Africa’s rollout of Digital TV and what it means for the environment

Digital technology results in lower greenhouse gas emissions

There is analysis from other countries showing the digital transmission switch over could be great news for Africa from a climate perspective. This is because it has potential to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by almost ten times compared to the analogue transmission as well as helping to cut down power consumption of a unit transmitter as efficiency increases. In addition, further analysis shows the use of single broadcast infrastructure instead of independent parallel networks in analogue transmission will yield environmental benefits through greater efficiency. There is no doubt that reduction of energy demands through increased efficiency at the end user (homes, businesses, and industry) reduces greenhouse gas emissions, with United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star partners removing over 300 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2014 alone. There are also massive power costs involved. For instance, consumers and businesses were able to save over $34 billion utility bills as a result of EPA partner actions.

In an attempt to consolidate their resolve to switching off the analogue signal next month, 29 sub-Sahara Africa states agreed in the Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy of African State summit last year that the digital spectrum should be managed in a way to allow for dynamic access. It was agreed that neighbors who struggle to beat the deadline should switch off analogue signal transmitters to avoid interference issues. In addition, countries agreed that they would together adopt the DVB-T2 with MPEG 4 compression and the dual HDTV/SD format of set top boxes. According to a report from GatesAir, the DVB-T2 transmitters will achieve a power saving of 32% compared to an equivalent analogue transmitter for the same coverage area. This is important as although the total number of digital transmitters will increase to achieve more broadcasting coverage, achieving an equivalent broadcasting coverage for analogue transmitters would have been even greater. Africa is still struggling with low number of coverage, with the number of television households expected to rise to only 124 million by this year.  

Switching to digital transmission won’t only have benefits for watching TV – it will free up more bandwidth for more signals including for mobile phone and internet bandwidth much – critical foundations for driving economic development in Africa. This is due to the fact that the same bandwidth that can accommodate a single TV channel in analogue can accommodate several channels in digital format. Analogue signals are also noisier and less efficient. The analogue transmission is thus associated with higher environmental problems such as electromagnetic and noise pollution.

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