Digital Migration Needed To Step Forwards With ICT Development
The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) unveiled its five year plan for the development of the ICT sector at the beginning of December 2013. The 2013-2018 ICT plan is expected to help meet the targets of the country's National ICT Policy and ICT Master Plan. BMI has a positive view of the CCK's outline of its goals for the coming five years, but emphasizes the importance of meeting its December 2013 digital migration deadline as the first step towards meeting its goals.
The main goals of the CCK's 2013-2018 ICT plan are:
To increase the contribution of the ICT sector from 2.2% of GDP to 5% of GDP
To bring mobile penetration up from 75.8% to 90%
To push wireless broadband penetration from 2.4% to 10%
To push internet penetration up from 41.6% to 70%
The CCK intends to achieve these goals through improved policy and regulatory frameworks for the ICT sector, the deployment of the Universal Access Fund, to finance the deployment of efficient and reliable network coverage to underserved areas. The CCK also emphasized plans to review its spectrum allocation policy, with the potential of opening up the telecoms market to more players.
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BMI has long argued that one of the key hurdles Kenya must overcome to realise these goals is the migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting. The 700MHz and 800MHz frequency bands, which are used to transmit analogue television signals, are the most efficient for deploying LTE networks in rural areas. LTE is the fastest and most efficient way to reach most rural areas with broadband connectivity, compared to other available technologies such as fibre, 3G and WiMAX, so freeing up the necessary spectrum for LTE services presents the most cost effective solution for reaching the CCK's wireless broadband and internet penetration goals for 2018.
Since mid-2013, the CCK has been making considerable efforts to ensure that Kenya hits its December 31 2013 deadline to switch off analogue broadcasting signals (it already missed its previous deadline in December 2012). The regulator has received considerable opposition from the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek), which claims that the cost of set-top boxes (STBs) enabling Kenyans to receive digital broadcast signals is too high for most Kenyans and continues to lobby to push the switch off date back to June 2014. At the beginning of December 2013, however, pay-TV provider StarTimes and Equity Bank announced a partnership to offer soft loans to help consumers buy STBs ahead of the planned switch off date. This should help ensure that the Kenya meets its 2013 switch-off deadline and can begin taking the next steps towards increasing the broadband penetration in the country.