Major NBC upgrade


The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) recently upgraded its satellite uplink system to take advantage of new encoding and modulation technologies and to ensure compatibility with digital terrestrial television (DTT).

Completed over a period of four months, the upgrade replaced 14-year old equipment that had become obsolete.

NBC plans to commence the roll-out of DTT in December 2013 in Windhoek.

According to newly appointed NBC chief technology officer Aldred Dreyer, Huawei was appointed as the systems integrator for NBC’s DTT project and the equipment selected for the head-end comprises products from different industry leaders.

Dreyer, who was formerly with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), continues: “We are using Harmonic’s Electra series encoders and ProStream multiplexers. The system makes provision for six video and 20 stereo audio channels with n+1 redundancy. From the multiplexers up to the C-Band up-converters, we have 1+1 redundancy. The system also makes provision for conditional access from Novel Super TV with full 1+1 redundancy and up to one million subscribers.’

Eventis supplied the electronic programme guide (EPG), while the monitoring system from Onset covers the complete chain from input / source monitoring, off air satellite monitoring and off air DTT monitoring.

“NBC plans to cover its current analogue footprint with DTT by the end of 2013, provided that the funding is available,’ says Dreyer. “The plan is to launch with NBC’s existing service and carry the free-to-air private broadcaster One Africa, as well as the community broadcaster TBN Namibia. NBC is planning to launch additional channels and more information will be divulged at the appropriate time.

“The analogue signal currently covers 66% of the Namibian population. Once DTT is rolled out we plan to increase that to 88% coverage, but this is all dependent on funding,’ explains Dreyer.

Set-top boxes (STBs) required to decode the DTT signal have been sourced through Huawei from a manufacturer in China, Jiuzhou. The newer version of STB, which will be in the Namibian market next year, will have an Ethernet port to allow a return path.

The upgrade was carried out by the NBC’s own staff in cooperation with experts from Huawei. Fifty-eight transmission sites were affected. During the switchover on 11 May 2012, all NBC radio stations and NBC TV, as well as some private broadcasters were off air.

Says RF Network specialist Jesko Bauer: “We replaced old encoding and modulation equipment with the latest technology. Our biggest challenge was to ensure that the old decoders at the rebroadcast sites remain locked after the switchover. These will then be replaced in phases during the upcoming months,’ Bauer explained.

He points out that the real benefits will only be visible once DTT is up and running. “Our TV viewers will have better picture quality and the NBC will potentially have more television channels. Radio listeners will be able to receive their favourite NBC programmes via the STB, complete with EPG and parental control.’

NBC staff involved in the upgrade include Mbeno Murangi, Paul Booysen, Timo Ipinge, Fortune Katataiza, Festus Valombola, Kamwi Musweu, Josephat Tjikumbaize, Abraham Nasimab, Tuulikki Shipanga, Ronnie Rickerts, Leon Engelbrecht and Vaino Ipinge.

Screen Africa magazine – July 2012


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