By Kenneth Matimaire
Mutare, March 16, 2016 – THE country’s fourth largest city has led the digitalisation divide by becoming the first city to be compatible with digital signals following a successful trial run.
The trial run was conducted by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) using Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC)’s newly installed studios at Pockets Hill.
This was complemented by the installation of a transmitter at Cecil Kopje, Mutare that receives digital feed from the satellite before it is transmitted to compatible television sets and set top boxes (decoders).
Technicians spearheading the technical side of the digitalisation exercise – a switch from the current analogue system to digital feed – successfully made a live broadcast of new studios at Pocket Hills using the latest mode of transmission.
The development comes at a time when government has already completed the installation of six remote sites used to receive and transmit signals.
BAZ technical manager heading the digitalisation exercise, engineer Mathew Chakanyuka said of the six remote sites completed in different parts of the country, only Mutare is compatible with digital signals.
“We have finished six remote sites and fortunately Mutare is one of them,” Eng Chakanyuka.
“Harare and Bulawayo had challenges as there was need to repair their sites. So yes, we have a capital city but there is no digital signal, it’s only in Mutare, which has become the first city to be compatible with digital feed,” he added.
Chakanyuka further revealed that the digitalisation exercise will require government to install 24 new sites in remote locations on top of the 24 that are currently used by the analogue system.
This will expand the transmission coverage base from the paltry 55 percent coverage to a significant 80 percent.
Fifteen of the new sites are already under construction and expected to have been complete by year end.
The exercise will see the establishment of four High Definition (HD) studios at Pockets Hill for production purposes and two HD studios at Montrose Studios in Bulawayo.
There will also be 11 radio studios in Mbare, Pockets Hill, Gweru, and Montrose Studios, six content hubs across the country as well as a Master Control Room (MCR), which receives all the signals from the broadcasters.
“We have already completed two of the four studios at Pockets Hills. They are ready for transmission. These are the ones we used to cue with Mutare transmission sites for live feed,” Chakanyuka said adding that Outside Broadcasting (OB) Vans, cameras and other equipment have been sourced.
TransMedia chief executive officer Florence Sigudu Matambo recently revealed that the exercise is also meant to improve the sound and visual quality of transmitted programmes.
Matambo added that government is also concerned with the business environment after the completion of the exercise.
She said viewers will only receive signals on their televisions sets on condition that they have paid monthly subscriptions, which are yet to be fixed.
Matambo said there will be a smooth switch to digital feed as they will allow it to run parallel with the analogue system to allow all viewers to migrate.