MultiChoice unveils cell phone TV

South African network brings service to Nigeria

JOHANNESBURG — MultiChoice Africa has launched the continent’s first cell phone TV service in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.

The South Africa-based satcaster had hoped to bow the service on home ground but is being stymied by that country’s Independent Communications Authority, which is dragging its heels over licensing.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, with 120 million people, and has a fast-growing, competitive mobile phone market with five operators.

MultiChoice has partnered with Details Nigeria, which has a distribution deal with cell phone operator MTN Nigeria.

Latter, owned by Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed MTN Group, has more than 14 million subscribers and expects to sign up 3.4 million more by December.

Analysts have predicted that Nigeria — where, like in much of Africa, fixed-line phone services are unreliable and not widely established — is likely to have more than 50 million cell phone users by 2011.

MultiChoice is using digital video broadcast-handheld technology to broadcast TV channels including SuperSport, Africa Magic and CNN.

It also has secured licenses for Kenya, Zambia, Namibia and Uganda where roll-outs are expected soon, according to Eben Greyling, chief exec of MultiChoice sub-Sahara Africa.

He says the group was fortunate to have been able to move quickly in Africa. He attributes this to support from governments and regulatory authorities.

“Our biggest stumbling block at this stage is to find the resources to roll out the service in all the countries where we have been allocated frequencies and commercial licenses,” he says.

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