast majority of Nigerians? And; How can we deploy in rapid time to enable Analogue switch off, without which the entire eco-system remains unviable?”

While agreeing that “the opening of the first SMT production line in West Africa, last year in Calabar, was a major development, and an important contribution to the production process,” Kawu observed that “Beyond subterfuge, and sentimental statements of intention, most of the STBms are not up to scratch, and you really don’t seem to have the technical and financial capability, to deliver the quantum of boxes that could help us accelerate the DSO process”.

Continuing, the DG disclosed that “Already questions are being asked. STBs are permanently in short supply or are unavailable, even in the cities where we have launched. I am inundated with daily enquiries from all over the country about the non-availability of boxes; these are boxes that we paid for, and which should have been supplied by you. Another issue is the unethical practice of STBms who refuse to supply the boxes that NBC paid for, but then bring them to locations of launches, and sell in a most unethical manner”.

He said considering the apparent scarcity caused by low production capacity of the indigenous manufacturers’,  “we are considering the authorization of more players to augment the apparent lack of capacity to fill demand”.

He told the STB manufacturers that NBC has no power, to continue to protect a monopoly that you enjoy, as pioneers of the set top boxes manufacturing process, forever, stressing that “There are pressures by other interests that also want to be part of the production process. Let us recall that we authorized 13 STBms, but only about 7 have set up plants of any description, thus far”. “We have not seen any meaningful roll out of boxes and this is worrisome. We realize that we have a duty to encourage you. We also accept that we have to set out clear guidelines about Analogue switch off in the various places where we have launched DSO, so you can plan your production appropriately. But we are convinced, that other Nigerians would eventually have to be given the authorization to enter the business.

Continuing, NBC rolled out conditions for retaining existing STB manufacturers in the new wave of approvals to include demonstration of the ability of getting your production capacities up to a reasonable level within a mutually agreed timeline and secondly, “whoever is eventually authorized to produce boxes, would do so, on the condition that they must set up production plants within Nigeria, in line with our national objectives of jobs creation and technology transfer.  There would not be any importation of boxes from abroad!”