Kondwani Nankhumwa disclosed this on June 12 in Parliament when he was updating Members of Parliament on the current updates the country has made in digital migration.
Digital migration is the transferring of broadcasting services from analogue to digital signals for radio and television (TV).
According to the minister, the switching off of the analogue signal which is in line with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) resolution for member countries to migrate to digital TV broadcasting by June 17, 2015 will be done in two phases.
“I wish to announce that Malawi is on the right course to meet the June 17, 2015 deadline. Malawi will switch off analogue television in two phases starting with Mzuzu and Zomba on June 17.
Lilongwe, Mpingwe and Ndirande will be switched off ninety days later which will be on September 17, 2015,”said Nankhumwa.
He further highlighted that there are four countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who have made best strives and achievements as far as the switching on processes.
He said these are Namibia, Mauritius and Tanzania and Malawi is currently on position three.
Nankhumwa said while the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting is applicable to both radio and television, the migration process will first involve television broadcasting only.
According to the minister, the current status where there is dual broadcasting on both digital and analogue platforms is going to change.
He clarified that only viewers with digital equipment are going to access television services in areas where analogue signal has been switched off.
“We are going to completely switch off analogue and remain broadcasting only on digital, meaning that anyone who has no platform that uses digital will not be able to receive visuals, hence will not be able to watch television in those areas that (Analogue signal) has been switched off.
Speaking to reporters after delivering his statement, Nankhumwa said government decided to start with Mzuzu and Zomba because the areas have lower populations in comparison with Lilongwe and Blantyre.
He further said the process has not been delayed but there had been a lot of technicalities that had to be considered.
“We are not behind schedule (in migrating to digital) but rather there were a lot of consideration as regards the mechanism of the technicalities (transmitters). We could not just roll out the process at a single go because there are unknown problems that might be faced.
“And by starting with the low areas, we could learn from any challenges that may arise after switching off the analogue signal. In this case, we may rectify or have solutions at hand to similar challenges if they may arise when switching off analogue signal for Lilongwe and Blantyre,” said Nankhumwa.
Subsequently, Nankhumwa called upon business persons across the country to express interest in selling the Set Top Boxes (STB) that would allow people to access digital television.
The STBs, which will be selling at MK20, 000 would be available in Post Offices across the country but Nankhuwa explained of the need to involve private traders:
“We believe in liberating the markets as far as issues of this kind are concerned. We are encouraging private traders to come and apply for licences so that they may be able to sell these STBs.
Currently, there are 11 TV stations that are available on the digital signal.
Amongst them is Times, Joy, HOPE Channel-Malawi, Zodiak Broadcasting Station, Malawi Broadcasting station (MBC) and Pentecostal Life that are to go digital come next week.
Malawi started its digital migration journey in 2010 and switched on its digital television network on 31st December, 2013 and approved the Malawi Digital Broadcasting policy whose main aim is to see to it that there is a conducive environment for the development of digital broadcasting industry in Malawi.