Digital broadcast technology made simple


“For a continent of 54 countries and about 1 billion people that speak 2 000
languages, the free-to-air (FTA) industry in Africa is very small,’ comments Oluniyi
David Ajao, founder of satellite information technology website Free-to-Air Africa

Managed from Accra, Ghana, FTA-Africa ( is just over year old and
aims to offer free, easy to understand and useful information about satellite
broadcast, especially FTA, on the continent.

Information technology enthusiast and founder Ajao emphasises that his technology
driven portal arrived on the scene when satellite proved relatively popular. It has
since been the go-to destination for thousands of FTA enthusiasts mostly from
English-speaking African countries.

The site’s major achievement has been its good reach across the continent where
most users ask technical questions about their satellite setup. Time is allocated to
respond to as many as possible. As usual, follow-up messages or comments of
appreciation show the positive impact the website is having on users.

Ajao observes that satellite growth in Africa has been very slow in the past. “But
this is understandable because satellite broadcast is a capital intensive industry.
Current growth should see more launches from new services in the near future.’

He estimates that there are less than 10 satellite broadcasters in Africa and most of
the FTA television stations available on satellite across the continent are simply
satellite broadcasts of existing terrestrial television stations.

“Only a few TV services are produced and broadcast exclusively for FTA satellite.
They are Ghana (20), Madagascar (1), Nigeria (43), Congo DR (9), Mauritius (3),
Namibia (2), Rwanda (1), Sudan (15), Mozambique (3), Sierra Leone (1), South Africa
(18)*, South Sudan (2), Tanzania (7), Uganda (4), Zimbabwe (1) and Kenya (12),’
he observes.

“There is a high level of penetration of digital satellite broadcast. Most satellite
broadcasts today are digital. Terrestrial broadcast is a different story as most are
still analogue. But Africa has no choice. All broadcast will eventually go digital.
However, it may be slower than the rest of the world due to the relatively low
amount of investment in the sector,’ he states.

Ajao also points out that while digital broadcast technology is gaining ground in the
rest of Africa; it has already been embraced by mostly northern and southern African
countries, especially the DVB-T and DVB-T2 transmission technologies.

He refuses to peg the growth of Africa’s digital broadcasting in a 10-year period,
stating this period is “a very long time in the world of technology’. His optimism is
that as political stability sets into more African countries, more investment in African
economies are likely.

Ajao reasons that ultimately more investments in the satellite industry will lead to a
faster rate of development that could put Africa on a par with the western world.
Prices will drop further and newer technology will become more accessible to more
people in Africa.

* 1KZN, Bay TV, Cape Town TV, Christian TV, Divine Truth, Impact TV Network,
ITV, Kingdom Life Network, Kruiskyk TV, Mindset Health, Mindset Learn, Nongoma TV,
Omega Channel, Redemption TV Ministry, Spirit Word, Stellenbosch University, UBN,
and UNISA.

By Martin Chemhere

Screen Africa magazine – May 2012


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