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UCC unable to license new TVs as signet runs out of space

UCC head office

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The delay to embark on Phase three of the Digital Terrestrial Television network has forced the Uganda Communications Commission to stop issuing licenses to new broadcasters.

Uganda switched off analogue television in June 2015, in fulfilment of an international deadline and Signet, a company affiliated with Uganda Broadcasting Corporation-UBC was contracted to distribute digital television signals across the country.

But Jamie Byaruhanga, the head engineer at Signet says that they are currently not able to host more clients onto the network because it has hit its 40-channel limit. He said that all 18 sites in the country are operational except Gulu which has been down for a year and a half due to faulty equipment.

He says that although the initial network capacity was to carry 96 channels, this was premised on the completion of phase three of the digital migration which requires more equipment. He was appearing before the ICT committee of Parliament on Tuesday.

Byaruhanga says several clients have applied for licenses from the UCC but cannot get them because there is no space for them on the network.

According to the pol­icy roadmap, Phase one of the projects covered Kam­pala with masts in Kololo,b from where the sig­nal ex­tends 60 kilometres out­side the city. The second phase dealt with 17 sites that al­ready have UBC masts,  while the third phase will be gap fill­ing.

According to Byaruhanga, stations are charged in two categories; 12 million Shillings and 9.4 million Shillings a month, broken into 12 million and another 9.4 million Shillings a month. The lower cost was for content providers who had invested heavily in analogue equipment before the digital migration. He however says that these funds are not enough to cover the operational costs of Signet.

But Committee chairman Paul Amoru wondered how Signet, after several years can fail to ensure that funds are available for operational costs given that the initial investment in Signet during the crossover from analogue to digital. The country invested USD 20 million in digital migration. 

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