GatesAir and Pinnacle Communications Accelerate Nigerian Digital Switchover Initiative

GatesAir, a global leader in wireless, over-the-air content delivery solutions for radio and TV broadcasters, and channel partner Pinnacle Communications Limited have completed the plan for phase two of a multi-stage digital TV (DTV)  transition in Nigeria. Having covered 100 percent of the Abuja municipality, the second phase will extend coverage to 95 percent of the population in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria.

The DVB-T2 system today delivers 30 national and up to six local channels of high-quality news, information and entertainment to FCT residents – as many as 200 free over-the-air channels are anticipated – with GatesAir high-efficiency ULXTE liquid-cooled transmitters powering all over-the-air DTV content delivery. Comprehensive national coverage will eventually reach more than 50 million viewing homes and approximately 170 million people in 36 Nigerian states and the FCT, with a complete national digital switchover targeted for December 2021.

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GatesAir CEO Bruce Swail demonstrates a GatesAir transmitter to Pinnacle Communications’ Senior Advisor for Military Communications, General Chris Jemitola, at the Quincy manufacturing center during the delegation tour.

As the licensed signal distributor for Nigeria, Pinnacle Communications is working diligently to plan future expansions of the service. This includes the rollout of low-power transmitters and gap fillers to fill out the terrestrial black spots in the FCT region and Kaduna state before moving onto other states. Pinnacle Communications will leverage GatesAir’s expanded range of lower power systems, which GatesAir took ownership of following its recent acquisition of ONEtastic.

“We have invested exclusively in GatesAir TV, AM and FM transmitters since 1998 because of their high quality and unmatched resilience, and will continue to do so because their range of high-efficiency transmission solutions will address low-power requirements,” said Sir Lucky Omoluwa, Chairman and CEO, Pinnacle Communications. “GatesAir also continues to impress with accelerated deliveries for our most important projects. We have deployed GatesAir transmitters for several locations with emergency turnarounds, and those plug-and-play installations remain reliably operational today.”

GatesAir remains the leading supplier for DTV transitions in Africa. In addition to Nigeria, GatesAir has supported challenging DTV transitions in Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. The scale of the Nigerian digital switchover is perhaps the most impressive, as an overwhelming majority of the expansive Nigerian population relies exclusively on free, over-the-air TV. It is estimated that about five percent of households in Nigeria receive television from PayTV services.

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GatesAir CEO Bruce Swail offers a local gift to Pinnacle Communications’ Chairman and CEO Sir Lucky Omoluwa following a partnership signing.

“The Nigerian digital switchover will be the largest initiative of its kind in Africa, not to mention Europe, when it reaches its conclusion,” said Bruce Swail, CEO, GatesAir. “Upon completion, the immense scale of this system will serve as an impressive blueprint for any broadcaster strategizing a complex, national DTV transition. We are proud to be associated with a such a challenging and rewarding project taking shape in the heart of Africa, with the entirety of the system built and developed by Nigerians.”

GatesAir welcomed Pinnacle’s executive team to its Quincy, Illinois manufacturing center in late August. The visit included a facility tour and overview of GatesAir’s next-generation transmitter designs, which will at once improve coverage, enhance signal quality, and reduce operating costs – notably, energy bills and systems maintenance – over the lifetime of the system. Pinnacle Communications Limited Executive Director, Dipo Onifade; Lead Broadcast Technical Consultant, Yomi Bolarinwa; and Senior Advisor for Military Communications, General (RTD) Chris Jemitola were among those joining Sir Lucky Omoluwa for the visit. Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore and top executives from the Quincy Chamber of Commerce were on hand to receive the delegation.

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Pinnacle Communications and GatesAir executives from L to R: Senior Advisor for Military Communications, General Chris Jemitola (Pinnacle); CEO Bruce Swail (GatesAir); Chairman and CEO Sir Lucky Omoluwa (Pinnacle); Lead Broadcast Technical Consultant, Yomi Bolarinwa (Pinnacle); Executive Director, Dipo Onifade (Pinnacle); Managing Director, EMEA and India, Andy McClelland (GatesAir); President and Managing Director, International, Rich Redmond (GatesAir).

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GatesAir and Sonotec Transition Bolivian Broadcaster to Digital TV in Two Cities

With the multi-year analog sunset now underway in Bolivia, GatesAir, working closely with regional partner Sonotec, has successfully transitioned private broadcaster ATB Bolivia to ISDB-Tb digital television in the cities of Cochabamba and La Paz, fulfilling the first government mandate to deliver DTV programming in these two cities and the city of Santa Cruz within a six-month window.

GatesAir supplied its latest-generation, high-efficiency Maxiva ULXTE liquid-cooled transmitters to support the transition in Cochabamba and La Paz, with an accelerated delivery timeline that enabled Sonotec to install and commission both systems in advance of the June deadline.

The Government of Bolivia adopted the ISDB-Tb standard in 2011, and is now in phase one of a gradual, country-wide transition that will be completed in 2024. ATB chose GatesAir for the Cochabamba and La Paz projects due to the longevity, reliability and performance of GatesAir analog TV transmitters in service for many years throughout the country. The new DTV systems transmit one ISDB-Tb HD channel and one mobile channel to populations within and near the city limits, with satellite relay to TV service providers in rural areas in compliance with Bolivian government regulations. ATB anticipates that a third DTV channel will be added to the network shortly, noting that the ULXTE’s exceptional bandwidth will help to maximize ISDB-Tb spectrum.

“While the Santa Cruz site had an existing analog TV transmitter we were able to convert in the field, the Cochabamba and La Paz sites were very challenging as we needed new transmitters that could work with the existing RF infrastructure,” said Javier Fernandez, ATB’s CTO. “We have so far experienced a remarkable improvement in signal quality and expanded coverage throughout these regions with the GatesAir system, along with a flexible architecture that readily supports the introduction of new channels and services. These high-performance, digital TV workflows will dynamically change the business of television in Bolivia, as it represents a great economic and financial effort for our nation’s broadcasters.”

ATB specifically selected the Maxiva ULXTE transmitter due to the efficiencies of its liquid-cooled design. According to Fernandez, this design greatly lowers air conditioning usage, reducing overall energy consumption. That will eventually translate to much lower power bills when the current air-cooled analog TV transmitters are fully phased out.

Fernandez adds that the ULXTE design additionally delivers stronger efficiencies across other operational and maintenance aspects.

“The compact size and modularity of these transmitters simplified all installation logistics, which was of high importance due to the challenging timeline for this phase of the DTV transition,” said Fernandez. “Additionally, the ULXTE runs very quietly, and has significantly reduced noise pollution in the transmission environment. The user-friendly modularity will also make it very simple to swap our parts and make adjustments and repairs, though we trust that will be not be necessary for several years given our positive experience with the GatesAir brand.”

To ensure a smooth installation and commissioning process, regional GatesAir sales engineers held local training seminars, followed by on-site visits — efforts fully recognized and appreciated by both the Sonotec and ATB Bolivia teams.

“We’re very thankful for the opportunity to work with ATB in these early stages of an important transition that will delicately balance the delivery of analog and digital TV services over the next seven years,” said Rich Redmond, President and Managing Director, International for GatesAir. “We are confident that the performance and efficiency of our Maxiva transmitters and ULXTE liquid-cooled architecture will reap benefits for ATB Bolivia for years to come, at once reducing labor and expenses for both organizations, while also enabling new DTV services for the Bolivian population.”

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