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Is Digital TV in Kenya Free to Air?

Is Digital TV in Kenya Free to Air?

Is Digital TV in Kenya Free to Air?

Digital television (DTV) was introduced in Kenya in 2009 to replace analog broadcasting.

The migration from analog to digital TV aimed to provide Kenyans with better quality pictures, more channels, and interactive services. But is digital TV free in Kenya or do viewers need to pay to access channels?

The Digital Migration in Kenya

  • 2009 – Kenya set a deadline of December 2012 for switching off analog transmission and going fully digital. This target was set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
  • 2010 – Digital TV services were launched in Nairobi by the privately owned Signet station.
  • 2012 – Kenya switched off analog TV transmission in Nairobi. But the deadline to go fully digital nationwide was extended to June 2014 and then March 2015.
  • 2014 – The digital migration process began outside Nairobi in phases across different regions. By the end of 2014, over 80% of transmission sites countrywide had been digitized.
  • 2015 – Kenya finally switched off analog transmission and went fully digital in March 2015. However, many citizens especially in remote areas were still relying on analog transmission.
  • 2016 – Analog transmitters were demolished countrywide to prevent citizens from reverting to analog TV. The government then distributed over 1 million free set-top boxes to needy households.

Free-to-Air Digital Channels in Kenya

Kenya has both free-to-air and paid/subscription digital TV channels.

The main free-to-air channels available on digital TV in Kenya include:

  • KBC Channel 1
  • KTN
  • NTV
  • K24
  • Citizen TV
  • Inooro TV
  • Ebru TV
  • GBS TV
  • Bahari TV
  • Switch TV

These free channels can be accessed by purchasing a DVB-T2 set top box and connecting an outdoor/indoor digital TV antenna. No subscription or license fee is required to watch these channels.

Free Local Stations

KBC, KTN, NTV and Citizen TV are popular national stations that operated under analog broadcasting but migrated to digital transmission. KBC Channel 1 is state-owned while the others are privately owned.

K24 and Inooro TV are relatively newer channels that went directly to digital broadcasting after the migration. GBS TV is a business channel while Ebru TV targets youth and Bahari TV coastal residents.

Switch TV is an all-English channel targeting urban youth.

Free International Channels

There are also some free international channels that became available on digital TV in Kenya:

  • BBC News
  • CCTV News (Chinese State TV)
  • Kass TV (Turkish)
  • Hope TV (Christian)

Paid Digital Channels

In addition to free channels, there are several paid digital channels that require subscription:

  • DSTV – South African pay TV providing premium entertainment, movies, news and sports channels like SuperSport. Has satellite and terrestrial digital services.
  • GOtv – DSTV’s lower-cost digital terrestrial TV service, with around 70 channels.
  • StarTimes – Chinese company providing pay TV with bouquets starting from Ksh 1000 per month. Has over 100 channels.
  • Zuku TV – Kenyan pay TV offering various channel packages from Ksh 999 per month.

Some paid channels like M-Net Movies are also available as add-ons to the DSTV package.

Accessing Free Digital TV in Kenya

To access free digital TV channels in Kenya, you need:

  • A DVB-T2 Set Top Box – This converts digital broadcast signals to content viewable on an analog TV set. The government gave out 1 million free boxes during migration.
  • UHF/VHF Outdoor Antenna – This receives digital broadcast signals from transmitter towers up to 40km away. An indoor antenna can also work in strong signal areas.
  • TV Set – This displays the broadcast content from the antenna through the set top box. Must have RCA, HDMI or RF/coaxial inputs.

With the above setup, you can enjoy free HD channels in Kenya broadcast over the digital terrestrial TV platform.

Some remote areas may have limited coverage and require satellite free-to-air receivers to get free digital channels in Kenya.

Challenges Facing Free Digital TV in Kenya

While digital TV has expanded access to more free channels in Kenya, there are still challenges:

  • Poor signal transmission in some regions
  • High cost of set-top boxes and antennas
  • Lack of electricity in some rural areas
  • Low digital literacy especially for older citizens
  • Affordability of TV sets required for digital viewing
  • Lack of locally relevant content on free channels

The government and stakeholders need to address these issues to enhance access to free digital TV services across Kenya.

Conclusion

In summary, Kenyans can access over 15 free-to-air digital TV channels by purchasing the required DVB-T2 receiver equipment.

Major national and international stations are available for free viewing.

However, more improvements in digital infrastructure and literacy are required to enhance access to free digital TV services across the country.

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