The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has given licenses to 54 new digital decoder dealers in a bid to create competition and cut the prices of set-top boxes as the company seeks to meet the digital switchover deadline.
The number of dealers has increased from four to 60, though the new dealers are under temporary authorisation.
Set-top boxes have not been big sellers in Kenya, in spite of the proposed analogue to digital switchover. In spite of the fact that nearly 70 percent of the country has digital signals, less than 10,000 have been sold. They currently cost upwards between KSh6000 (US$75) to KSh9000 (US$112).
The slow uptake is hindering Kenya in the race to meet the 2015 global deadline for the switch. The CCK recently moved the deadline for the switch in Kenya from the end of this year to April 2013. The extension, according to the CCK, was to allow for the prices of set-top boxes to conform to policy changes.
The CCK targets a price of KSh3,000 (US$35) for the boxes. A recent move by the government to offer free set-top boxes hit a snag when it became clear that it lacked data on the number of television sets in the country. There have also been calls for the government to subsidise the cost of the boxes.
New dealers will compete with StarTimes Media, Multichoice, Professional Digital System and Microville Solutions in selling the set-top boxes. CCK Director General Francis Wangusi said the list of new dealers will be released imminently.
“With increased demand of the devices and higher supply market forces will drive down the price of set top boxes,” he said. “We have to screen the dealers very closely because we are aware some of them seek the licenses hoping to sell it to other parties at a profit.”
The CCK was accused last month by the Digital Decoders Dealers Association (DDDA) of delaying the granting of new licenses. The DDDA warned that the delay could lead to the importation of sub-standard devices.
Wangusi made the announcement at the “Harmonization ICT Policies in Sub-Sahara Africa” conference in Nairobi, organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the African Telecommunications Union (ATU). The main purpose of the conference is to decide how countries will deal with cross-border frequency interference.
Ida Jallow, the Harmonization of the ICT Policies in Sub-Sahara Africa (HIPSSA) project coordinator, says that some elements were missing from existing bilateral agreements, and that the meeting aims to come up with a uniform framework.