Nigeria’s journey towards digital transition has faltered once more after missing another deadline. But the country aims to continue steps towards a digital future with a slower, phased switchover.

The transition from analogue to digital transmission in Nigeria will have to wait as the country has just recently missed the third deadline for the process, set for 17 June 2017.

The plans for a full switch were announced as early as 2006 when Nigeria, together with 119 countries, signed the International Telecoms Union (ITU) protocol, which set the global transition deadlines for a switch from analogue to digital broadcasting.

Nigeria committed to a full switch by June 2012, three years before the official deadline for the region.  However, the government did not prepare a clear plan of action in time and the deadline passed by. The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) then aimed at the original deadline for the country of June 2015, but once again the deadline was missed.

The country was then later granted an extension and the NBC fixed the switchover to June 2017. Despite the initial optimism that the move would, among other things, help fight piracy and create new jobs, the transition didn’t progress as planned.

In January this year, the manufacturers of the set-top boxes that would allow the digital signal to be received by customers, had not been paid, adding further to the delays in the process.

NBC’s Director-General, Ish’haq Modibbo Kawu, admitted that digital switchover is bringing consuming technical, financial and logistical challenges to the country.  For this reason, the NBC has been conducting the switchover via phases, targeting a number of states in every geo-political area. They will continue this process starting with six in the upcoming months.

“It’s a very expensive process and that’s why we are doing it in the phased manner,” Kawu said. “Now we are going to six states in each of the geo-political zones – Kwara in the North-Central, Osun in the South-West, Gombe in the North-East, Kaduna in the North-West, Enugu in the South-East and Delta in the South-South,” he added.

Some areas have already been switched, and viewers in Abuja, Jos and Plateau State can now enjoy digital broadcasting and the benefits that it can bring, including a wider variety of programmes, innovation, and high definition programming. However, these perks come at a high price and may end up draining financial resources as well as leaving poorer communities without full access to services.

Digital transition in Nigeria will thus continue to proceed at a gradual pace. Kawu did not mention how long this process will take but restated that the NBC hopes that by the end of the year at least 12 other states will be migrated to digital reception.

Header Image: Lagos, Nigeria. Image: OpenUpEd/Creative Commons