Switchover to cost local T.V. stations – Lefaoali'i

Samoa's switchover from analogue to digital television will come with a cost to local television stations who will use the new platform.

That is the view of Samoa's telecommunications and broadcasting regulator, Lefaoali'i Unutoa Auelua-Fonoti, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer. 

This newspaper sought comments from the Office of the Regulator after Singapore-based firm Techtel advised recently that it has been engaged by Samoa Digital Communications Limited (SDCL) to oversee the switchover in Samoa.

Lefaoali'i said the analogue to digital switch will improve the signal coverage and broadcast quality of the local television stations. But it will also come with a cost to the local TV stations. 

"Yes, this change will improve their signal coverage and quality. And of course new changes come with a cost (in a form of a tariff) for them as SDCL has established the platform that they will be using to deliver their service which is not cheap," she said.

One of the major benefits of the analogue to digital switchover, according to Lefaoali'i, is there will be an improvement in the quality of the television stations' service as well as their coverage.

“This means that every household will have access to programmes or channels from each TV station, as opposed to analogue where not all households are able to receive all the channels on their television sets.

“A major change the country will undergo will be in terms of the required television sets and equipment – to ensure that you receive the digital signal – and that your television set has to have the DVB-T2 standard system. If not then you will need to use the set-top-box to access this service.

“Our office, Office of the Regulator (OOTR), is working together with SDCL and broadcasters to ensure that this national project is successfully implemented,” she added.

Lefaoali’i added that there have been minor setbacks due to shipping and land dispute issues, but the project is progressing well with tests being run on the assigned digital television frequencies, to check signal strength and coverage based on Samoa's climate and environment.

“Not only that but our Office is also working on public awareness to ensure that by the time digital television is on, everyone is aware of how to connect their television sets and so forth. This initiative will enable every household to have access to every channel or program that will be broadcasted by each TV broadcaster – every local TV station will be allocated eight channels, one of which should be a mandatory free to air channel,” she added. 

When she was asked of the benefits to Samoa generally, she said the project is a global movement and the Government is promoting the change to ensure Samoans are not left behind when analogue TV becomes obsolete. 

“As of 2015 it was recognised that analogue television will become obsolete because the digital technology will be replacing it, essentially meaning analogue television sets or analogue television components will no longer be manufactured, and hence there will be no guarantee of service delivery through analogue systems. 

“As such the solution was to propel this project to a status of importance to ensure not only that our people continue to receive the services in question, but also in its latest best form which is digital,” she added.

In terms of digital services and Samoa harnessing its potential, Lefaoali’i said Samoa will have 100 per cent coverage and improved quality of the broadcasting signal. 

“Samoa will be in alignment with the rest of the world in terms of this technology, and Samoa has the assurance that its digital terrestrial broadcasting service will have access to maintenance or support, if anything happens in the future as in contrast to analog television which is no longer being protected worldwide. 

“In terms of public health and safety risks, there are no apparent risks of this digital switchover - in general there are no anticipated risks or disadvantages; but we are conscious that in terms of the digital television the fact is and as mentioned at the outset special equipment is needed," she added. 

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