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

Digital enablement: TV and internet connectivity

One view is that freeing up more frequencies for more internet and mobile phone will help increase the number of people watching television via mobile phones and smaller screen devices, thereby reducing environmental impact. This may be the case as certainly one global trend has been larger screens which are energy efficient but intensive in terms of overall resource usage. For smaller audiences and homes with an amplifier, video-on-demand (VOD) over the Internet has lesser environmental impacts than digital terrestrial television (DTT). Increasing the Digital Dividend to boost internet coverage will be augmented by initiatives of using renewable energy in supplying internet across the world. It must be remembered that Google has announced it will be launching solar-powered drones to help supply internet to remote areas around the world. The technology is about to be tested. Facebook has also announced a similar initiative and an early deployment is expected in Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Columbia, while Airbus is contemplating a solar-powered aircraft for provision of internet globally. Generally, increasing the share of power generation from solar sources will save the globe from more carbon emissions as it reduces need to generate power from coal. Satellite technologies for internet provision are also set to change with initiatives for global satellite networks by SpaceX and OneWeb.

When the analogue signal goes off, service providers or broadcasters will enjoy reduced costs of operation as digital transmitters consumer lesser power and since single transmission infrastructure will be deployed compared to independent parallel networks in analogue transmissions. They will also be in a better position to provide a variety of associated ICT services and programs supported by the set top boxes, in addition to earning more from their services. The switch over will also allow regulators to give freed-up bandwidth to more TV channel providers and internet/phone service providers, which translates to more revenues for countries. It will offer an opportunity for countries to extend signal coverage so that TV programs are viewed by more people, and is set to allow for content sharing across platforms and regions in a revolutionary manner. Hence, it will be advantageous for countries to make the switch over as early as possible.

Still, substantial power consumption cuts can be achieved through home appliance technology - innovations that reduce energy demand on a global scale - which is critical since the energy sector is responsible for highest carbon emissions. Innovations in digital TV screens such as introduction of LED and LCD and the exit of Plasma screens is good news in relation to saving energy in homes. These are known to consume less power than analogue televisions. Innovations have potential to reduce raw material consumption and generation of electronic waste compared to amounts that could have been used or generated with alternative technologies to achieve similar goals.

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