Multichoice Kenya, which is 40% owned by Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and 60% by Multichoice Africa, on Tuesday launched GOtv in Kenya. The launch took place at the Nairobi Hilton and was attended by GOtv Managing Director Felix Kyengo, KBC Managing Director - Waithaka Waihenya, Ministry of Information & Communication Permanent Secretary --Dr Bi-tange Ndemo and Information & Communication Minister -- Hon Samuel Poghisio. GOtv will be available with the use of a standard television aerial and GOtv's digital tv decoder.

The GOtv decoder acts as a digital tv set top box and will have the ability to receive free-to-air digital tv channels. Digital tv carries more channels (more than 20) in the same frequency that carries one analog channel. Furthermore, the decoder allows for additional technology such as user interaction and pay tv.<

The GOtv digital receiver will, in addition to the free channels, offer other premium channels to at total of 21 channels at a cost of KES 585 per month.

Kyengo says Kenyans are set to benefit from an increased number of channels, as well as im-proved picture and sound quality synonymous with digital television. The content will be provided by DSTv and includes Supersport select, Africa magic, Africa Swahili, Sony Max, Discovery World amongst others. The decoder costs KES 6,200 with a 3 month GOtv subscription.

The digital TV service is currently available in Nairobi and is in the process of being rolled out in Mombasa. Poghisio says the government has awarded the second license for national digital tv distribution to Pan African Network Group which is owned by China's Star Times. The first li-cense was awarded to the KBC affiliated Signet. "We will soon be awarding the third license to a local consortium in accordance with affirmative action,"says Poghisio.

Poghisio also announced that those who had acquired DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcast Terre-strial) set top boxes- mostly from Signet, would have to purchase newer DVB-T2 (Digital Video Broadcast second generation Terrestrial ) as the first standard would soon be phased out. "Kenya is among the first three countries in Africa to adopt DVB-T2 and indeed among the first in the World," he said. Mauritius has completed a full nationwide DVB-T2 roll out with only about 10 countries in the world using the standard. The newer standard supports more channels and better quality but is not compatible with the initial standard.

Also speaking at the event, PS Bitange Ndemo says that KBC, the National Broadcaster, had been allocated enough money to meet the 2012 digital switch deadline. Ndemo also says that he would engage treasury for removal of duty on imported set top boxes, such as GOtv's, in an efforts to make them more affordable. Ndemo said that the government would also relay digital tv over satellite for total coverage of the whole country including North Eastern province. [See: Digital Tv switch may leave thousands with no signal].

GOtv is the latest entrant in the digital pay tv arena after Smart Tv which however faced legal challenges resulting to court battles in respect to provision of local Tv stations at a fee. Digital terrestial Tv reception also remains a challenge during rainy weather while picture clarity falls way below the promised crystal clear signal.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) requires all countries to switch over from the current analog tv to digital tv by 2015. Kenya has set a 2012 deadline for digital tv migration.