The switch to digital television broadcasting in Kenya is now complete, with the analog TV signal having been switched off across the country. This transition from analog to digital TV was part of a worldwide effort to free up radio spectrum for more advanced services and improve broadcasting quality.
In Kenya, the migration process began in 2009 when the first digital TV services were launched in the country by private broadcasters.
The state broadcaster KBC started digital transmissions in 2013.
The National Communications Authority gave broadcasters and consumers sufficient time to acquire the necessary equipment and prepare for the analog switch-off.
The full transition to digital TV in Kenya was completed in June 2022 when the analog TV signal was permanently switched off. This marked the end of analog TV broadcasting in the country after more than 50 years.
The move to digital TV provides significant benefits to broadcasters and consumers, including better picture and sound quality, more channels and interactive services.
However, it also required consumers to acquire set-top boxes or integrated digital TV sets to continue receiving TV services.
Overall, the migration to digital TV has positioned Kenya at par with other developed countries in terms of broadcasting technology.
Benefits of digital TV
The switchover from analog to digital television broadcasting in Kenya ushered in a new era of TV viewing with dramatically improved quality, more channels and interactive services.
Here are some of the key benefits of digital TV compared to the old analog system:
Picture and Sound Quality
One of the most noticeable improvements with digital TV is the superior picture and audio quality.
Digital TV supports high definition (HD) video formats that offer up to 1080 lines of vertical resolution compared to analog’s 480i/480p.
This results in crisp, detailed images free from distortions like ghosts, noise and jagged edges that were common with analog TV.
The digital system also supports surround sound for an immersive audio experience.
Digital TV utilizes advanced codecs for compression that preserve the full CD-quality range of sound as compared to the limited fidelity of analog audio.
More Channels and Programming
Digital transmission allows the broadcasting of more TV channels utilizing the same amount of spectrum previously occupied by fewer analog channels.
Instead of being limited to just 4-5 channels, Kenyan viewers can now access over 60 free-to-air digital channels.
The wider selection includes local and international entertainment, news, documentary, sports, religious and kids programming.
Niche channels cater to specific interests like business news, parliamentary proceedings, lifestyle, movies and more.
Digital TV transforms the viewing experience with interactive services not possible with traditional analog broadcasting.
Some examples include:
- Electronic Program Guide (EPG) – view channel schedules and program information for present and upcoming programs.
- Subtitles – enables subtitles in different languages.
- Multiple audio tracks – allows choice of audio language for programs.
- Pay-per-view – allows purchasing of individual programs on demand.
- Teletext – provides additional information through text and graphics.
- Gaming – interactive games through the TV.
- On-demand services – access past programs on catch-up.
Digital TV transmission and reception consume less energy compared to analog systems.
Broadcasters can operate at lower power.
Digital set-top boxes and TV sets convert digital signals more efficiently requiring less electricity.
This results in lower energy costs for both broadcasters and consumers.
Mobile and Portable Reception
The digital standard enables broadcast reception on mobile devices and portables.
Mobile TV provides access to channels on the go through enabled phones and tablets.
Small portable digital TVs can also tune in free DTT channels.
This enhances TV viewing flexibility.
Types of set-top boxes in Kenya
To receive digital television broadcasts in Kenya after analog switch-off, consumers need to acquire a digital set-top box (STB) or integrated digital TV set.
Here is an overview of the main types of set-top boxes available and what they offer:
This is the most basic and affordable set-top box option for accessing free-to-air digital TV channels.
- Decodes DVB-T2 digital broadcasts.
- HD video output through HDMI up to 1080p resolution.
- Stereo audio output.
- Electronic program guide (EPG).
- Low power consumption.
- Remote control.
- Simple installation – connects to TV antenna socket and HDMI socket on TV.
- Prices range from Ksh. 2500 – 5000.
While basic, this STB offers good functionality for free DTT channel viewing.
However, it lacks advanced features like recording, connectivity and on-demand services.
PVR STB with Recording
These digital TV recorders allow recording of programs onto a USB flash drive or external hard disk.
- All functions of a standard STB.
- PVR recording ability with time-shift.
- Allows scheduling recordings from the EPG.
- Fast forward, rewind, pause live TV.
- Prices range from Ksh. 5500 – 9500.
The PVR STB offers the ability to record and time-shift live TV, useful for busy or missing favorite shows. Storage size limits recording duration.
Smart STB with Streaming
As the name suggests, these Internet-connected STBs add online streaming capabilities. Features include:
- Functions of standard STB.
- Built-in WiFi and LAN connectivity.
- Preloaded streaming apps like YouTube, Netflix, Showmax.
- Web browsing and access to online content.
- Allows IPTV services over the Internet.
- Prices range between Ksh. 6500 – 12000.
For viewers wanting to combine digital TV and online streaming, a smart STB provides that experience from one box.
Fast broadband Internet required for good performance.
These high-end STBs cater to viewers wanting the best video quality from digital TV. Key features:
- Support for full HD 1080p broadcasts.
- HDMI output, optical/coaxial digital audio out.
- Dual tuners to watch one channel and record another simultaneously.
- Large storage PVR recording capacity.
- Smart streaming capabilities.
- Advanced interfaces, WiFi, Ethernet.
- Prices from Ksh. 10000 up.
HD STBs deliver digital TV in full high definition glory.
The large feature set appeals to discerning videophiles seeking a premium viewing experience.
In choosing a digital TV set-top box, consumers should consider factors like budget, features needed and connectivity options.
Retailers and installers can provide guidance in selecting the right STB. With the range available, there are digital TV solutions to match different requirements and budgets.
How to connect set-top box in Kenya
Connecting a digital set-top box (STB) to your TV allows you to start accessing free-to-air digital TV channels after the analog signal switch-off.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to connect and configure your digital STB for first-time installation:
Step 1 – Antenna Connection
The first step is to connect your outdoor/indoor TV antenna to the ANT IN socket on the STB.
This could be a coaxial cable plug or screw-on connector depending on the antenna type.
Ensure the antenna cable is tightly fastened for good signal reception.
If you don’t have an antenna, you need to first install one appropriately angled towards the transmitter.
A high gain, high directivity outdoor antenna or roof-top antenna is recommended for best reception of DTT broadcasts.
Step 2 – TV Connection
Next, use a HDMI cable to connect from the STB HDMI output socket to the HDMI input on your TV.
This allows transmission of high definition digital video and audio. Switch your TV input to this HDMI source.
Alternatively, you can use an RCA composite video + audio cable from the STB to the TV’s composite input if your TV doesn’t have HDMI.
However, this will limit video quality to standard definition.
Step 3 – Power On
Plug in the STB and TV power cords into electric sockets and switch on the power.
The STB boot up process will begin, followed by automatic tuning of available digital channels.
Step 4 – Basic Configuration
Once booted up, follow the on-screen menu to configure basic settings like:
- Time and date
- Location setting
- Network setup for Internet-connected STB
Use the STB remote to navigate the menus and input settings options.
Step 5 – Channel Scan
To scan available digital TV channels, go to the channel menu and select auto channel scan.
The STB will search the antenna frequencies and add channels with good signal strength.
This builds your channel list and may take several minutes. Rescanning may be needed if some channels are missing.
Once done, you can browse channels using the remote control and begin watching digital TV!
Check signal quality on weak channels and adjust the antenna if needed.
With these basic steps, you can install your digital STB in under 30 minutes.
Refer to the user manual for your specific STB model for more detailed setup, features and connectivity instructions to optimize your viewing experience.
How to scan TV channels in Kenya
After connecting and powering on your digital TV set-top box, you need to scan for available digital TV channels.
The auto-scan function will search and store all the DTT broadcasts receivable in your area.
Here is a guide on how to scan channels on your STB:
Access Channel Scan Menu
The exact steps to access the channel scan menu may vary by STB model but generally:
- Press the Menu button on your STB remote.
- Navigate to Installation, Channel Search or Channel Scan sub-menu option.
- Select Auto Channel Search or Auto Tuning option.
Some STBs list the function as auto-program, auto-scan, DVB-T scanning among other terms but the process is essentially the same.
Select Scanning Options
Before starting the scan, you may need to choose scanning configuration like:
- Country – selects appropriate DVB-T standard for Kenya.
- Signal source – antenna or cable depending on input.
- Channel type – terrestrial, cable or satellite channels to scan.
Some scanning menus also provide advanced settings like signal strength threshold, channel bandwidth, etc.
Stick to basic options when first installing.
Start Scanning Process
Once ready, initiate the auto channel scan.
The STB will now scan the antenna frequencies searching for digital TV signals.
A progress bar and channel count indicates scanning status.
This may take 2-20 minutes depending on number of channels receivable.
Do not interrupt scanning before completion as this can mess up channel listings.
When done, the channel scan will indicate completion and display the number of channels found.
This populates your channel list menu.
Re-scan if needed to pick up missing channels.
Repositioning the antenna and rescanning can help maximize channel reception.
You can now browse the channel list on your STB and start watching available digital terrestrial TV channels!
Rescan periodically to check for any new DTT channels if launched in your region.
The transition to digital TV in Kenya requires installation of new equipment.
This may lead to technical issues affecting normal viewing.
Here are some common troubleshooting tips to restore digital TV reception:
No Signal Message
A no signal or no channel error points to a reception issue. Things to check:
- Confirm antenna cable is properly connected to STB.
- Try antenna on another working TV to check reception.
- Inspect antenna and cabling for damage or corrosion.
- Adjust antenna orientation for better line of sight towards transmitters.
- Use a signal amplifier if antenna located far from transmitters.
- Rescan channels in case signal parameters changed.
Pixelation and Picture Freezing
Patchy pixelated video accompanied by picture freezing indicates low/erratic signal levels.
Actions to improve reception:
- Check antenna cable for loose contact, damage, moisture ingress.
- Install higher gain directional outdoor/attic antenna aimed at transmitter.
- Upgrade coaxial cable to thick RG6 type to minimize signal loss.
- Fit mast-mounted line amplifier as close to antenna as possible.
- Increase antenna elevation using taller mast if located in low lying area.
Loss of audio but normal video points to a sound setting issue.
Troubleshoot as follows:
- Check audio output connection from STB to TV.
- Change TV audio settings from speakers to external audio system.
- Adjust volume levels on STB, TV and audio system.
- Some channels may not have audio transmitted – test another channel.
- Reset STB and redo audio setup wizard.
Remote Not Working
First change batteries on remote. If still unresponsive:
- Check for obstruction between STB infrared sensor and remote control.
- Point remote directly at sensor panel on STB.
- Try using remote from close proximity to STB. Faulty remotes have short range.
- Reroute or eliminate sources of infrared interference near STB.
- Attempt pairing remote again with STB using setup menu.
Unable to Access Some Channels
If you are missing channels that should be available in your area:
- Check regional transmitter coverage maps for channel broadcast area.
- Rescan for channels in case network parameters changed.
- Try re-orienting antenna for maximum signal strength.
- Install external antenna amplifier to boost weak signals.
- Upgrade to high gain directional outdoor antenna if using basic indoor antenna.
With digital TV, picture and audio freezing are highly indicative of reception issues compared to analog TV which was more tolerant.
Follow a process of elimination when troubleshooting using the antenna, cabling, STB and TV settings as checkpoints.
- Kenya has fully transitioned from analog to digital TV broadcasting, offering consumers improved picture quality, more channels and interactive services.
- To receive digital TV, consumers need either a set-top box or integrated digital TV set. Different STB types available range from basic to advanced.
- Setting up digital TV begins by connecting the outdoor antenna to the STB input, then connecting STB to TV via HDMI for best quality.
- Auto channel scanning enables the STB to find and store all available digital TV channels being broadcast.
- Troubleshoot issues like no signal/picture, pixelation, missing channels by carefully checking antenna, cabling and STB settings and functionality.
- With the right equipment and setup, Kenyans can now enjoy superior viewing enabled by digital TV technology.