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EAC Partner States Ministers want digital broadcast migration expedited

By East African Community (EAC)
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ARUSHA, Tanzania, November 14, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Ministers responsible for Transport, Communications and Meteorology in the EAC Partner States have called for the speedy creation of frameworks to enable the region achieve the planned analog-to-digital migration.

At their 9th Meeting of the Sectoral Council on Transport, Communications and Meteorology (TCM), held Friday last week in Arusha, Tanzania, the Ministers reviewed implementation progress of projects and programmes in, among others, the roads, railways, civil aviation, maritime transport and meteorology sub-sectors.

Also discussed were developments in the communications sub-sector, where the Ministers directed Partner States to expedite the process of putting in place legislation for the implementation digital TV broadcasting, and to monitor technology developments for digital broadcast receivers, with a view to developing receiver specifications that minimize the cost of digital broadcast migration.

The Sectoral Council urged Partner States to consider zero-rating duty on Set Top Boxes as a means of accelerating digital broadcast migration programmes, and directed the Secretariat to submit this recommendation to the Ministers of Finance for consideration.

The Ministers were also of the view that Partner States limit the number of signal distributors, provided that a public signal distributor is fully funded by the state, or open the signal distribution market segment to full competition, where the government is unable to fund a public signal distributor.

EAC Partner States were further called upon to develop human and institutional capacities for conformance testing and certification of ICT equipment.

At its 8th Meeting, the Sectoral Council on TCM considered and approved the EAC Roadmap for Analog-to-Digital Broadcast Transition, and following the approval, directed Partner States to align their national programmes on analog-to-digital broadcast transition to the Roadmap, while the Secretariat was directed to monitor and report on the implementation of the Roadmap.

Secretariat to design framework for harmonized axle load controls

The Ministers also adopted the East African Community Transport Strategy and Regional Road Sector Development Programme, taking cognizance of the importance of conserving wildlife and ecosystems for each of the projects in the Strategy where applicable.

In addition, the Sectoral Council adopted the Report of the High Level Standing Committee on the East African Road Network Project, in particular the 23 agreed issues regarding the harmonization of vehicle load control in the EAC region; and directed the Secretariat to prepare the necessary legal framework for implementing the harmonized Vehicle Load Control Regulations and ensure that the Draft Legal Framework is finalized by April 2012.

In August 2011 EAC Partner States agreed to adopt a maximum Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) limit of 56 tonnes on seven axles – a landmark arrangement that should lead to efficient logistics for transit transporters previously burdened with the costs of differentiated axle load limits for different countries.

The Sectoral Council also considered reports from two EAC Institutions; the EAC Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA); and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC); and studied resolutions and bills relating to infrastructure that are before the EAC's legislative Organ—the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).

Addressing the Sectoral Council, EAC Deputy Secretary General (Political Federation), Hon. Beatrice Kiraso reiterated the need to develop efficient, interlinked and reliable transportation and communications networks if the region is to open up opportunities in trade, business process outsourcing and industrialization.

In attendance at the 9th Meeting of the Sectoral Council on TCM were Ministers Hon. Nibigira Concilie (Telecommunications, Information, Communication and Relation with Parliament, Burundi); Hon. Franklin Bett (Roads, Kenya); Hon. Dr. Alexis Nzahabwanimana (Infrastructure, Rwanda); and Ministers of State Hon. Capt. (Rtd.) George Mkuchika (Regional Administration and Local Government, United Republic of Tanzania); and Hon. John Byabagambi (Works, Uganda).

Notes to Editors

i) Partner States have established national committees to spearhead the digital broadcast migration process and are in the process of developing minimum standards for digital receivers and Set Top Boxes (STB);

ii) Partner States have also adopted Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial (DVB-T) and its second generation variant (DVB-T2) as the transmission standard and MPEG-4 as the digital compression standard;

iv) A Technical Committee on Broadcasting meeting held 2-3 November 2011 proposed that Partner States adopt the Unified Licensing Framework (ULF) for digital broadcasting, as recommended by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). In the ULF, the market for digital broadcasting is divided into two segments: signal distribution segment and content service provision segment;

v) Whereas EAC Partner States have agreed on 31 December 2012 as the analog switch-off date, the switch-off timetable will depend on the achievement of the roll-out plan for digital broadcast migration.

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