Fri | Sep 17, 2021

Jamaica moves closer to digital switchover

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2021 | 4:21 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer

Jamaica is to soon embark on a system of open bidding for a single multiplex operator to facilitate the transmission of all broadcast signals over a common channel, as the country prepares to consummate the long-overdue transition to digital TV.

Minister of Information Fayval Williams told Parliament on Tuesday that the most emphatic argument for digital switchover was that it would free up valuable broadcast spectrum for other purposes such as for advanced wireless services, educational channels, public and safety services, and other applications.

Williams, however, warned that the digital switchover would be rolled out in stages, with the initial focus on the main urban centres, beginning in January 2022.

Broadcasters will be allowed at least one year of simultaneous digital and analogue broadcasts to give them time to change their equipment and test the new systems. Analogue switch-off is set for January 2023.

Multiplexing, she explained, was the transmission of multiple signals over a common channel, thus improving broadcast efficiency.

“A single multiplex system for all the stakeholders in the broadcast industry will significantly reduce the capital outlay that they each require to accommodate the digital switchover,” said Williams.

“So instead of everyone putting up towers and antennas, they can utilise this one system.”

The reform is pitched at giving increased access and better quality over-the-air TV when the switch to digital is complete.

Williams estimates that the industry changeover will run between US$18 million and US$20 million, while the price per household to purchase a set-up box, which should be a one-time cost, will be between J$4,000 and J$5,000.

This disclosure was in response to questions from Opposition Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Eastern Julian Robinson, who described the news as a positive development for the country.