Digital TV coverage reaches 99 per cent coverage

Samoa's switch from analogue to digital television is nearly complete with 99 per cent of the country’s territory covered by digital access, according to the company in charge of its rollout. 

Samoa Digital Communications Limited spokesperson, Andrew Ah Liki Jr., confirmed the increase in coverage and predicted the project would be concluded by this month.

Mr. Ah Liki said Savaii's transition to digital had been essentially completed as progress stands at 99.9 per cent, accounting for households who were not visible on Government maps. 

"You can't always say one hundred per cent; if someone wants to build a new home on top of the mountain, we won't know [about it] unless we know when that happens," said Mr. Ah Liki.

For Upolu, coverage stands at 99 per cent, with Fagaloa village and the  Ma'afafa area past Mulifanua remaining without coverage.

Mr. Ah Liki is confident they will be covered by month’s end.

He said Samoa Digital Communications Limited are awaiting equipment to overcome the final obstacle to installation: accessibility.

"It's delayed because of the COVID-19 restrictions and such but it should be done by [this] month,” he said. 

Only one team has been carrying out the task of setting up Samoa for the digital switch, Mr. Ah Liki said.

Although when the complete switch will be made from analogue, Mr. Ah Liki said, is up to the Government.

"We're close to finishing the project, everything in Savai’i has been installed, it's all finished. We are still working during the lockdown," he said.

"For our timeline, it will be done by [this] month, [given it is] permitted by weather and other factors, but next month is our scheduled completion [date]."

Earlier this year, T.V.1. pulled out of the digitised platform, joining T.V.3. as the only two stations to be excluded from the new digitised platform. But both have since joined.

Other channels now available for viewing on the digital platform include E.F.K.S. T.V.; the Catholic church's T.V. station; and Kingdom T.V.  

Members of the public can switch to digital T.V. by purchasing a digital set-top box from participating stores for $55 tala.   

The controversial policy saw one church television station wrapping up its broadcast operation last November. 

The B.Y.U. T.V. station, operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Samoa) Trust, decided to forfeit its broadcasting license, saying it was no longer “feasible” to comply with the transition. 

The withdrawal by the T.V. station followed concerns raised by the broadcasters on the high cost of licensing fees paid by broadcasters required to make the switch. 

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, intervened in the matter. 

Following a meeting with the T.V. operators in November, Tuilaepa ordered the Regulator to revoke an order requiring a $23,000 monthly payment. 

After negotiations, the tariff was negotiated and reduced to $18,000 per month. The new rate will stand on a trial basis for six months. 

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